Difficulties with latching during breast feeding can either be due to poor technique, structural issues with tongue and lip (tongue or lip tie, small or retracted lower jaw), or of mothers nipples.
Abnormal nipple structure can be in the form of having flat, inverted, retracted or sometimes more generous nipple which babies cannot latch on properly. We may recommend using nipple shield for these causes.
Poor latching at the breast can lead to sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples.
Remember that you may experience some pain initially while learning the technique but breast feeding by and large should not be a painful experience and you should seek advice early if need be.
Breast feeding is a skill which needs to be predominantly learned by mothers (especially if they are first time mothers) and also by babies (as they are usually first time babies). Technique can be an isolated cause of poor latching especially for primigravida mothers who do not have much of experience or training before. This may improve when worked on. Midwives would be able to assist you with technique and sometimes you may require to be reviewed by a Lactational consultant.
Mothers who have experienced damage to their nipples can also consider having laser therapy and rest from breast feeding for short while. During this period, mother’s can express their milk, which should not be painful, and feed babies their expressed milk via bottles or commence on formula feeds. It is important to note that mothers are encouraged to express their milk using breast pumps as failing to do so may lead to milk clogging in their duct which may result in mastitis.