Arrow to expande the menu options Loading
mother breastfeeding her baby with a dad sleeping next
newborns

dealing with sore nipples from breastfeeding, and other tips from mums who’ve been there

7 minutes

17/12/2021

If you’re a mum-to-be or have just become a mum, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to breastfeeding – from should you do it, to how to do it (especially if you fall into the latter camp and are struggling).

In this article, WaterWipes mums share their experiences, discussing everything from the best ways to deal with sore nipples from breastfeeding, to how to express and store breast milk, to what to eat and what not to eat when breastfeeding.
Because who better to offer advice that those who have been there, done it and – let’s be frank here! – soaked the t-shirt.

  1. When does breast milk come in?

  2. Should breastfeeding hurt?

  3. How can I ensure my baby latches properly?

  4. How to soothe sore nipples from breastfeeding

  5. How long does it take cracked nipples to heal from breastfeeding?

  6. What to eat when breastfeeding

  7. How to express breast milk

  8. How to store breast milk

  9. What is combination feeding?

When does breast milk come in?

“My breast milk came in three days after Sonja was born. I remember it vividly. One minute I was me, the next I was Pamela Anderson. It blew my mind to learn that my body made this milk to order, decreasing or increasing depending on how much Sonja fed and when. She got a little cold once, and wasn’t eating as much, and I just remember leaking all over my pyjamas as my body had all this excess milk. Top tip ladies – breast pads!” – Imogen, mum to Sonja, 1

Fact check: New mums can expect their milk to come in around two to four days after birth.

Should breastfeeding hurt?

“I was told – repeatedly – that if you’re doing it right, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but from my own experience and conversations with friends, I think it would be remiss of me to say not to expect an element of discomfort. I wouldn’t describe it as pain exactly, but it did make my toes curl at times. You do get used to it though and, for me, it was all totally worth it.” – Lyla, mum to Summer, 2

WaterWipes tip: If you’re finding breastfeeding painful, the NHS advises that you don’t put off asking for help. Most issues can be resolved fairly quickly. For example, a common reason for hurting is that baby isn’t latching properly.

How can I ensure my baby latches properly?

“This, for me, was the million-dollar question and I was on the verge of packing it in when a friend suggested I see a former midwife who was known to be something of a breastfeeding specialist in our area. She took one look at how Olivia and I were feeding and started us from scratch. She showed me everything from how to encourage Olivia to open her mouth as wide as possible when latching on, to how to break her latch if it was painful. Almost overnight breastfeeding went from something I dreaded to an enjoyable bonding experience and this amazing midwife – who does this completely for free – is now known in our house as the ‘Nipple Whisperer’. I would advise everyone to seek professional help if they’re thinking of giving up – it could be something simply fixed, as it was with us.” – Camille, mum to Olivia, 1

Fact check: The NCT has an infant feeding line you can call for breastfeeding advice and support. You can find details here.

How to soothe sore nipples from breastfeeding

“After feeding my little one, I used to put flannels I’d soaked in warm water over each breast, and just lie there for a little while. Warm, moist heat is the quickest way to heal sore nipples, apparently, and I used to find it so soothing. My other tip would be to wear cotton bras when you’re out and about, as they cause less irritation and allow air to get to your nipples.” – Andrea, mum to Ole, 2

WaterWipes tip: You can find a list of tips for soothing sore nipples on the NHS website.

How long does it take cracked nipples to heal from breastfeeding?

“I was a bit cavalier with my cracked nipples and thought I’d power through, but I ended up with mastitis, which I definitely don’t recommend. My left breast became swollen and hot and painful to touch and I also had a fever and weird nipple discharge. Now, when I feel my nipples becoming sore, I’m super careful to take care of them. I rub them in freshly expressed breast milk – a tip from a friend which works wonders – and make sure I’m changing my breast pads regularly. They only take a day or two or even a few hours to feel better then, as opposed to a few weeks, which was how long it took me to recover from mastitis.” – Meejee, mum to Paolo, 2

Fact check: According to the babycentre website, providing you address the underlying cause, most “nipple pain should improve in seven to 10 days, even without treatment”.

What to eat when breastfeeding

“I personally wouldn’t recommend spicy curry, even though everything you read will say it’s fine. I won’t go into too much detail but let’s just say we were changing nappies almost constantly for the next few days. Now, when I fancy a treat I think might upset my little one’s stomach, I express milk a few days in advance and feed her that way until it’s all out of my system. I’m told dairy can also upset a baby, but Erin is fine with it. From our curry experience, you’ll know if something’s not right.” – Lana, mum to Erin, 1

WaterWipes tip: The NHS’ breastfeeding and diet page is packed with invaluable advice about what to eat and what to cut down on when breastfeeding.

How to express breast milk

“It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of it, but ultimately expressing milk works brilliantly for our family, as it gives my husband an opportunity to feed Donnie, and me chance to have a good night’s sleep now and again – and very occasionally, a night out with friends. I use an electric breast pump, but you can also express by hand into a sterilised bottle or use a manual pump if you’d prefer. Just make sure you’re relaxed and comfortable. One of the women in my breastfeeding group – something else I’d highly recommend – looks at a picture of her baby when expressing, as apparently that helps increase the flow. I just put Netflix on – it can take a while!” – Emily, mum to Donnie, six months

Fact check: Wondering what ‘expressing milk’ means? According to the NHS website, expressing milk means “squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to you baby later”.

How to store breast milk

“Breast milk keeps for a surprisingly long time if you do it correctly: up to six hours at room temperature, up to eight days in the fridge and more than six months in the freezer. We use special storage bags, but sterilised containers are fine too. Just make sure not to store too much in one bag/container – you’ll be heartbroken if it ends up going to waste for whatever reason, after all the work you put in expressing it.” – Hannah, mum to Albany, four months

WaterWipes tip: For more detailed advice on how to store breast milk, visit La Leche League GB’s ‘storing your milk’ page. The LLLGB site is also a great place generally for leading breastfeeding advice.

What is combination feeding?

“I can’t recommend combination feeding enough. I breastfeed Selina in the day, then, at night, my husband and I take turns to give her bottles of formula. I felt guilty at first, but it means I get a full night’s sleep at least a few times a week and am less of an ogre the next day. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone – and if it’s not right for you, you really shouldn’t feel bad about that. It’s true what they say: happy mum, happy baby – Selina and I are proof!” – Darrell, mum to Selina, nine months

Fact check: Combination feeding or mixed feeding is where mums combine breastfeeding and formula feeding. To find out if this might be the right approach for you and your baby, visit the NHS or NCT combination feeding webpages.

If you found this guide helpful, you might like to take a look at some of the other features on our Parenting Hub? For example…

let's stay in touch

Join us for news and updates.

Get the latest on new products and stories from our community. We promise not to send you any junk.

sign up