Check out more stories from Busted, our series that offers an unfiltered exploration and celebration of our boobs and ourselves during breast cancer awareness month.
While the feeding of a newborn baby is a deeply personal choice and can happen in a variety of different ways, many parents choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their children despite the challenges that can arise. When I gave birth to my first child in 2020, I was one of those parents. I enjoyed the privilege of paid maternity leave from my job and the round-the-clock support of a partner and a network of family members, so I had the space and resources to embark on this process with my infant daughter.
While there’s no shortage of pop-culture anecdotes and first-hand accounts detailing the pain and uncertainty of childbirth, I found myself utterly blindsided by the emotional and physical discomfort that breastfeeding brought on. Not all babies — my daughter included — can nurse efficiently from the jump, and the anxiety of not knowing whether or not she was getting enough to eat was almost eclipsed by the searing nipple pain that accompanied every nursing session. When I wasn’t Googling “how to breastfeed” or “fixing painful latch,” I was slathering my boobs with every cream and ointment I could get my hands on and watching “Seinfeld” reruns as my daughter nursed to distract myself from the agony.
Now, over two years later and currently nursing a second baby, I can testify that it does get better — and in my experience, time was the only thing that eventually eased my pain. (Some parents may also choose to stop breastfeeding — I know many that did.) Ahead, I’ve rounded up a few things that brought me a little comfort during the most difficult moments, along with a few things that I really wish I’d known about back then.
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Lasinoh lanolin cream
This popular, frequently recommended ointment was my breastfeeding ride-or-die for a long, long time. I had countless containers of the stuff, and I still find the purple tubes lying around my house, hiding in makeup bags, drawers, and medicine cabinets. It’s made primarily from lanolin, which sheep secrete from their skin, meaning it’s safe for most babies to ingest and you don’t have to wash it off your breasts before feeding. (Some parents and babies do experience allergic reactions.) It’s also great for chapped lips and dry skin in general, which is why I keep it around.
Earth Mama nipple butter
A friend gifted me this organic nipple butter, which also stayed in heavy rotation during the first weeks of my daughter's life. The organic, plant-based solution is lanolin-free, making it a great option for anyone with allergies. It contains a soothing blend of olive oil, beeswax, cacao seed butter, shea butter and calendula, and offered a great deal of relief to my sore nipples.
My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow
When you Google breastfeeding tips as much as I did, you’ll find that there’s a strong emphasis on keeping your baby in the proper position
so that they can “latch” in a way that’s comfortable for them and pain-free for you. I swore by this nursing pillow during my first few weeks of motherhood — it provides a block of lumbar support and a firm ergonomic pillow that raised my daughter closer to my chest. It wraps around your body and can be secured with a strap to keep it (and your baby) firmly in place.
Frida Mom breast care kit
While I didn't personally use this breast-care kit, I'm a big fan of Frida for parent and baby-care products. (When I came from home from the hospital with my newborn, the brand’s postpartum recovery kit
was waiting at my doorstep, courtesy of a fellow mom friend, and my husband and I used the NoseFrida
on our congested newborn more times that I can count.) This set of nipple-care products includes a heated lactation massager, reusable instant heat breast packs, and a breast sheet mask to soothe and protect sore nipples. I’d especially recommend the vibrating massager for helping relieve clogged ducts
— I had to use my electric toothbrush to do this when I suddenly experienced this painful condition.
Silverette nursing cups
A fellow HuffPost mom tipped me off to these nursing cups well after I weaned my older daughter, but boy do I wish I’d know about these as a new mom. While I can't vouch for them personally, thousands of reviewers who experienced pain similar to mine have penned lengthy reviews attesting to their soothing and healing potential. Reviewers describe applying a small amount of breast milk to the inside of the cups and then placing the cups on top of their nipples (inside their bras). “I put them on around 7am,” wrote a reviewer named Vanessa
who experienced cracked and scabbed nipples at four days postpartum. “By 5 p.m. I removed them and [my] scabs had softened, fallen off mostly and the healed skin underneath was revealed!!! I could not believe how fast they worked. I was able to nurse my baby without pain that same evening. So grateful and worth every penny.” The cups have a 4.5-star rating and 3,200 five-star reviews.
Stretchy-but-supportive nursing bras
This might sound counterintuitive, but one thing that brought me a lot of relief was simply wearing a bra when I wasn't nursing. While I initially went undergarment-free postpartum (for obvious reasons), I realized that letting the girls, um, hang out was causing a lot of unnecessary chafing to my overly sensitive parts. I started wearing a soft-but-supportive bra around the clock — even to bed — and the difference in my pain levels was almost immediately noticeable. I received this Hofish nursing bra as a hand-me-down, but it's one of the most highly rated options on Amazon and pretty much every nursing mother I know used this exact one. It has a 4.6 stars and 26,588 five-star ratings on Amazon.