First-Time Mom Breastfeeding Essentials to Make Things Easy

First-time mom breastfeeding essentials and home remedies for nipple pain during breastfeeding. Everything you need for breastfeeding as a first-time mom. What do you do when breastfeeding is painful no matter what you do? Home remedies for nipple pain during breastfeeding. Tips on what to do to help make breastfeeding more comfortable when you’ve got the latch right, nothing’s medically wrong, and it still hurts.

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Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing that we can do for our babies, but it can also be challenging. Most first-time moms are surprised to find that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. It can be something that you and your baby have to work through. And can be an extra challenge alongside taking care of a newborn.

If you push through those challenging times, there will likely come a day when you’re glad you stuck with it.

After all, breastfeeding has plenty of benefits for both you and your baby. Plus, once you start pumping and warming up bottles, you’ll realize how much easier it is to breastfeed your baby!

There are a few first-time mom breastfeeding essentials that will help make breastfeeding a smooth experience. And a few remedies in case you find yourself struggling through a painful breastfeeding experience. All of this will help get you to that point of breastfeeding success.


First-Time Mom Breastfeeding Essentials

Nursing pillow

This item is so essential that you’ll want to bring it to the hospital with you. When a baby is a newborn you have to hold them up, while supporting their neck, and holding your breast. Especially when you’re a first-time mom, figuring out breastfeeding, a nursing pillow is essential to help with this. Remember that newborns breastfeed for 20-45 minutes in those first few weeks. Imagine trying to hold your new tiny baby and your breast in an awkward position for 45 minutes.

I’ve tried most brands of nursing pillows and the My Brest Friend is the best one. It straps around you so it stays in place while you’re nursing. Others can leave you constantly adjusting. They also make a pillow for breastfeeding twins if you happen to be having two babies.

Breast pump

I talk about this more in my post on pumping for first-time moms, but you might be surprised by how soon you’re using that breast pump (that you should request for free from your insurance). I personally used the Spectra S2 pump with both of my babies (I used the hospital-grade Medela while in the hospital and preferred the Spectra).

Nursing pads

When your milk first comes in, you may leak a lot (every woman is different). It’s a good idea to keep nursing pads in your bra at all times in the beginning. I personally used these wool nursing pads (in “original”), but you can also get a large package of bamboo nursing pads.

You also might like something like the Haaka Ladybug Milk Collector if you hate the idea of losing all that leaked milk. These suction to your nipple and collect any milk that leaks out so you can save it. I used it on the opposite breast while I was nursing because both let-down (release milk) at the same time in the beginning.

Breast milk freezer bags

You want to have some of these on hand so you can save any milk that you pump.

Bottles

There is going to come a point in time where you (or someone else) will feed your baby through a bottle (that time may be in the first week). A bad bottle can cause latch issues for your baby or give them gas (which you will learn is a terrible thing). I found the Comotomo bottles to be the best bottles to prevent both of these issues.

Nursing Bras

Nursing bras have a clip at the top of the cup that allows you to open up the cup to feed your baby. The best styles are going to be ones you can clip down with one hand. If possible, you want a bra with no underwire, since that can cause clogged milk ducts. My favorite is Kindred Bravely’s Nursing and Pumping Bra, but they also have the same bra without the pumping bra built in. If you need a sports bra at any point for more intense workouts, I found this one from Target that isn’t specifically for nursing, but the front zip allows for quick access, if needed (size up in the cup and band).

Nursing Cover

Chances are you aren’t excited about breastfeeding in public. To be honest, I’ve tried every cover type there is and I prefer just strategically using a blanket over all of them. However, when you’re figuring out breastfeeding for the first time, juggling all the things and a blanket, can be quite challenging.

There are basically three options available to you. The best option is the apron style. The poncho style, while cute and multipurpose, will expose you if you lift your arms above your waist and the scarf style takes too much thought to align correctly.

Breastfeeding Essentials for Pain in the First Few Days

Breastfeeding for the first time can be painful because your nipples aren’t used to being stretched and pulled. Here are a few essentials to help with pain in those first few days/weeks.

Try these soothing gel pads. (If you haven’t had your baby yet, pack these in your hospital bag.)

The moist environment that breastfeeding creates can also be irritating, so let your nipples dry before covering them and/or use nursing pads that wick away moisture (bamboo or wool).

Use a nipple balm once your nipples are dry to help keep them from cracking or chaffing.

If Breastfeeding is Painful

Check the Latch

If you have all the first-time mom breastfeeding essentials and breastfeeding is still painful after a few weeks, you likely have a latch issue. Make sure you’re getting a deep latch and you feel comfortable with how you’re holding your baby (see the video below).

