Breastfeeding: Refill pain

I have an eight-week-old baby boy who I exclusively breastfed for the first six weeks. I experienced an intense pain in my breasts and in the center of my back every time I nursed him. The pain would come and go and be worse at night. I have been told that it is a refill pain. Can you suggest anything?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I am sorry to hear you are experiencing such painful feeds. Refill pain is due to a sudden refilling of the milk ducts. This is usually only experienced by some mothers in the early weeks, as breastfeeding is becoming established. It will typically resolve on its own.

From your description, and because you are not experiencing the pain when you are expressing your milk, I doubt that this is "refill pain". You may be experiencing this breast pain due to poor positioning and attachment while nursing.

Breast pain can be caused by your own positioning during a feed. Leaning forward toward your baby - rather than sitting back, relaxing, and bringing your baby to the breast -- can cause significant breast and back/neck/shoulder pain. Remember you are feeding your newborn at least 10 to 12 times each day, so repeating a stressful posture this frequently can have repercussions. Correcting your posture during a feed, and paying attention to how you carry your little one will help to correct this situation. You might also want to schedule a visit with a Chiropractor.

When your baby is poorly positioned at your breast you may very well experience pain throughout your breast. Is your baby taking a good mouthful of your breast tissue into his mouth as he nurses? Are his chin and nose resting on your breast throughout a feed? Is his body in proper alignment (not twisted)? Observe how your nipple appears following a feed. When your baby comes off your breast, is your nipple round and rosy, or does it appear crunched, creased, or blanched (whitened)?

Since you are still expressing your milk, it is not too late to put your baby back to your breast. But first, begin to correct this situation by working with an IBCLC. She will take a history and observe a complete feed. It's very important to your breastfeeding relationship to get to the root of this difficulty, so you can find out just how nice it is to breastfeed without pain! You might also want to talk with your Health Care Provider about using an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, about one half hour prior to nursing, to relieve pain, and possible inflammation, while you are working to correct the problem. My very best wishes!

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