Hoo boy, this one is tough. Breastfeeding felt like a constant assault on my boobs, which is pretty normal for some women, particularly in the beginning. But there were some things that made a big difference in our nursing routine and may help you too:
Nipple shields: If you are very sensitive, you may need nipple shields, which reduce sensory over-stimulation or pain with a thin rubbery piece that baby can latch onto over your nipple. They gave me one at the hospital, and I got another from a lactation peer counselor.
Lanolin: This funny-smelling, natural soothing gel helped prevent cracking from hour-long nursing sessions. I got a couple tubes of it from the hospital after delivery. If you are really brazen like me, you can ask for a tube of it each time you get a new nurse in your room with their shift change, and stash them to take home with you, since lanolin is expensive (hey, you are already paying for your stay!). If you decide to use an electric breast pump, lanolin is an excellent buffer against the plastic nipple shield and the strong suction, and may help create a better seal.
Organic Coconut oil : This considerably better-smelling natural oil is a great moisturizer for your nipples, safe in your baby’s mouth and it may even prevent thrush with its fungicidal properties. A little goes a long way.
Scratching: Babies may be born with practically microscopic fingernails, but they are often razor-sharp already. They can accidentally scratch themselves with them, and scratch you too. You can trim them, carefully, with a tiny baby nail clipper (don’t use the full-size regular clippers, which are too big). The nails grow fast and break easily, so check baby’s fingers daily for raggedy nail edges. Secondly, if you are nursing and those sweet little fingers are like pins and needles on your boobs, you can put a baby mitten or sock on their hand. Make sure it’s not too tight around baby’s wrist and remove it when you’re done.
Tongue-tie: If breastfeeding hurts and it’s NOT getting better, baby is acting like they’re not getting enough but you know you have a decent supply, or when you take baby off breast it looks like your nipple has been squashed and “creased”–please see your pediatrician a.s.a.p. and ask if your baby may have “tongue tie”.
This is so important, as a tongue tie will make baby unable to eat properly, nursing will HURT, and it will be harder for you both to learn to breastfeed right unless it is fixed. It can also cause eventual speech impediments. My wee one’s tongue was attached to her mouth in such a way that it wouldn’t extend past her lips, which made her bite my nipples, and frustrated her. An E.N.T. Doc fixed this easily in a quick-in-office procedure, and nursing became immediately easier.
Lactation Consultants: Breastfeeding may not be automatically natural for you. There are an awful lot of things that play into it–don’t assume it’s your fault if it’s not working. No one knows how to do something without some practice, babies are not all born knowing just how to latch perfectly, and there can be physical challenges that are unavoidable, like tongue tie or inverted nipples. Make sure to get some help if it is uncomfortable for you or your baby. Although we eventually stopped breastfeeding due to several separate issues, I got a lot of helpful advice from WIC Lactation Consultants and from my own mother, who had struggled with some of the same things I did. You may also be able to find a Lactation Consultant through your hospital or pediatrician. But most importantly, don’t worry that you are a “bad mother” if you do determine you can’t breastfeed. Just love that baby and do the best that you are able to for your situation, that is what matters!