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By Amalah

breastfeeding.pngDear Amy,

Here it is, 2am. My nipples are sore yet again from yet another feeding by my almost 5-week old son. I have a bad latch and I know it and have not been able to correct it in spite of every bit of advice that I can read, every lactation consultant I’ve talked to, every video or picture of what the correct way to do it shows me. I’ve resorted to simply being on ibuprofen most of the time and attempting to simply try to keep the damage from being on the tip of the nipple where it will be the worst and will hence crack, bleed and cause those black, tarry poops that are horrible and make me feel as though I’ve created a little unwilling vampire.

Here’s the horrible part: I had this 5-second window last week where he ‘accidentally’ latched correctly. He got so much milk that he panicked, choked and he broke the seal. The sensation was so foreign (of not being in pain) that I don’t have ANY CLUE how we achieved it and now that I’ve seen this glimpse of what could be, I am doubly frustrated that I can’t recreate it no matter what I try! So I’m spending a lot of time furious at the lactation consultants in the hospital both of whom I now realize were worthless, the other LC I paid $80 to learn a decent position but not how to get him to latch correctly and the class I’ve attended in which I’ve been told what a great job he’s doing and that I’ll just have to stay on ibuprofen until it feels better naturally. I am also furious with every document that says, ‘if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt!’ which now just seems like someone punching me OVER AND OVER since obviously I’m failing b/c it HURTS and I cannot get him, for the life of me, to open his mouth wider & for longer and I cannot seem to move my hand/arm any faster than I am to get him on quickly. And I’m furious at all those posters and videos showing women with perfect breasts and their perfect little latchers sucking so calmly away. I hate them, Amy. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. And in my worst, worst, worst moments I am mad at my perfect little son who just wants to eat his fill. Hence, I am feeling like the Awful Mother of the Year on about every level there is.

And nowhere can I find someone who can tell me what to actually do to get him to transition from his old ways to what needs to be his new ways. The sad part is that he would be so happy to get more milk and not have to work so damn hard for it. He’s got the strongest little jaw in the world at this point since he’s pulling that milk out of me and he is doing what the pump couldn’t do (yes, it’s hospital-grade) which was to establish my supply and cause let-downs, etc. (we started exclusively breast-feeding which we’ve been doing for just over 2 weeks now.) He’s getting milk and gaining weight, but it’s just not any sort of good experience. I’m heartbroken. I so want to have this for him and for me. I so want to get there. I so want to not cry or cringe when I anticipate that he’s hungry. Since I’ve read everything else in the universe about this and all that I can find just says, “fix your latch” which makes me crazy with NO DUHness, I thought I’d try your faithful readership to find someone who might just have any useful help…any thoughts, Amy?



God. I’m so sorry. I’m just…SORRY. Because I know (and you probably know) that there’s nothing I can type that will FIX THIS FOR YOU. I mean, words on a computer screen are going to be infinitely less helpful than videos and posters and in-person demonstrations.

I had terrible, awful, no-good latchers both times, at first. The first few days and weeks of Noah’s life are a blur of inexplicable nursing strikes and bloody, scabbed nipples (crunchy burnt toast points, is how I believe I referred to them at the time) and thanks to Ezra’s tongue tie and my own how-to-breastfeed memory loss between babies, the first two weeks of his life weren’t much better. I needed a big-time refresher course on latching, and once I got that, it got better. Much better.

Latching a newborn on is not about the nipple. The nipple needs to pretty much bypass the tongue and cheeks altogether and get aimed straight down the back of their little throats. You’re really trying to get the entire areola into his mouth — put your thumb on the top of your boob, just parallel to the edge of the areola, with your index and middle finger on the bottom of your boob. Push down with your thumb until your nipple is basically pointing straight up at the ceiling. Once your baby opens his mouth — hold the back of his head, aim for just above his bottom lip and SHOVE AND MASH that boob in there, forcing his bottom jaw down with it — and the bottom of your areola should be what goes in first. Imagine the boob going in sideways, with the nipple pointed upward, essentially dragging across the roof of his mouth. Once you’ve mashed it good and in there, release your thumb so the nipple aims down his throat and his top lip completely covers the top of the areola. Ideally, you should see nothing but skin on the outside of his lips. This keeps him from sucking ON the delicate nipple and areola and allows him to get the deep sucking action and compression of your actual boob and milk ducts.

(And yeah, I totally had to sit here and mime that whole thing out while I typed it. My husband is all, “what in the world are you writing about now?”)

But…like I said. I am sure you KNOW ALL OF THIS. It’s been explained and demonstrated. So either it just hasn’t been explained in *quite the right way* with the right thumb/forefinger/nipple-to-the-ceiling technique adequately demonstrated…or there’s something else going on. A couple possible problems:

1) Tongue-tie. Have you ever seen your baby’s tongue extend past the edge of his lower lip, or does it seem like he actually can’t stick his tongue out? Does the tip of his tongue resemble the top of a heart shape, with a deep center “seam?” If you run your finger under his tongue, does the frenulum (little fleshy flap thing) seem to be extremely thick or tight or does it come right to the very tip? These are signs of a tongue-tie, which definitely impacts breastfeeding and latching and how much milk a baby can get and it DEFINITELY causes a LOT of pain for the mother, even a mother who is getting her baby to latch “correctly.” His tongue might just BE IN THE WAY, causing a shallow nipple-sucking latch. This is nothing that you are doing wrong. I really, REALLY hope one of these LCs you’ve seen has thought to check his tongue and rule this out, but when you’re talking about five weeks of bloody nipples and black tarry poops and LCs telling you that things are “great,” just pop some pain medication…well. I can’t say I’m overly impressed with the care you’ve received thus far.

2) A small mouth. You’re describing a problem that a lot of preemie moms encounter: a baby who just cannot latch deeply enough no matter what angle he’s at or how much boob/face mashing/squshing you do. Was your baby on the small side, by any chance? It could be that he’s just…still small, and needs to grow a bit more before he can take in enough of your nipple to bypass the parts that will cause you pain. As I am not a lactation consultant and haven’t seen your situation in person, I can’t in good conscience suggest a nursing aid like a nipple shield…but maybe you should talk to someone about whether that would be an appropriate stop-gap solution for you.

That said…six weeks was the turning point for me and Noah. Granted, we never had the breastfeeding relationship that *I* wanted — though I’ve since been able to let go of the guilt and fear that *I* was the failure, now that we realize he’s always had oral-motor issues and difficulties with his mouth muscles and tongue. But at six weeks I no longer feared that I would have to give up because of the pain and the frustration and the fear that he simply wasn’t getting enough. I have no idea what happened — he wasn’t tongue-tied and he CERTAINLY wasn’t small — but something finally, blissfully clicked for the two of us and the scabs healed for good at last. I no longer needed a complicated array of pillows and two or three latching attempts before I got it right. We reached the point where we could nurse lying down or while I talked on the phone and latching became less of a orchestrated dance of compressing my boob JUUUUUUST right to get the nipple all the way in and more of…just me offering it to him. He learned how to do it, and hopefully your son will too.

In the meantime, please: Oh My God, you are not a failure. No one is judging you, grading you. Even if you up and quit tomorrow I don’t think there are many people who could possibly accuse you of not trying hard enough. If anything, I want you to cut yourself some freaking slack here. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, amazing thing…but it’s not wonderful or amazing enough to be worth driving yourself to PPD over. You’re tired, you’re hurting, you’re frustrated, you’re throwing negative names at yourself and resenting your baby and about to punch out a poster at your OB/GYN’s office. It’s all understandable, but it’s not okay.

And I don’t mean “not okay” as in “UR DOIN IT WRONG”…I mean “not okay” as in you need to step back and take care of yourself. Exclusively breastfeeding is a totally admirable goal, but…if you find yourself sobbing at the computer at 2 am in pain and frustration, typing the words “Awful Mother of the Year” ever again…I’m gonna go ahead and suggest that you hand the baby off to your husband at 5 am for a bottle. Pump for a bit and go back to bed, take a bath, take a jog, take a trashy magazine and curl up with it off in a corner somewhere. Again, NO ONE IS GOING TO TAKE AWAY YOUR GOLD STAR if you give yourself a freaking break when it gets this bad.
Readers? Any suggestions? Stories from the “been there, done that” trenches? Perfectly-worded descriptions of proper latching technique?

