Throbbing. No… cramping…… No–now I have it–shooting pain. Albeit very hard to describe, some mothers experience aching pain that occurs during lactation. In fact, several research articles from 1990-2003 have been published about this phenomenon. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
A few months into breastfeeding my first child, I can recall getting an aching pain during and after breastfeeding. I had never felt this sort of pain before and could not figure out if what I was feeling was normal or how to make it stop. All I knew was that it hurt and it occurred most when I was actively feeding my child.
Breast pain related to lactation is defined as deep and/or superficial pain that occurs in the breast area that has an unknown etiology and is independent of nipple pain. This type of pain is not resolved by typical treatment protocols from mastitis or infection. 
So, like the good public health preventionist, I went to see my lactation consultant and she told me that the pain that I was feeling was normal. Our conversation left me feeling unsettled. It still hurt when I fed my child, so I decided to try something to settle the pain.
When I have pain anywhere on my body, my natural response is to rub the painful area. So, I applied this method to the areas where the pain occurred when I breastfed. Also, I had been using massage to assist with increasing my milk supply, so I thought: why not use massage for my breast pain?
Everytime I massaged the area, the pain became tolerable. I was astonished to find that I was not the only one doing this. A 2014 case report in the Journal of Human Lactation featured massage as a way to treat breast pain. The authors noted that “After treating the patients with pectoral muscle massage and stretching, they each had complete resolution of their pain.” While I continued to have breast pain throughout my breastfeeding experience, I felt breast massage made the pain more tolerable and my breastfeeding experience more enjoyable. My personal goal was to breastfeed my child for one year, while I don’t know if the breast pain I experienced would have completely stopped me from reaching that goal, I know it would have made it a lot more difficult.
I have to admit, I’m not a medical professional. I can’t say that breast massage will help every woman in every circumstance and I always recommend that when a mother is experiencing pain or difficulty breastfeeding that she speak to her doctor or lactation consultant. But, what I can say is that research has shown breast massage to help some women with the pain they experience while breastfeeding. It definitely helped me.
Hope my story helps.
Ileisha Sanders, mother of 2
Featured image: Love-Bond by Cheryl, CC BY-SA 2.0