The best way to make sure you have the latch and hold right, from my experience, is to see a lactation consultant. Check your local hospitals to see if they have a breastfeeding center or Google “lactation consultant near me.” You may have to pay a small fee or your insurance may cover your visit, but it is well worth it to have a positive breastfeeding experience.

Rule Out Potential Medical Issues

A good lactation consultant can also identify most medical issues, so if you’ve seen one at this point, you should know if you have one.

If you haven’t seen a lactation consultant and you’re still having nipple pain after about a month, it’s time to consider whether there is a deeper issue. You can go see your doctor or start with this guide from Mamava to rule out any issues.

These are the three main culprits for nipple pain after ruling out any latch issues.

Thrush

If you have thrush, you should notice sudden pain in your nipples and red or deep pink nipples that may be shiny and peeling or have a rash or blisters on them. You also should notice white spots on your baby’s tongue. (If you think you could have thrush, check out this resource for more information.)

Mastitis

With mastitis, you will notice a hard red spot on your breast, alongside pain. (Read more about mastitis here.)

Vasospasm

Vasospasm is the most tricky of all to diagnose from what I’ve experienced, but it also is the least treatable. This is normally characterized by nipples being white when your baby unlatches (removes the compression) and then turning purple as the blood flow returns to them.

This obstruction in blood flow can cause a lot of pain in your nipples. The best treatment is heat. (If you think you have vasospasm, see my recommendation for nursing pads below and check out this resource on vasospasm for additional information).

Home Remedies for Nipple Pain During Breastfeeding

infographic with 7 tips for making pain while breastfeeding bearable
Home Remedies for Nipple Pain During Breastfeeding

If you’re past the first few weeks, have the latch right, and have ruled out any medical issues, here are some tips for helping with painful breastfeeding.

There are a number of reasons that breastfeeding may still be painful at this point–your nipples may just be dry, causing them to crack easily; you have vasospasm, which affects 20% of nursing mothers; or your baby might just be extra aggressive with your nipples.

No matter what the reason, here are some things you can do to help.

  1. Set a goal for breastfeeding before you start
  2. Pump
  3. Use a nipple shield (temporarily)
  4. Use products for sore nipples
  5. Wear a supportive bra
  6. Learn what’s normal and wait it out

Set a Goal for Breastfeeding

Starting out, before your baby is even born, set a goal for breastfeeding. Having a set goal can really help you push through those tough times. With my first, I had a goal of breastfeeding for the first 6 months and it helped me push through when things were difficult in those first few months.

I would suggest a short goal over a long one. For example, with my second baby, I had a goal of 1 year, which is great and Milkology has a lot of great resources to help you through if that’s your goal. But when my nipples were bleeding one month in, 1 year seemed like an impossible goal. Setting a goal, like if it’s still too painful after four months, I can switch to exclusively pumping or formula, would have been a better goal.

Pump

You want your baby at your breast as much as possible, but sometimes that is just too painful, especially in the beginning when breastfeeding sessions are long and often.

If it’s too painful, try pumping and feeding your baby from a bottle every other session or so for a few days.

From my experience, your baby is not going to reject the breast unless you give up breastfeeding for weeks at a time. I gave both of my boys bottles periodically in the first week. My second was almost exclusively fed pumped milk from a bottle for the first week because he was premature and couldn’t latch. Both of them ended up being exclusively breastfed (except when I was working) after those first few weeks.

If pumping is just as painful as breastfeeding, see my post with the best pumping tips for new moms to find ways to make it more comfortable.

Use a Nipple Shield

A nipple shield is a cover that goes over your nipple to help your baby latch. It is often used for women with flat or inverted nipples, but it has the added benefit of taking some pressure off your nipples.

I’m not a huge fan of using these long-term because they can become a crutch rather than addressing the issue (and can be hard to wean Baby off of), but they can be helpful for a while. Try using one for a day or two or during the night when you and Baby are too sleepy to get the latch right. Make sure you wash them after each use because they can cause infections if you don’t.

Use Products for Sore Nipples

After each breastfeeding session, apply a nipple cream. You can use lanolin or a lanolin-free nipple butter (I like Earth Mama and Nipple Crack). If you have cracks, three times a day apply a bacitracin antibacterial cream. (I was told these are ok to use while breastfeeding. Just wipe off before latching baby. But check with your doctor/lactation consultant to verify.)