Here are some articles we have written about breastfeeding.

Picture by Wha’ppen


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • maggie

    December 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I don’t know who those evil people are who say “If they are doing it correctly, it won’t hurt”. THEY LIE! I ‘think’ we had a proper latch on and it hurt like hell for weeks, but it did get better at about six weeks, same as Amy. I beat myself up, cried, screamed, etc about the situation with my first one, but I was glad I stuck with it. It still hurt like hell with my second baby, but at least I knew that I could make it through again and it would get easier. Good luck!

  • Kristin

    December 7, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    What about trying some All Purpose Nipple Cream?? Can’t hurt and might super help. Also the gel soothie pad thing- stick in fridge before wearing. Hopefully they will help with healing while working on the latch.
    Trust me, I HATED breastfeeding for the first 8 week or so. When I told my pediatrician, his first words were, “you don’t have to do it, you know” because his philosophy is happy mom, happy baby.

  • Camille

    December 7, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    You may have already looked into this, but the women who lead and those who attend my local LaLeche League group are fantastic. I’m still nursing my nearly nine month old, but I had pain, cracks and bleeding for the first few weeks because I wasn’t hold her quite right even though the latch was okay (so she was pulling at the boob). My issue was really easy to spot and fix, but other women who have attended have had issues that sound similar to yours. If you don’t mind nursing in front of a bunch of other mamas to show your technique, they may have some insight to share. If nothing else, they’re really supportive. Good luck….I hope everything works out.

  • Courtney

    December 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Let’s just say that about 9 months ago I was spending my days crying and trying to get my daughter to latch on. Which is to say, you’re not alone in this and you are doing awesome by continuing to try. My daughter was 3 weeks early – she had a small mouth and just wasn’t coordinated in her sucking. What turned everything around for us was a fabulous LC. She came to the house and sat with us for 1-2 hours, and then came back when I still didn’t feel like the latch was as easy as it should have been. Were it not for her, I wouldn’t be nursing my daughter today. If you can, ask everyone you know (and ask them to ask their friends and everyone they know) to find out if anyone had a great LC. The ones we had in the hospital were….not good.
    Two other suggestions. One is to get some APNO ointment (a good pharmacy should be able to make it for you). I never used it, but heard from many nursing mama friends that it worked wonders to help things heal (once the underlying problems were getting fixed). The other is to check whether there are any breastfeeding drop-in groups near you. I went to a couple, and though I had already found a good LC, it would have been a good way to connect to someone as well as get advice from as many people IRL as possible.
    In summary: go you. You are doing a great thing for your boy, and you sound like a wonderful mama. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the very natural emotions of being frustrated with him and yourself. Best of luck to you and hang in there!
    PS: If you happen to live in Boston, I can recommend a great LC!

  • Cecily

    December 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Dude, everyone says not to do this, but it saved me: nipple shields. So simple, fast, and easy.
    You know who told me to try them? My pediatrician, who is also a LC. It really helped. Good luck!

  • Beth

    December 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I had the burnt toast points (LOL) with both my little ones, although much less so with the second. I agree–the whole “it won’t hurt if you’re doing it right” is total BS. My problem was that the latch would start off correct, but after just a few minutes, my little ones would get tired and relax a bit, and the latch would “undo.” To keep re-latching over and over got incredibly frustrating for both of us. But after about 6 weeks, the babies got stronger and it was all pretty much good after 8 weeks. It was a long 8 weeks, though. I called the chair where I nursed my “torture chamber.” I did not enjoy breastfeeding, that’s for sure. But I’m glad I stuck with it, and I would do it all again. (I did do it all again with my second one!) Just hang in there if it’s important to you. Wait until 8 weeks and then reevaluate. And do all the things the advice book say–use lanolin, let your nipples air dry if you can, shower with a bra on (the spray of the water KILLED my nipples when it hit them), etc. etc. Good luck and lots of hugs!

  • Angela

    December 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I second everything Amy said.
    I didn’t try nearly that long before giving up and pumping, and then I only pumped for 3 weeks before giving that up too. And while I forgave myself for it. My son is fine, and while I sincerely hope to set up a better support system before my twins are born because I do really want to bf, I know if it doesn’t work out, I am still a good mother.
    That said, I hope soemthing Amy put in there will help you fix the latch. I’ll definitely be back to read this again in May!

  • wallydraigle

    December 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    As far as I know, my first breastfeeding experience was very normal. The first two months sucked (hah! pun!), and then it evened out. By golly, yes it DID hurt, even WITH a good latch, thank you very much you jerks who keep telling people it shouldn’t, because human skin isn’t mean to be doused in saliva 23 hours a day, for one thing. Ahem.
    Anyway, by comparison, I’m pretty sure my experience was a thousand times better than yours. And I STILL had nursing sessions where the frustration and anger (at what? me, the baby, usually the stupid pillows that wouldn’t stay in place, sometimes just nothing at all) would be so overwhelming that I’d have to scream and throw something. So you’re totally not a bad mother.
    Might I suggest getting a really good nursing pillow? I know, everyone has a Boppy, and everyone loves the Boppy, and I believe that it works for a lot of people. But me? I hated that thing. I hated it so hard that I still cast daggers at it with my eyes every time I see it, and I stopped using it a year ago. It’s evil. And frustrating, and it crept away from my body JUST as my daughter got her latch right every.single.time. Or her giant head would slowly sink into it as she ate, so her latch would gradually get crappy. I tried complicated arrays of pillows, too, and they didn’t work, either, though they were less frustrating.
    Finally I broke down and bought a My Brest Friend, and holy crap what a difference that made. That was the turning point for me. Almost overnight, I went from hating breastfeeding to liking it, and shortly after to loving it. It’s not the perfect nursing pillow. I still had to wedge a folded-up blanket under one side to get it to the right height, and I had to cover it with a blanket or burp cloth because the idiot cover is almost impossible to get back on once you wash it. And I had to wedge something behind her floppy head so it would roll away. But it made a huuuuge difference.
    I don’t think it’ll fix all your problems, but if a lot of it is just that your arms and the baby’s head and everything are so difficult to get in the right spot (I have long arms and a short torso, so nursing without some support was nearly impossible), especially with jerky newborn baby head, it’s one less thing you have to concentrate on when you’re trying to get the right latch.

  • Mouse

    December 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Six weeks was a turning point for my son and me too. And someone’s probably suggested this, but the football hold ended up being the best position for us. The lactation consultant I saw said to use it 80-90% of the time and cross-cradle for an occasional break. My son seemed to get a better angle (like Amalah describes) in the football hold.

  • [email protected]

    December 7, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    How awful. We all feel for you, and have been there!
    It is important to know that not all lactation consultants are good. Many are lousy. It sounds like you had the latter. I would suggest calling Kate Sharp, IBCLC (you can get her number from ) — she does a type of cranio-sacral adjustment that works wonders with babies that are difficult to latch. It is a technique known by few and Kate is one of the most respected and gifted IBCLCs in New York City. You don’t need just any IBCLC, you need the VERY BEST.
    Just to make you feel a little better, our spokesperson, actress Kelly Rutherford had an awful time with her first and no matter how much money she had she still had to try umpteen lactation consultants until she found one really good that could fix the problem.
    YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE, YOU WERE FAILED BY A CRAPPY SYSTEM. An excellent lactation counselor will be able to look at your birth story and what kind of help you got and pinpoint where you were railroaded. Moms need to stop blaming themselves and become more aware of how they were “boobytrapped” by cultural and institutional barriers!

