Sore Nipples 15 Months After a Breast Reduction. Can't Breastfeed my Son, Too Painful!

I had a breast reduction 15 months ago. I've just had my first child and am trying to breast feed, but my nipples are so sensitive I am brought to tears while feeding. It's excruciating! Is this normal, and is there anything I can do about it? I desperately want to breast feed my son!

Doctor Answers 1

Sore nipples 15 months after breast reduction--wants to breast feed!

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Congratulations on your new baby! And kudos to you for choosing breast-feeding. I'm sorry to hear you are having painful nipples, yet glad to hear that your surgery not only preserved sensation but your ability to breastfeed.

Unfortunately, the pain you are experiencing probably has little or nothing to do with your past surgery. After 15 months, your breasts are well-healed, any nerve regeneration has completed its natural course, and your nipple sensitivity would have been the same if you had not undergone breast reduction surgery.

Many women who have had no breast surgery of any kind find they have incredibly sore nipples when (trying) breastfeeding. So, yes, this is normal, and at 15 months your nipple soreness has nothing to do with your prior surgery.

When severe nipple sensitivity occurs, women are often advised to try to "toughen up" their sore nipple skin by rubbing, rolling, or pinching the nipples to reduce the brain's pain response by "overloading" the pain centers and effectively "improving" your pain threshold by desensitization. It seems perverse to cause pain to reduce pain, but that is what my wife was told when she breast fed and had excruciating, bleeding, painful nipples (and mastitis to boot). I have passed that on to many of my own patients with the same issue.

You may find not only additional advice but helpful commiseration at a local LaLeche League meeting, where mothers are experiencing the same concerns, problems, and successes you are. You may also need to pump and store as your soreness decreases, with the goal of eventually restoring that wonderful and healthful mother-baby experience. (And perhaps it will help your sleep to have stored mother's milk so your husband can feed the baby at night occasionally!)

Hang in there. Best wishes!


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