Breast Pain: Explanations & Treatments

Why do my breasts hurt?

If you no longer experience engorgement and continue to have breast pain, you may require a treatment plan or medical intervention. Breast pain can come in many forms, shapes and sizes. We’ve laid out some different scenarios that could be causing your pain. If any one of these apply to you, see our suggested treatment plans listed below:

Plugged Ducts 

Plugged ducts are hard, tender area(s) within the breast. They feel like a knot or small ball (pea or grape size) within the tissue.


A bleb is a small white pimple or blister on the nipple caused by milk residue trapped inside the duct or between the alveoli and the nipple pore. Blebs can cause pain and should be removed when found.

Nipple Soreness and Treatment

You will encounter nipple soreness at some point in your breastfeeding adventure. That point just might be now. If so, never forget: Position, position, position. It really is the key to success and pain-free latch on.

Breast Cracks and Open Wounds

Sometimes, breasts can become so irritated or rubbed raw that you may have cracks, wounds or even bleeding.

Pain Associated With Breast Pump Use 

One of the most common reasons for ongoing nipple trauma and pain is due to the frequency and duration that the breast pump is used. The size, and often the type of breast shield can cause irritation and tearing of skin while the pump is moving the nipple and areola in and out of the shield.

Milk Ejection Pain (Letdown Pain)

Some moms find it painful when milk is released from the alveoli (milk making glands). There are many different ways this discomfort is described including:

  • Aching
  • Tightening
  • Pins and needles
  • Dull throbbing
  • Sharp shooting or stabbing pain


Any of these sensations can be normal and generally will resolve within 5-10 minutes after milk production begins.

Refill Pain

Some moms describe a deep ache or dull throbbing pain after they complete a feeding. This feeling can start 10-20 minutes after the feeding is over and usually lasts 10 minutes or less. The ache is from the filling up of the alveoli with blood and lymph fluid in preparation for the next feeding.

Moms need to know that the refill pain sensation will get less intense after 4-6 weeks, and if it doesn’t resolve, a call to the lactation consultant may help provide extra support and other ideas for treatment.


In some women, nipple pain is not caused by trauma, cracked or bleeding nipples, but rather by a fungal infection of the nipple and areola called thrush, or Candida albicans. This form of fungus is primarily found in the oral and gastrointestinal tracts, as well as the genital area. It can be passed from the mother to the infant and even back to the mother in some cases.  Mothers who have been on certain medications can develop a mild yeast infection which may affect the nipple area since yeast tends to grow where it is warm, dark and damp, like the inside of your nursing bra.

If you feel you are experiencing a yeast infection, please call your primary health care provider or lactation consultant.

Mastitis and Other Infections

If you have a breast infection, you’ll need to call your primary care physician and talk with them regarding your options to begin the recovery process. Although some doctors may suggest an antibiotic, other physicians will allow you to drink plenty of fluids and nurse, pump and try to clear the infection more naturally depending on how severe your symptoms are.

Is breast or nipple pain making nursing difficult for you? Send us a message and one of the healthcare professionals on our team can troubleshoot ways to make you more comfortable while breastfeeding.

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