  • psumommy

    December 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Three things popped into my mind!
    1) OVERSUPPLY. You mention that you had 5 seconds of correct latching and it made your baby gag and stuff? Well, if you have an oversupply, a baby won’t WANT to latch properly because of the gushing and the too-much-milk. Are your baby’s poops green or few and far between? But with lots and lots of pee problems? If yes: try block nursing. That’s where you nurse on one side per nursing over a period of time (eg: the right boob from 6am to 10am, then the left boob from 10am to 2pm…you get the idea). It will help decrease your supply if you do indeed have an oversupply, at least until your baby is big enough to handle it.
    2) Does it hurt the whole time you’re nursing? Or just in the beginning? If it’s just in the beginning, it could be scabs on your nipples ripping off…best advice I ever got for that was to soak the nipples in warm water for 2 minutes before nursing.
    3) The tongue-tie thing, which Amalah already covered.
    You’re 5 weeks in- you’re doing a GREAT job. The first 6 weeks are the worst part, and they’re almost over! Huge, huge kudos for you for getting this far, though all of this pain. Even if you stop now, IT’S OK.
    Oh! And I highly recommend checking out (I hope it’s ok to throw this in here, Amalah!) or the breastfeeding support boards over at iVillage.
    Good luck!

  • Jen

    December 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I agree with the others who have suggested getting some APNO as well as going to LaLeche. For more information about the APNO, take a look at where you will find all the breastfeeding advice you could want in one place. I also recommend Soothies gel pads for sore nipples- much better than using lanolin. Then take yourself to an LLL meeting and ask for some help- and it won’t cost you the money that a LC will.
    And yes, it does hurt at first to breastfeed- your skin just isn’t used to it and if you have latch issues that makes it worse. Another thing I would suggest is getting a My Brest Friend nursing pillow- it will help support the baby so that he is in the correct position to latch on better. Great for newborns- much better than the boppy to start with! I love the boppy for a bigger/older baby, but the MBF is worth the money for the first few months. And don’t wait until the baby is really hungry to work on latch- wake him if you need to and try to get him latched correctly before he is frantic- and expect that you will have to take him off and try again a few times each nursing session.
    Good luck- I hope you figure things out and get a great nursing relationship going!

  • Clare

    December 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I had similar problems with my first son, so I will pass along to you what the LC told me:
    Coat your nipple with olive oil. This is safe for the baby and will help him latch on properly. He will slide off the nipple onto the areola. And the extra moisturizing helps heal cracks.
    Feed in the foot ball hold. I found this really useful, as I could more easily adjust his latch.

  • Annemie

    December 7, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Ditto everything Courtney said, as well as Camille’s recommendation for going to a LLL meeting if you can find one near you. As an L&D nurse, I tell each and every new-to-breastfeeding mom I take care of to ignore the LC mantra about if you do it right, it doesn’t hurt. I KNOW what a good latch looks like – have taken classes and gone to seminars, etc – and yet with both my first son and now with my 6 week-old, their perfect latches have not saved me from all pain. Granted, it was more with my first (who I went on to nurse for 2.5 years), so there is definitely something to knowing what you’re doing, but still: it would hurt if someone started sucking on your elbow skin 12 times a day, much less your thin, tender nipple skin!
    My only recommendation on top of what the other posters have said is that you try, for some period of time, to latch your son on when he’s not quite ready yet, ideally when he’s sleeping or just starting to wake up. While he’s really relaxed like this, you may be able to position him correctly and encourage a few sucks before he’s frantically reverting to what he’s used to so that he begins to learn what the right position is. His reward will be a much easier flow of milk… yours will be nipples that finally heal and, hopefully, a long and happy nursing relationship.
    Kudos for all your hard work. Amy’s right, too: no matter what happens, you’re a rockstar mom for trying so hard 🙂

  • eva

    December 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    1) APNO. Do it…check jack newman’s breastfeeding website for the “recipe”
    2) watch some of the videos at Jack Newman’s breastfeeding website.
    3) if you’re dark skinned like me, don’t ever expect that a proper latch will result in no areola showing while your baby is breastfeeding. Darker seems to equal bigger aureolas (aureolae?)and even at 17 months when my daughter gave up on the boob, her mouth really couldn’t contain my freakishly huge aureolas. And by then we had a proper latch! It took weeks and weeks though, and I went through three rounds of antibiotics to clear nasty mastitis that was probably caused in part by the crappy latch.
    Good luck!

  • Annie G.

    December 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Oh god, I was right where Erica was when my son was born 13 weeks ago– a supposed “perfect” latch that hurt like hell, causing me to dread feeding him and shake my fist at all the advice to “correct his latch!” Like that was so easy! I finally saw a good LC, who told me that my son had a bad latch, and gave me a couple of practical tips for how to fix it, and I did and now breastfeeding is much smoother sailing.
    I’ll second everybody else’s recommendations to find yourself a good LC (I too can recommend one in the Boston area), because ours made all the difference. But in case you can’t, here’s what we did to transition him from a bad latch to a good one.
    Basically, and forgive me for this analogy, I had to train my baby like any other non-verbal animal, through positive/negative reinforcement. What we did was, every time he got a bad latch, I would take him off and re-latch him. Again and again and again and again until we got it right. Fixing the latch took…about a week? A week and a half? It wasn’t fun (he’d scream, I’d cry), we sometimes resorted to bottles in that time period because I was afraid he wasn’t getting enough to eat (and his weight did drop in that time period, such that the pediatrician was a little worried about it at his next checkup), but it eventually worked.
    Here is one of the tips the LC gave us to convince him to open his mouth bigger:
    The “open game”: get so your baby can see your face. Say “open”, and open your mouth big and wide, sticking your tongue out, until he imitates you. Be as animated and goofy as possible. Do this enough times, and he’ll start to associate the word “open” with opening his mouth big and wide. Then, when you’re trying to get him to latch, say “open”, and he’ll open wide (and hopefully give you a better latch).

  • MommiePie

    December 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I remember that even with a good latch, it still hurt like hell for at least 6 weeks. You both have to get used to the sensation, the positioning, trying to relax…then, eventually, like magic, it’s like, “what was the big deal – this is soooo easy!” It becomes much easier when you can move to the cradle hold rather than the cross cradle (or it was for me anyway).
    Also, I use the Boppy pillow for support. My son is 11 months old and we still use the Boppy. LOVE ME SUM BOPPY!

  • lisa

    December 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    i went through it too. i call it the hamburger nipple phase. my baby was getting enough, but had a tongue-tie. once that was clipped, the healing began. i agree with amy that it will likely get better as your baby’s mouth gets bigger too. hang in there!
    one other tip i’m sure you’ve heard but was the key for me was “baby to boob, not boob to baby”.

  • Jamie

    December 7, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Oh, my god the breastfeeding. I have to say that breastfeeding was the hardest thing I have EVER done and I survived. For the first 8ish weeks I was in hell. Supply issues, pain/bleeding/cracking, nipple shield reliance, etc. It was awful. The only thing that made it any easier: giving myself a break. I decided to supplement, some is better than none. Once I let up on myself and my little guy everything kind of clicked into place.
    Hang in there.

  • Kristin

    December 7, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    And…Wow. I have been there. Although after nine days of crying, begging, sobbing, pleading and a lot of name calling (of myself), I gave up. It was yet another painful feeding and my husband heard me crying on the baby monitor. He came in, took our little girl, told me that I hadn’t failed and went to make her a bottle with some supplemental formula. I walked in the guest room, burst into harder sobs, and fell to the floor – certain that I had failed. I couldn’t provide my daughter with the one thing my body “was made for.” I felt sick knowing my husband was feeding her formula. I was going to breastfeed only. What had happened to my plans. I felt awful.
    I thought back to my time in the hospital after my little one was born…I had been told I had a good latch, that I was doing things correctly, that the pain shouldn’t be there if I was doing it right (according to the hospital LC). Over the next couple weeks of guilt I felt in “letting my daughter down,” I got satisfaction as I started pumping. I found joy as the little bottles filled with an ounce of milk, then two, three and four. I stopped reading about how other mothers were breastfeeding to a certain age or how much milk I was supposed to get each time. I just relished the fact that I was producing something. At each doctor visit we had, my pediatrician praised me for my daughter’s growth. He was proud that although breastfeeding hadn’t turned out as I planned, that I continued to pump and provide my daughter with my milk. He again praised my determination. He also believes “happy mom, happy baby” and told me that I could stop at anytime. He was specific in not using the word quit.
    I think we associate quitting with failure and in the case of breastfeeding, we are not quitting, we are not failing. We are doing what is best for both us and our child. What’s important is that your son grows…not what he has in his belly (milk or formula or a combination).
    I wish you the best of luck as you continue down whatever path works best for you. You can link to my blog and email me directly if you want to chat about this. No pressure – I just want to provide another outlet for you.
    No matter what you do just remember, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. You are a strong woman, helping your child grow. You are an incredible mom.

