Sore breasts while breastfeeding: Causes and remedies

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Try these effective remedies, moms.

Breast milk is the best source of nourishment for your baby as highlighted by medical authorities such as the World Health Organisation. However, some mothers might experience sore breasts at some point in their breastfeeding journey. They will typically experience discomfort or even fever.  Luckily, sore breast remedy is easy to do and importantly, effective at easing the pain. 

In this article, we’ll tell you what causes sore breasts during breastfeeding. We’ll also give you a sore breast remedy list that is tried and tested to ease the pain.

sore breast remedy

Sore breast remedy: If your breasts are painful due to breastfeeding, there are ways you can ease the soreness.

Causes of sore breasts during breastfeeding

There are three main causes of sore breasts during breastfeeding.

1. Engorgement

Usually, your breasts become engorged around a few days after giving birth to your baby. It is around then that your first milk (colostrum) gives way to regular breast milk. Your breasts could feel sore, heavy and full as they start producing more milk.

You could also experience engorgement at any stage of breastfeeding. It’s important to let your baby nurse, or express the excess milk, in order to relieve the discomfort.

2. Blocked milk ducts

Your breasts contains milk ducts that carry your milk from where it is produced, out through your nipples. Sometimes, these ducts get blocked if your breasts are engorged, your baby does not empty your breasts properly or if you wear very tight-fitting clothing or bras that put pressure on your breasts.

Blocked milk ducts will feel like small, tender lumps in your breasts and can be painful. But, as you’ll soon find out, they are easily remedied.

3. Mastitis

Of all sore breast issues, this is probably the worst and the one that needs immediate medical attention. Mastitis is caused by the inflammation and sometimes, infection, of breast tissue. Symptoms include fever, swelling, warmth in the affected breast area and redness.

It generally needs antibiotic treatment to resolve. However, you can continue breastfeeding your baby even while on treatment.

If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned sore breast issues, don’t panic. Except for mastitis, the other issues can easily be solved using simple home remedies that are also recommended by medical practitioners. 

Sore breast remedy: Try these home remedies

1. Express the Milk

Breastfeeding mothers may experience soreness when their breasts become engorged. As explained earlier, this is because the breast milk is not being removed effectively. 

If your baby cannot fully empty your breasts to relieve the soreness and fullness, try manually expressing your milk. Or you could use a breast pump if you have one, to express the milk. 

2. Massage and warm compresses

Gentle massage and using a warm compress is a good sore breast remedy. It is especially effective if the discomfort is caused by blocked milk ducts. 

You can soak a face towel in warm water and apply it on the affected areas of your breasts 15-20 minutes before a feed. Alternatively, you can soak the breasts in warm water. If your breasts are large enough, get a bowl of warm water and bend over it so that your breasts are inside the water.

After you do this, gently massage your breasts from the armpit down to your nipples. You should soon get relief from the soreness, and unplug the ducts.

sore breast remedy

A good sore breast remedy is to wear a well-fitted bra.

3. Wear a comfortable bra

Some women prefer to wear tight bras while breastfeeding. Others cannot stand the discomfort. Gynecologists recommend comfortable bras, preferably bras that do not have metal wires underneath the breast cups.

This type of underwear is popularly called the maternity or nursing bra. They are not too tight and they are not too loose. If the bra is too tight, it will likely increase the level of discomfort. If the bra is too loose, the breasts will bounce around too often and will begin to hurt.

A maternity bra is the best option for breastfeeding moms.  

4. Wear comfortable clothing

Just like the bra, your clothes should be comfortable. Most maternity care experts recommend loose clothing. Nursing a baby will make a breasts fuller and bigger. Mothers often find that they can no longer wear garments from their pre-breastfeeding days.

5. Give your breasts a break

Just like the rest of your body, your breasts too occasionally need to rest. Resist the temptation to tuck your breasts into a bra, especially if they are sore. Discourage your partner from touching or fondling them. Touching only worsens the pain and discomfort.

6. Sleep on your side

This is the best sleeping position to adopt especially if you are breastfeeding. Lying on your back will make you feel as though a house has been planted on your chest.

Sleeping on your stomach will exacerbate the pain by putting more pressure on your breasts. The best position is sleeping on your side and then switching sides when you feel uncomfortable.

7. Avoid Running

If you have sore breasts, try to move about gently. Swinging wildly or running will force your breasts to flap. And flapping breasts cause a great deal of discomfort for both pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

8. Watch your fever

Sometimes, sore breasts caused by engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis might lead to fever. In such a case, treat your fever by keeping well hydrated and cooling your body. Remember that fever is not an illness but just a sign that your immune system is working well and fighting an infection.

If you are running a high temperature, it is normal to feel cold and you might even experience chills. But despite this, try to resist covering yourself in warm blankets as this will only send your temperature shooting up higher. Instead, wear comfortable cotton clothing and try to stay cool as your aim is to try and lower your body temperature.

If needed, speak to your doctor about an appropriate fever medication.

9. Keep hydrated

Take a lot of liquid, especially water, which helps detoxify your system. Ginger tea and lemon tea are also good. You can drop ginger or lemon into your warm water. Avoid fizzy drinks. 

You can also hold the hot or warm cup close to your breasts which will help engorgement and pain. 

10. Eat Right

Eat foods that are rich in fiber and antioxidants. They will help keep your body strong and healthy enough to fight the ailment.

Some healthy foods to consider adding to your shopping list are rice, wheat, beans, cucumbers, garden eggs, cabbages, carrots, meat offal and avocados.

Try to eat seasonal fruits as often as you can. Reduce carbohydrates, and increase your intake of green, leafy vegetables like ugu, okazi, uziza, garden egg leaves, bitter leaves and so on.    

11. Reduce salt intake

Excess salt increases water retention in the body. The last thing you want is a bloated body. Weight gain will only worsen the pain.

Put only a little salt in your food. Enhance the taste of your food by using a variety of spices. Not only do they make your food taste good, but spices such as cinnamon have antibacterial properties and can help your body fight inflammation. 


sore breast remedy

What’s your favourite sore breast remedy?

12. Sleep in your bra

This will work effectively if you are wearing a cotton maternity bra. The underwear will help prop up the breasts so that they don’t dangle about. Don’t forget to avoid tight bras.

Finally, mommies, remember to be patient when remedying sore breasts. Usually, sore breasts are no reason to stop breastfeeding. However, if you are unable to bear the pain or you are experiencing high fever and notice mastitis signs, seek medical attention without delay.

Motherhood is supposed to be a joyful experience. But it is also fraught with a bit of pain and discomfort. The tips on our list will go a long way to ease the pains. Soon those sore breasts will become supple and healthy again. 

Also Read: 47 incredible uses of breastmilk

References: La Leche League International, KellyMom

Written by

Julie Adeboye