Also, try these wool nursing pads. I bought the “original,” which is “for women with open sores” on their nipples. I used these with my second baby (and the bleeding nipples) and they were a lifesaver! Wool naturally has lanolin in it and it keeps the area dry and warm (which is also extremely helpful if you’re experiencing vasospasm, which I also had). I kept them in my bra 24/7 (unless they were being washed) for the entire year that I was breastfeeding.

Wear a Supportive Bra

Some pain in your breasts can be caused by poor support. A good nursing bra can be difficult to find, especially if you have larger breasts (which also need more support). The one that worked best for me was the Pumping and Nursing Bra from Kindred Bravely–they have regular and busty sizes. The two layers give extra support even if you aren’t pumping.

Realize that Some Pain May Be Normal

Forceful letdowns can be another source of pain in the nipples and breasts while breastfeeding.

I had shooting pains throughout my breasts while my babies were newborns that were caused by forceful letdowns and an oversupply of milk. This went away on its own when my baby was 3-4 months old and everything generally got more comfortable after 5 or 6 months (when my babies were eating as often or as long).


If hope you find these first-time mom breastfeeding essentials and home remedies for nipple pain during breastfeeding helpful. Breastfeeding can be difficult as a first-time mom, but these essentials and remedies can help make it an enjoyable experience. Get some rest and keep pushing through. It does get better. Somewhere between 4 and 6 months, most of my issues were gone and breastfeeding was so happy I pushed through those tough times.

Save this post or send it to other first-time moms who are struggling with breastfeeding. Check out my other first-time mom posts to help you with everything you need during the journey ahead. Subscribe for more tips for moms.

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FAQs

What can I do if it’s too painful to breastfeed?

Try wool nursing pads and lanolin. If it’s too painful to breastfeed, try a nipple shield or pumping for a few days or feedings. It can also be helpful to get some sleep.

Your body has a harder time healing when you don’t get enough sleep. If it’s your first time breastfeeding and you just had your baby, you can also try a cool compress on your nipples (or these cooling packs).

How do I know if I have a blocked/clogged milk duct?

From my personal experience, the area will be more itchy than painful. You will notice a hard lump. It will be painful or uncomfortable if you press or lay on it.

You can work out the clog with massage and heat sometimes. I’ve honestly found that most clogged ducts come from pumping. The pump just doesn’t get milk out as well as a baby does. I’ve had clogs that I’ve tried massage, heat, and pumping over and over to get out, only to have my baby finally wake up and…problem solved.

Can breastfeeding hurt, even with a good latch?

Yes. Unfortunately. I’ve had lactation consultants tell me that it should never hurt, but this hasn’t been the case for me. It either hurt or was uncomfortable for most of the first 6 months of my babies’ lives. But with the tips above, I was able to get through it and even get to a point where I could enjoy breastfeeding.

My breasts ache all the time, not just while I’m breastfeeding. What could be causing this?

It’s very likely that this is caused by your breasts not being supported well. Generally, while breastfeeding (and pregnant) your breasts will be larger and, unfortunately, many nursing bras don’t provide adequate support. I, personally, found the Pumping and Nursing Bra from Kindred Bravely to be the best option for support and comfort while nursing. You can also wear regular bras, which often give more support and most have enough flexibility to pull down for nursing. If you need extended sizes, Third Love offers a lot of sizing options.

I’m experiencing painful tingling with radiating pain in my nipples while breastfeeding my baby. Is this normal?

Yes, it actually is. This is what’s known as a forceful letdown. Basically, your milk is rushing down to meet your baby’s need really fast. It’s putting pressure on your nipples, which is the radiating pain, and the tingling is the milk moving through your breasts. You also may notice that your baby is gulping down milk quickly or choking. That’s because the milk is coming in too fast. Your baby may also try to clamp down on your nipple to slow down the flow, which can cause more pain and problems.

The biggest cause of this is an oversupply of milk (you are making too much milk for your baby). This can happen in the first few months when your body is still trying to figure out how much your baby needs. You can slow the flow by feeding your baby while reclining and your milk supply should adjust after a month or two.

What does shooting pain in the breast mean?

This sounds like vasospasm. Normally your nipples will be white right after your baby pulls off and then will turn purple after a few minutes. This is mainly caused by poor blood flow. Your baby may be clamping down on your nipple and cutting off blood flow, the latch may be bad, or this may just be an issue for you.

You can do a few things. Buy wool nursing pads to keep your nipples warm and wear them all the time. Cover your nipples immediately after feeding. And use nipple cream to help with any cracking that may occur from compression.

References

The Royal Women’s Hospital. (n.d.). Breastfeeding problems. The Royal Women’s Hospital. Retrieved August 8, 2022, from https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-problems/

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