  • Rebecca

    December 7, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Oy the pain. You aren’t alone. I cried for a good month every time my daughter latched onto my right side and we have a really good nursing story. My problem came from those reusable breast pads that stuck to my nipple and pulled off skin. OMG thought I was going to die.
    The only thing that really stuck with me that I was taught by the LC that someone hasn’t already mentioned was bringing the baby to the boob, not the boob to the baby. Hold the back of your child’s head and push it into your nipple really quick. This will help you stay in a comfortable position for yourself and help the child to stay in position and not fall off the latch.
    I’m with Amalah, give it a couple more weeks because some of that pain does go away with time. But in the end you know what is right for you and your baby. Don’t let guilt get you to continue doing something that is painful and frustrating to both you and your son. It is obvious that there are plenty of strong, healthy, formula kids around to keep the companies in business.

  • Laura

    December 7, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    When I had latch problems, it was because my kids weren’t in the correct spot in front of me. I finally realized that their head has to be farther over than where I thought it should be. Their heads were always too close to my center instead of being far enough over they could probably see past my side. I don’t know if that’ll help, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to respond.
    Also, don’t forget that you are hormonal. I’m there myself (#2 is 8 weeks), so I know how you feel. You are NOT a failure, you are a great mom for trying and caring so much about this.
    If you aren’t already, try to find a large mom’s group. You may be able to get more suggestions or referrals to great LCs. Mine (part of The Mommy Network) has a forum with tons of moms, so you don’t even need to leave the house to get to know the women.
    Good luck! And come back to let us know how you are doing!

  • Stephanie

    December 7, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Flashbacks of almost six months ago! Those first few days were so bad, and I was in so much pain that I thought about giving up. What really helped was when the LC told me to take my hand (the one holding the baby) and put it around the baby’s neck, hold down onto his ears with your thumb and middle finger (ring finger? whichever is easiest and don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the baby) and then when the baby opens him mouth, just shove him onto your boob. The hand trick gives you control to literally give your baby a boob sandwich. With your other hand, push down the boob (fingers outside of the areola) to create that sandwich. My problem was that I was moving my boob to her and not the other way around. This seemed to work really well, and pretty soon (once the nipples had healed), it did stop being painful. Good luck!!

  • Heidi

    December 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Oh, honey! I was SO there! I was there at three mother frocking weeks. My daughter refused to latch and when she DID, she’d suck maybe twice and then let go, meanwhile, my nipple is spraying milk up her nose, in her hear, on the dog…I remember thinking in a moment of “I haven’t slept for 36 hours” fueled desperation at 3 AM “I hate this child.” I mean, obviously, I DIDN’T. But I hated the 2 hours nursing sessions where she never emptied my breasts, it was OMFG KILL ME NOW PUHLEEZ painful, and did I mention I never slept? The LC’s said everything was FINE. Well, clearly, missy, it’s not or it wouldn’t be toe-curling blinding pain you jackass.
    I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here, but in the end I gave UP.
    There were several things that led up to it: it was making my already horrific PPD *so* much worse because I just *knew* I was a failure as a mother, and my child would end up not as smart as she could have been because I didn’t breastfeed. Also, I was getting absolutely NO sleep. Before anyone says OMFG get over yo’self, beeyotch, NOBODY does GEEZ! But I am an epileptic and lack of sleep = massive seizures = worthless for 24 hours while I recover. So yeah, the risk of having a seizure while nursing her scared me.
    And you know what? While I wanted to exclusively BF, I didn’t. Pook was put on the bottle soon enough and LO! My sanity came back, I slept, and she’s just as smart as ever. (97th percentile for development!)

  • Heidi

    December 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Oh, honey! I was SO there! I was there at three mother frocking weeks. My daughter refused to latch and when she DID, she’d suck maybe twice and then let go, meanwhile, my nipple is spraying milk up her nose, in her hear, on the dog…I remember thinking in a moment of “I haven’t slept for 36 hours” fueled desperation at 3 AM “I hate this child.” I mean, obviously, I DIDN’T. But I hated the 2 hours nursing sessions where she never emptied my breasts, it was OMFG KILL ME NOW PUHLEEZ painful, and did I mention I never slept? The LC’s said everything was FINE. Well, clearly, missy, it’s not or it wouldn’t be toe-curling blinding pain you jackass.
    I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here, but in the end I gave UP.
    There were several things that led up to it: it was making my already horrific PPD *so* much worse because I just *knew* I was a failure as a mother, and my child would end up not as smart as she could have been because I didn’t breastfeed. Also, I was getting absolutely NO sleep. Before anyone says OMFG get over yo’self, beeyotch, NOBODY does GEEZ! But I am an epileptic and lack of sleep = massive seizures = worthless for 24 hours while I recover. So yeah, the risk of having a seizure while nursing her scared me.
    And you know what? While I wanted to exclusively BF, I didn’t. Pook was put on the bottle soon enough and LO! My sanity came back, I slept, and she’s just as smart as ever. (97th percentile for development!)

  • Olivia

    December 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Don’t let him stay on if the latch isn’t good. Put your finger in his mouth and pull back on you breast to break the latch and try again, as many times as it takes. That would make my daughter sufficiently mad that she would really open her maw to scream and that is the point I would shove my boob in.
    I hope I’m not repeating something you already do.

  • jive turkey

    December 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Honestly, the most difficult part of the whole pregnancy/childbirth/postpartum experience for me was the breastfeeding stuff. I expected it would either WORK or NOT WORK; I never expected it to WORK and be INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL. I had a few bad latches at the hospital that turned one of my nipples into a total mess, and it just never got the chance to heal UNTIL I got some of that wonderful, glorious Newman’s nipple ointment (all-purpose nipple cream) from the lactation consultant (my ped can also prescribe it; maybe yours can too). That stuff healed me up in 24 hours. The Lansinoh/Medela ointments pale in comparison.
    But breastfeeding was a straight-up challenge for me until around week 7 or 8. After that, it got MUCH easier (and more enjoyable) for both me & the baby.
    Try to find a LC on a recommendation who won’t waste your time. Hang in there. You’re doing a great job, even though it might not feel like it.

  • Lisa M

    December 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    OH, I have so been at that point, and I’m so sorry that anyone has to go there.
    But Amy (as usual) was right on with the C-hold (where you cup your breast like the letter C and compress it) and the head mashing/smashing. It’s gotta be a really quick (but gentle) shove into the boob. It helps if you can have someone else do the shoving so you can hold the baby with one hand/arm, and your breast with the other. Once it becomes more natural, you won’t forever need someone on standby to shove a baby face first into your boob, but trust me…it’s much easier in the beginning.
    One more aside, the anger. Oh god, it’s familiar. Too familiar. Post-partum depression isn’t always about being sad or weepy. For me, it was about being angry all the time. I was angry at my baby for not going to sleep without a whole 3 hour ritual of pain and torture. I was angry at him for not staying asleep for longer than 45 minutes. I was angry when my pre-schooler dared to raise his voice above 1 decibel just in case it woke the baby. I was angry at my husband for not managing much better than me…well, you get the idea. At least this time I recognized PPD for what it was, with my older son, I suffered thinking it was my fault.
    And you might not…but PPD doesn’t just mean “the baby blues”. Because I was prepared for it this time, I had medication on hand, and just called my pediatrician to let her know, and my therapist to schedule a visit, but I was able to start taking Zoloft as soon as I realized the problem. I wish I had taken it sooner so I could have enjoyed his 1st 4 weeks more, but at least it’s a problem that has solutions.
    Best of luck to you.

