Having sore nipples can make pumping breast milk difficult. Because you need to regularly remove milk from your breasts, you can’t take breaks to let your nipples heal. But can sore nipples cause decreased milk supply?
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Can sore nipples cause decreased milk supply?
I recently was asked the following question:
My baby is now two weeks old, and I’m having so much trouble with pumping! My nipples are super sore and I’m starting to pump less milk. Can sore nipples cause milk supply to decrease? Is there anything I can do to fix the sore nipple issue? And how can I pump more milk?
First – on their own, sore nipples won’t cause your milk supply to decrease.
Milk supply is primarily driven by demand. That means that the more milk you remove from your breasts (either via your baby nursing or a breast pump), the more milk your body should make. Whether or not your breasts hurt isn’t a factor – with a few caveats.
The caveats include:
1. Are you pumping less often because of the pain?
Sometimes, when you’re having pain because of pumping, you pump less often. No one is eager to go do things that hurt.
If you pump less often, you’ll likely remove less milk, which in turn can caused decreased milk supply. Removing less milk means less “demand,” which can then mean less supply.
2. Are the sore nipples caused by incorrect breast shield size?
Breast shields come in many sizes, and the right size for you often isn’t the one that came with your breast pump.
Not only can pumping with the incorrect breast shield size cause sore nipples, but it can also cause inefficient pumping. This is because sometimes either too much or too little of your nipple is pulled into the breast shield, causing the milk ducts to not be compressed as designed.
You may want to measure your nipples to see if you need a different size, or you may want to try a different material or shape of breast shield.
Having the correct breast shield for you will likely help with both the sore nipples and the milk supply issues.
3. Are you tensing up because of the pain?
Sometimes, when you’re having pain with pumping, this can cause you to tense up. (Pain is stressful, after all!)
Stress can inhibit the release of oxytocin, which is the letdown hormone. The more letdowns you get, the more milk you pump – so not being able to get your milk to start flowing because of pain can cause reduced output.
Make sure that you’re using the highest setting on your breast pump that is not painful for you. Higher vacuum settings won’t help if you can’t get your milk to let down.
If you’re having pain with pumping and you think you have the correct breast shield size, here are six questions to ask to troubleshoot your issues. You may also want to see a lactation counselor and see if they are able to help. Pumping should never hurt.
Have you had issues with sore nipples and decreased milk supply? Tell us your experience in the comments!