  • Roberta

    December 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I didn’t have any particularly bad breastfeeding issues, but it did take a full six weeks for it to stop being pretty painful. My baby was full term, but on the small side, which may have contributed, though we seemed to be getting a good latch. I also had some pretty serious engorgement and oversupply for awhile, which didn’t help either. The ointment that others mentioned – the All Purpose Nipple Cream – was VERY helpful to me. It’s also called “triple nipple cream,” and your OB or midwife or maybe even a pede can write you a prescription for it. I also used Lansinoh after each and every feeding for months and months – I tend to have dry body skin, and a little creature sucking on my skin every 2 hours didn’t help. I did have a good experience with a good lactation consultant who spent over an hour with us, examined my baby’s mouth closely to make sure there were no problems, and watched us nurse and helped us with positions. She didn’t promise that it wouldn’t hurt, because, well, for some of us I think it just does, even if we are doing it right. I second Amy on trying to find yet another LC – you may just need the right person. LLL may be helpful too – someone may do something different that will just click for you. Nursing is also such a process – you AND the baby have to get better at it over time. Good luck!

  • LauraL

    December 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    First, I totally second the other suggestions. Check out La Leche, check for tongue-tying, ask around about LCs, etc. IF, however, you continue to have problems but still want to feed your baby breast milk, maybe try pumping again now that your supply has been established. My second child had trouble breastfeeding (low muscle tone = problems sucking & latching = not enough food = screamy baby = weepy mama). And it took him forever to get in a meal. So I ended up solely pumping and putting it in a bottle. In fact, I don’t think I even tried to put my boob in his mouth after about four weeks.
    So even if the pump didn’t work in the beginning, it may work now. But definitely try the other suggestions first, if that’s what you want to do. Good luck!

  • Elana E

    December 7, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    In my next life I want to be a trained lactation consultant. So it is so interesting to hear these questions and see how they get answered.
    Here is my suggestion as a breastfeeder of preemie twins: nipple covers. One of my girls was a nipple nibbler too. Ow! The nurse at the hospital got me a Medela nipple cover and it was amazing. It is silicon (I believe) and protects your nipple from just this problem. It did two things for me: one, it protected my nipple from being tortured; two, it gave my baby more to grab on to when nursing. By protecting your nipple it buys you some time to figure your position out without being in pain.
    I wish you luck and happy nursing. I appreciate your honesty and your stick-to-itiveness. You’ll get it.

  • Jenn

    December 7, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Everyone who says that six weeks seemed to be a turning point are on to something. That seemed to be the case with me, too with all three of my kids. I used a nipple shield with all of them, which I know has many detractors, but with my third kid, it was either that or stop nursing altogether, the pain was so bad. She has a small mouth and just wasn’t able to open wide enough. The shield at least let me heal and once I did, nursing became much easier, probably helped by the fact that she was bigger. I also had no problem with doing away with the shield, which is not the case for everyone. But when you really want to nurse, sometimes you just have to do what works.
    And those people who say nursing doesn’t hurt at all, I just want to kick them in the shins. It may not hurt for them, but for some of us, it’s miserable!
    Good luck!

  • Christine

    December 7, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Just adding yet more data points: my nipples hurt like heck for the first seven weeks, and latch-on was painful, especially on my “bad” side for a while after that. I never had cracked or bleeding nipples, so that’s not what was hurting, and the LCs I saw said we had a perfect latch.
    I firmly believe the pain (that particular bit of the pain) is hormonal – especially as I then nursed child #1 all through my second pregnancy and it still hurt for the first few days of nursing child #2. Part of that was her learning to latch on, but obviously no part of it was “toughening up” my nipples, since they were well used to the abuse.
    Best of luck and I really hope it gets better for you. It’s worth sticking with, but not to the point of torturing yourself.

  • Trish

    December 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Moms who cannot breastfeed: please, PLEASE stop feeling bad about it. My mom could NOT breastfeed (due to chronic high blood pressure and the medication she HAD to take to control it). I never had breast milk: formula 100%. I am not deficient, deformed, and I don’t have health problems or digestion issues. I’m not dumb either (good student, dual master’s degrees, blah blah blah). If you CAN breastfeed, fantastic: do it. If you cannot, you have not failed. Your kid is not going to be dumb, or a failure, or an axe murderer. I wholeheartedly support teaching people about breastfeeding and helping women to breastfeed. BUT, given my mom’s own story, sometimes I think we have gone WAY too far in that we make it seem like it should just be so easy that if it doesn’t work perfectly right off, it’s your fault, and people tell you you’re lazy, selfish, whatever it is that they say to you (or you say to yourself). You are none of those things: you are wanting to do the best for your child.

  • Been there...

    December 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    A couple of things for you to consider (I’ve nursed three kids until 18 months, but the first didn’t nurse well until 7 weeks, all three had bad latches and it hurt for weeks to nurse):
    1) Read some things from this website for mothers whose breastfeeding experience wasn’t what they expected – it’s a great site:
    2) If you use a shield, make sure you put it on properly. You don’t just pop it on over your nipple, instead follow these steps: a) invert the thing so just the tip is extending out, b) have your breast slightly damp (with EBM is fine) to keep it in place, then c) pop the inverted thing onto your nipple, so it isn’t inverted anymore. When it’s on correctly, your nipple will fill most of the tip before the baby even starts sucking.
    3) When not nursing, slather your nipples in lansinol nipple cream and give them air – the air will help heal the cracks. If one of your nipples is worse than the other, give that boob a break as much as you can – feed from mostly one side for a day and just pump the other side as needed. One day won’t kill your milk supply and it will give you a chance to heal.
    I hope you get better soon!

  • Alias Mother

    December 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Oh god. Been there. Done that. The pain, the bleeding, the unhelpful LCs telling me that it shouldn’t hurt. You’ve got tons of good advice above, so I won’t do anything other than nod. Yes, it hurts. For some of us, it hurts like hell. It took me 12 weeks, to be exact. 12 weeks until I felt human. I spent every nursing session doing yoga breathing and crying through the pain. But I did it, it got better, and I nursed my daughter for almost 16 months.
    And I know that no one likes to be told that their feelings are from hormones, but that rage and jealousy and failure that you are feeling? Yes. Hormones. And lack of sleep. It doesn’t mean anything is deeply wrong or that you are a bad person. It means that the panic neurons in your brain are working overtime. That too will even out.
    You are kicking ass. Hang in there.

  • HereWeGoAJen

    December 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Keep trying and hang in there. But also, once you’ve tried everything you want to try, don’t be afraid to stop nursing if this just doesn’t work. You don’t have to nurse to be a fantastic mother.

  • Jenny

    December 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    First of all, WELL DONE for perservering this far! No one tells you how hard breastfeeding is and you’ve done amazing to get this far with all the pain you describe. When I read your post–especially the part about dreading each feed–I could completely relate. I am breastfeeding my three month old but nearly had to stop in the beginning on account of the excruciating pain. We hired a lactation consultant who examined my nipples and baby’s mouth and immediately diagnosed the problem: thrush. Basically, baby had oral thrush and I nipple thrush and we were just constantly passing it back and forth. The treatment (various creams/gels/pills) took awhile to fully clear the infection but did lessen the pain immediately. Please download the leaflet on “Breastfeeding and Thrush” at this website: It describes symptoms and also the appropriate treatment in case your doctor is unfamiliar with thrush in breastfeeding women. I really hope this helps as I know the pain/frustration/guilt that bf issues can cause.

  • Miranda

    December 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Nipple shields are a God-send.. my LC gave me mine, but you can get them at Target or BRU, also..

  • kiesa

    December 8, 2009 at 12:00 am

    In my opinion, nothing is more important than making sure you have a good bond with your baby. Under ideal circumstances, breastfeeding can enhance bonding. However, if you feel it is making the relationship with your child worst, I would really suggest you sit down and evaluate if it is worth it. I realize this may be hard. Both my mother and my mother-in-law who are very aware of the benefits of breastmilk tried to gently suggest that my determination to feed my son breastmilk might not the healthiest option in our case. I couldn’t hear them. It’s only now looking back at my experience that I’m appalled at what I put us through.
    Your baby will not die if he is fed formula. Due to my low supply even when I was pumping my baby mainly had formula. At 8 months he’s a very healthy boy and has only been sick twice even though he goes to daycare.
    I completely understand your anger at women who appear to have no trouble breastfeeding. I tried for 8 weeks to get my baby to feed correctly. Everyone kept saying he “latched” correctly but instead of sucking he’d chew. I gave up trying to breastfeed at 8 weeks (he would only get 1 oz for every 20 min feeding and my nipples were in agony each time) and continued pumping for 5 months. I went through many lactation consultants, pediatricians, obstetricians, read every breastfeeding book under the sun, attended Le Leche League meetings, had acupuncture to induce lactation, was on Reglan, and took all sorts of supplements to attempt to boost my milk supply. I even paid for my baby to have multiple sessions of Cranial Sacral Massage even though there is absolutely no scientific evidence suggesting it is helpful. I finally understood why desperate people are willing to try all sorts of really weird things. None of the things I tried were able to get him breastfeeding correctly or get my milk supply up to where it should be (at 5 months pumping every 2 hrs I could only do 10 oz/day). I probably would have kept it up longer if I was able to get enough milk to feed him but I was making less than a 4th of what he was eating. I really wish I lived in the era of wet nurses 🙂
    I feel like I put so much time into pumping and trying to get him breastmilk that our bonding process suffered. I’m still trying to rectify the damage I feel occurred due to my well-intentioned attempts to feed him breastmilk (on my end, not his, he seems to bond with me fine).
    If I have more children I will try to breastfeed them. I know my mom had a supply problem with me and she managed to breastfeed my younger brother okay. However, this time I will not sacrifice our bonding experience in order to feed them breastmilk.
    Good luck. I really hope you manage to get him to feed correctly. However, if you can’t, it’s okay. You may feel guilty, I still do. However, your son will thrive with you as his mother regardless of how he gets his nutrition. Breastfeeding is only one very small part of raising a child.

  • Kate

    December 8, 2009 at 12:22 am

    @wallydraigle, OMG I am so with you on the Boppy thing. I found it completely useless until I started using it for its actual original purpose, as a pillow to prop the baby on while he was on his tummy or back. I was lucky enough to receive a “My Brest Friend” as a hand me down and it is seriously awesome despite the ridiculous name.
    I also second, third? the recommendation for the gel healing pads. I used them to recover from the damage my son caused in his first few days because he was tongue tied.
    I hope you get this solved but do take care of yourself too.

  • Cheri

    December 8, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Could I also suggest going to the nursing support group at the hospital? The first two weeks with each kid, my nipples were raw, cracked and bleeding. My nc from the hospital suggested a cream you can make yourself— a dab of cortisone, a dab of monistat, and a dab of antibiotic cream mixed together- you could have a yeast infection in the nipples. Nursing shields helped my friend, who had inverted nipples- could that be a part of the problem? You need support as well as help with this. I had to do a cross cradle position to keep the baby in the right spot. Good luck! it gets better, honest.

  • Stephanie 2

    December 8, 2009 at 8:31 am

    I have to second the suggestion to consider a bottle at one of the night time or early morning feedings. I had lots of trouble with breastfeeding the first time around and only managed to stick with it for two weeks. The second time was a little bit easier, but it still hurt for the first several weeks. And the 2:00am feedings were very frustrating. I started having my husband get up and give my son a bottle for that feeding and it made a HUGE difference. Getting a little more sleep makes everything much more bearable. And it took the pressure off of me being the only food source for the baby.
    Breastfeeding is just one aspect of motherhood. So many other things define a great mom, in the end. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby. If you’re happy, mothering is so much easier than if you’re unhappy. Do what’s best for both of you, and if that means supplementing sometimes, so be it.

  • Heather Ann

    December 8, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I cannot read the comments because my own 2 month old will not last long…but look for a better LC!
    All my four children were tongue-tied, but my last is the one who caused me extreme pain and in whom we saw the weight loss. She had a posterior tongue-tie, which is much harder to recognize. She is the only one that I had to get it corrected in, and I had alot of nipple pain and it kind of felt like her tongue clicked in and out of position while nursing. Obviously, I can’t really help from here, but a good/excellent LC can. Eight weeks in and I have a chunky monkey with a great latch and powerful jaws, but take it back four weeks and we were not doing so well. In our case, varying the position really helped. I nurse her sitting up on my lap facing me most often now. Weird position, but it works. The other thing I have to say is that I nursed for almost 9 years and when this one came along I still made mistakes and had problems. Cut yourself lots of slack and give yourself lots of pats on the back. You are doing great, you just need better help. You can get to the point where it doesn’t hurt. I know you can. But something is still not right and you need the right professional to figure it out. Lots of hugs and luck.

  • Rachel

    December 8, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. One thing that helped with my sore nipples was to rub lanolin into the breast pad and not directly on my skin. I think Amy and the commenters have given some really good suggestions, but my $.02 is that I wish I had given up on breastfeeding sooner. (My daughter had tongue-tie and a bad latch, and I had a low supply. I kept it up for 5 months and it was pretty miserable. And yes, I did have multiple LCs and tried everything to establish my supply). I don’t mean to discourage you. I think it’s great that so many women try breastfeeding. But it’s really hard, and it doesn’t always work. For me, it was a great thing to give myself permission to stop.

  • Kate

    December 8, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I think that whole thing about it not hurting if you’re doing it right is correct…MUCH later on when everything is well established and both momma and baby know what they’re doing. Like, I’m think about six months in or so, my daughter would occasionally latch incorrectly, and it would hurt and be immediately obvious, where as a corect latch felt perfectly fine. (And once or twice she’d miss the nipple entirely and latch onto the side of my boob or my stomach or something. That hurts too! Those babies can create some vacuum!)
    But again, that was months into the process once we were old pros.
    My experience the first few weeks in when it still hurt a lot was that I had to be very patient and make sure that my little one had her mouth open reeealy wide before I tried to latch her on. And it was hard to get her to open her mouth wide enough. I never did figure out a good trick for it. Mostly, like others have said, I just had to wait for her to get a tiny bit older.
    I’m so sorry that this is sucking right now. I think most of us have had that terrible 2am moment where it’s just not working, it hurts, you’re sooo tired, and none of the advice is helping.
    Whatever you decide is best for you and your baby, I hope things look up very soon.

  • Jaymee

    December 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I am fairly certain that nobody is going to read this comment because let’s face it, who actually read ALL of the comments. I usually give up after the first 5 especially if they are as long as the ones here! But hey, I’ll give it a try anyways because I feel for you! Plus I might be able to help!!(I say this feeling very high and mighty. Me all knowing wonderful breastfeeder that I am… HAHA FUNNY!!)
    I had the exact same problem! No matter what I tried, who I talked to nothing worked. I even did the whole pay a LC because “she will be way better than the ones at the hospital because she get’s PAID for it.” HA! What a joke! She helped me with positioning(I am thankful for that), but when it came to the latch she was no help at all. She grabbed ahold of my boob and latched him for me perfectly… 3 times! She showed me how to do it and everything was wonderful. It was wonderful until she walked out the door and it was going to cost me another 100 bucks to get her to come back through the door. There was longer such a thing as a good latch… again. I eventually found a book and decided, “I might as well try this because I can’t possibly get any worse at this.” So to my surprise this book told me things that NOBODY had told me. I have even tried looking for this wording on the internet and talking to a LC about it. Nope, NOBODY has ever heard it put this way before. This book saved my life!! So now that I have babbled on and on so that people get scared of my lengthy comment and not read it, I will get to what the book said.
    The name of the book is ‘Nursing The First Two Months’ and it’s an excerpt from ‘The nursing Mother’s Companion’ By Kathleen Huggins, R.N., M.S.
    1. Use the cross-over hold sometimes refered to as the cross-cradle hold but not to be confused with the regular cradle hold. (I’m sure you know how to do this) Adjust him so that his head is slightly tipped back so that when you pull him onto the breast his chin reaches it first. Now shift the baby, if neccessary, so that his nose – NOT HIS MOUTH – is right in front of your nipple. In this position he is most likely to latch on with his lower jaw well below the base of the nipple.
    2.If your starting with the left breast, hold it with your left hand so that your thumb is positioned at the margin of the areola, about 1 1/2 incehes from the nipple, at the spot where the baby’s nose will touch the breast(or at about two o’clock, if you imagine a clock face printed on your breast). Place your index finger the same distance from the nipple at the spot where the baby’s chin will touch the breast (or at about eight o’clock). Gently compress the breast to match the shape of your baby’s open mouth.
    4. Touch baby just under nose to stimulate him to “root.” When his lower jaw is dropped all the way down, quickly bring his shoulders and head together to the breast. With his head tipped slightly back, his chin should reach the breast first. Don’t lean into the baby. Keep the areola compressed until he begins sucking. You’ll know that he is well latched on if his lips are far apart and flared, if he has more of the bottom of the areola in his mouth than the top, and if you feel comfortable. (Don’t be afraid to make him re-latch if you don’t get it right the first time or even the tenth time. Just keep latching and re-latching until it’s right.)
    The whole part about pointing the nipple at the baby’s nose and not his mouth helped alot! Plus this book says that he needs to have MORE of the bottom of the areola in his mouth than the top. That is also AMAZING advice. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE(even AMY) kept saying, “make sure to get the WHOLE areola in his mouth.) Well sorry, I love you Amy, but you never told me to be more concerned with the bottom part than the top.
    I don’t know if you can buy this book anywhere, but I’m sure you can. I got it in one of the many “gift bags” from the hospital/doctors office/baby place that I went to.

  • Lori

    December 8, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I’m so sorry this has been so difficult for you. I haven’t been in your shoes (I had very littlepain and never any bleeding in 2 1/2 years breastfeeding my son), but just maybe I can help a little bit. Something I read somewhere told me that infants this reflex – if they’re hungry, if you touch their bottom lip, they’ll refexively open their mouth. I never waited until my son cried to feed him (unless he woke up hungry). I would test him by touching his lip. If he opened his mouth, I fed him. He was usually relaxed when he ate, so I think it was easier all around for him. As part of the same philosophy, to prepare him to latch on, I would touch his lip with my nipple first, and he would always open wide. Then I would put him on. I truly hope you work this out in way that you can feel good about.

  • NewMommyToTwins

    December 8, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks so much for this column. I’m a new mom to twin boys, 5 weeks old tomorrow. We’ve had so many similar experiences, it truly makes me feel better that I’m not alone. One baby couldn’t latch at all in the beginning, he lost 20% of his birthweight by 1 week and our pediatrician basically told us either I feed him every 2 hours AND supplement him with pumped milk and formula or he goes into the hospital and someone else will feed him. His twin also lost weight, though not as severely, so he had to get formula too. It would often take more than an hour and a half to complete a feeding and I would have to start over. I also had a bladder infection which caused full body aches and fever, developed thrush from the antibiotics and severe nipple pain on one side. Now one baby is showing signs of allergy to the formula so it’s up to me to pump and nurse. It’s been a rough ride. I’m lucky my husband is amazingly supportive. My mom didn’t breastfeed either me nor my brother so she has been extremely undermining which sucks too. I’m still waiting for the magical day it all clicks and both boys nurse well consistently and most important that it stops hurting. I’ve shed many a tear over this process and I can say there is no aspect of it I enjoy so far. But it’s what I want for my boys and I’m sticking with it.
    It is comforting that other people have the same issues and it’s not some instinctive thing that I’m just deficient with for some reason.
    I do have to say the logistics of nursing 2 babies makes it really hard to leave the house, I have yet to figure out a way to nurse them both in the rest of the world. It’s an ordeal here at home. So much easier to pack bottles in the ol’ diaper bag.

  • shylo Bisnett

    December 8, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    you might try giving yourself a break by pumping for a week while you feed your nb with a hazelbaker finger feeder. it’s a tube you strap to your finger attached to a bulb of milk. it’s kind of a bitch, but it can help reset your kid;s latch … and you can get the psychological break you need to help you deal with the pain better.
    i understand exactly where you are. breastfeeding nearly broke me and u;m now in month eight of exclusive pumping.

  • Margie

    December 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but rotate the baby every time you nurse so that you are contstantly getting a slightly different hold. Normal hold, football hold, lay both of you down on the bed with the baby’s head at your head, with the baby’s toes at your head, lay on your other side with the baby’s head at your head, etc. You actually can reach over the baby (partly on your stomach) to offer the upper boob. And yeah, it hurts for the first few weeks. I was told fair-haired women have more sensitive skin. Give yourself a break every now and then, and walk around with no shirt when you can. You are a lucky mom with a beautiful baby, and every family gets a different right answer.

  • Dana

    December 8, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Hydrogel pads is what helped me a lot when my nipples were RAW from the sucking. These are not nipple shields. You put these on your breasts when not breastfeeding. They are really really good for promoting fast healing.
    I recommend Ameda brand as they can be used for six days. This stuff is also used on burn victims. It’s that good. It helps your skin heal because the gel creates a moist environment.
    Somewhat expensive but one pack lasts a week with Ameda brand. Some people put it in the fridge but that’s not what helps; they work cold or not. It’s the special hydrogel that does the trick. Lanolin did not help me much, these did.

  • Sadie

    December 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Oh dude. I have a baby due in May and reading this brought back all those frustrations from breastfeeding my daughter. I am so sorry to hear you’re having a hard time.
    A nipple shield saved breastfeeding for me. I could not get my daughter to latch on without one and we used it for six months. She was pretty little, so maybe that was the problem, but at six months she finally got to where she did not need it anymore.
    I hope things get easier for you!

  • Shylo Bisnett

    December 8, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Yes to Hydrogels! Get them from a medical supply or breastfeeding store. Do not buy those disgusting lanolin things made by Playtex that stores like Target carry.

  • Ms. Krieger

    December 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Yes, this is exactly the way I used to get my daughter to latch, the only way I learned to get it right every time. Pointing the nipple at the roof of her mouth and getting the lower jaw and chin to the breast first is totally key. (An LC told me this, actually…but I had great free LC support b/c both the midwives who attended my birth were LCs too and they visited me several times in the first few days. Each time they came they asked how the breastfeeding was going and gave us pointers. It took the third or fourth visit to get the “point nipple to roof of mouth” advice, for some reason.)
    Even with proper latch, I didn’t have truly comfortable nursing until my kid was about 8 weeks old. But now at 11 months I can hardly remember what the big deal was. She crawls up, pulls at my shirt and goes “mamamamamama!!!!” and as soon as the boob is exposed she dive bombs and latches expertly as if she’d been doing it her whole life.

  • Cathy

    December 9, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    my Lottie had/has a tiny mouth (even now at nearly 2 years old!) and we used a nipple shield to great effect. It got me through that toughest period, and we weaned of it entirely by like 8 weeks or so. We then went on to feed til 17 months, so I’m all for what it takes to get you through.
    Your nipples won’t recover without some gentle treatement in the interim, and if the nipple shield works then give it a go. There are different shapes and sizes so it’s worth trying a few different kinds before abandoning altogether. I swear on my life, I couldn’t have kept up feeding without it.

  • Liz

    December 10, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I am so, so sorry. I feel your pain. Or rather, I felt your pain. I laugh now to think of how much time I spent preparing for my son’s birth, and how little thought I gave to anything that would come after that. It was harder than I’d ever imagined it could be.
    Oversupply, bleeding, thrush, mastitis, and plenty of sobbing- it seemed like I had every possible breastfeeding problem. I could barely shower for fear the water would hit my nipples and cause blinding pain. I remember very clearly throwing a breastfeeding book against the wall as hard as I could after I read for the millionth time that I must be doing it wrong. With every day that I hung in there, I was both immensely proud of myself and horribly depressed by how much much further we had to go. I’d feel great when another feeding was done, but as the minutes ticked by my anxiety would grow and grow. That made me feel like crap, because what kind of mother dreads feeding her own baby, right?
    And finally, after two months or so, it got better. A lot better. Eventually it was enjoyable, even. But I still remember how bad it was.
    I don’t know if you’re in the DC area, but our doula recommended LC Josie Tullo and she was worth her weight in gold, five hundred million times better than any of the LCs I saw in the hospital. She was just the right mix of authority and compassion. It still took a while for my issues to settle down, and it was still painful for a while, but she really did give me hope and confidence. My husband and I took a camcorder and he recorded the whole session as I sobbed and snotted and dripped milk all over her and her office. I watched that recording over and over again at home in the next couple of days, reviewing the positions and techniques she’d taught me before every feeding. It literally saved my breastfeeding experience.
    Ameda gel pads, which I kept in the fridge, were lifesavers when my nipples were at their worst. I bought my first set at Josie’s office, then ordered more online. I also found it helpful to fill a small glass with warm water and dissolve a pinch of salt in it (not too much), then lean over and stick my boob in the glass to create a seal. Then I’d gently jiggle it around to give my nipple a bath. Those two things helped a lot as far as healing went.
    If you want to keep going, don’t let anyone tell you you’re being silly or hormonal or a martyr.
    But if you want to stop, it’s okay. For lots of us, breastfeeding is harder than it looks, physically and emotionally. You’ve given it a really good shot. And if you need to quit, you need to quit. I support you. 🙂

  • Liz

    December 10, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Oh, and I second (third?) what Jaymee wrote. That’s exactly what my LC showed me how to do. She described it as making a sandwich for the baby. I’d hold my breast in one hand, with my thumb on top, compressing the aereola so that the nipple pointed up. The bottom of my hand was under my breast, with my fingers further away from the aereola so that there was a little bulge there. My fingers were parallel to the line of where the baby’s mouth was going to be.
    The baby’s lower jaw hit the underside of the bulge first, and then I’d lift him slightly up and toward me so that his top jaw came up and closed over the top part of the “sandwich”, right by my thumb. Once his mouth was on, I’d release my thumb and the nipple would pop back into his throat.
    Sometimes I had several false starts before I could get it right, partly because of my pain and anxiety. But it worked.

  • Anonymous

    December 10, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Sticking with it for 5 weeks with that kind of struggle certainly qualifies you as a good mother. I only made it about 4 weeks. All my LCs said everything looked good, but OMG the pain and the bleeding and the scabs. I think a big part of the problem may have been that my great big areolas wouldn’t fit in that tiny mouth. You can’t cover a silver dollar with a nickel. So I just couldn’t keep him off my nipples. Maybe if you keep trying and pumping to give your boobs a break, his mouth will get a little bigger? And if you just can’t take it anymore that’s ok too. 6 weeks of breastmilk is still more than lots of babies get.

  • Candace

    December 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Okay I am probably not adding anything but I have an 8 week old and let me just say, we TURNED A CORNER at 6 weeks.
    So the best I can say without repeating everything everyone has said is, you are almost there it just gets better at 6 weeks (WHY is it SO LONG? I don’t know). He is probably just not used to it yet. I did block nursing, and it helped.
    Oh, and pump and save that liquid gold if you get so huge and uncomfortable. My LC told me to dump it down the drain if it was less than an ounce. Now I have nothing in reserve and am trying to figure out how to pump so I can, you know, go get lunch with a friend in the near future or by god a date with my husband.

  • professormama

    December 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    get some good nipple cream at a natural food store that is safe for baby, use it often.
    it id uncomfortable/hurts during the first weeks, it will get better.
    try to get all of the nipple back into baby’s mouth, and there should be no sound except swallowing.
    keep trying, it happened once by accident, you will get it, don’t give up.
    And, the only pump that has ever worked for me is a hand pump made by AVent, it is magic, just keep pumping until your milk lets down it can take longer than you think.

  • themoira

    December 12, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Like other commenters have written, I too completely understand what you are going through, especially the part about “hating” those successful breastfeeding moms. I burst into tears at my post-partum breastfeeding class when two moms casually starting nursing their 1-day old babies. For me it was such a fight and a struggle to get even a 30 second latch! And they sat there calmly, babies to breast, as if it was the easiest things in the world.
    10 weeks later, things are much better, but that bitterness and frustration is still fresh. Others have mentioned this, but the nipple shield saved us. It helped him learn how latch and helped both of us get the hang of breastfeeding. I weaned him off it about a week ago, and things are going great
    Please right back to Amalah to let us know how you are doing. Best of luck!

  • Katie

    December 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I know both sides of breastfeeding. With my first son, it was a NIGHTMARE. I cried before each feeding, wanting him to not be hungry. He had a short tongue (not tongue tied) and his tongue would not go over his lower jaw, so he was gnawing on my nipple. It was terrible. I had an awesome LC that helped me exercise his tongue before each feeding. That helped him to latch correctly a few times and I was to keep doing this to train his tongue. I finally gave up because it was stressing me out so much I was miserable. I pumped for 5.5 months. With my second son, breastfeeding has been great- no pain at all. I truly believe that the problem is in the baby, not in YOU! Hang in there and see if you can find a LC that has a great reputation for really looking into what the problem is. A lot of times the baby looks like he is latched on correctly, but something is going wrong inside the baby’s mouth.

  • Nicole

    December 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I so wish I had advice for you, but instead I am writing in to tell you that I know exactly how you feel, and with my son being almost 10 weeks old, I am feeling hopeless that things will “naturally” resolve themselves. If one more person perkily tells me, “Well, things look perfect from the outside!” I’m going to… I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I feel for you, Erika. I really, really do.
    I have to admit that I have lurked on this site and for many, many moons, but was really only driven to comment because of Courtney’s response to your plea for help. Courtney, if you are reading: I DO live near Boston. I’d love the name of the LC who helped you. Breastfeeding is so, so important to me, but I fear giving up if I can’t get this pain under control.
    Erika, take good care and know that there are others out there who can truly empathize.

  • Megan

    January 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I think most of us who have breastfed would agree that breastfeeding was very painful in the beginning. That was definitely my experience – it was generally rough for the first six weeks for me. My daughter was tongue-tied making her latch very painful. All the LCs we saw kept saying she needed to have her frenulum clipped but her doctor disagreed and said it would stretch on its own, which it did. And as that started to happen, it got so much better.
    I did use a nipple shield on and off just to give my horribly cracked and sore nipples a break. I remember feeling constantly worried about all the warnings that the LCs would put out there – “Be careful with nipple shield, because it will lower your supply and you baby won’t latch without it.” I was beating myself up the same as you are.
    I want to tell you, and anyone else out there, that it WILL get better. And to trust yourself first and give yourself a break. You’re doing an amazing thing for your child and you should be very proud of yourself. Take care of yourself!

  • Kim

    April 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    My doctor referred me to a physical therapist who was able to help us. She worked with my daughter to change how she latches on.

  • Amber

    June 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

    I’m in the throes of breastfeeding a newborn (a little over a week old) and boy did I need to read this. I am feeling the exact same way and it was encouraging to hear that other mommas have gone through the same thing. 

  • kelly

    September 12, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    I know this was written several years ago but I am so thankful I found it. I have a week old newborn and i struggled all week trying to get her to latch correctly. Every feeding was excruciating as she clamped down on my cracked and bleeding nipples. She acted like she was ravenous and whenever I so much as placed a nipple near her mouth she snaped down with incredible speed and aggressively fed. After days of pain I started searching online for advice on how to fix her latch. I knew I was doing something wrong…it shouldn’t hurt that much. When I came across this post I read it and cried. It was exactly how i has been feeling. I just want to thank you so much for the advice. After a couple days of practice I was able to mash that boob in there to where it doesn’t hurt lol. I can’t imagine going back to the pain, when you FINALLY get it right it’s all worth it.