- 1 Cracked & Sore Nipples
- 1.1 What Causes Sore, Cracked Nipples?
- 1.2 How to Prevent & Treat Sore, Cracked Nipples When Breastfeeding
- 1.2.1 1. Address the Latch
- 1.2.2 2. Adjust the Position
- 1.2.3 3. Ice the Nipple Before Feeds
- 1.2.4 4. Take Painkillers Before Feeds
- 1.2.5 5. Lanolin Ointment
- 1.2.6 6. Feed From Other Side First
- 1.2.7 7. Ensure Breast Pump Suction is Not Too Strong
- 1.2.8 8. Take a Break from Breastfeeding & Pump for a day or two
- 1.3 At the end of the day…
Cracked & Sore Nipples
Breastfeeding your baby is a beautiful experience & is loaded with benefits for both the mother and the baby. It may get off to a rocky start, but if you persevere through the hardships, the fruits of your labour are immensely sweet. One of the hardships you may face are sore, cracked nipples when breastfeeding.
I experienced this first hand, and tried creams, expressing milk before feeds, even icing the sore area… but nothing really worked fully (except maybe the nipple shields I bought from Amazon after I realised I would have to stop breastfeeding if this continued).
Sore, cracked nipples from breastfeeding are relatively common, but with a few tweaks here and there (which I will clue you in on), this conundrum can be easily treated (& prevented).
I am going to be honest. Breastfeeding can be the most rewarding experience to the utmost degree, but with complications that can pop up like mastitis, blocked ducts, pressure to supplement with formula or even cracked, sore nipples, I can understand why some mama’s might be hesitant to try it.
I remember when my first baby was born. I was under the impression that breastfeeding would come naturally, my baby would latch on (I actually did not know what that meant exactly) with no issues & I never thought I would experience any real pain. I was right. Well, on one out of three assumptions, any way!
Breastfeeding did come naturally to me. I thought my daughter was latching on properly, but she was not… and the pain in the nipples was excruciating…toe curling sometimes. No exaggeration.
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I did not receive any real support from healthcare professionals, they just flipped a few sample packets of lanolin ointment to me and left me to deal with it. I was determined to breastfeed, so I squeezed my eyes shut and bore the pain each feeding.
I actually started dreading feeds, and that should NEVER happen. Breastfeeding is supposed to be a joyful, pleasurable bonding time between you and your baby. Pain should not factor into the equation.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have been right on all three of my assumptions.
If you are experiencing cracked, sore nipples… or extreme pain during breastfeeding, then don’t panic. There are a few things you can do to ease the situation almost immediately. I tried a few of these when my second baby was born and he took to breastfeeding like fish to water after the first day or two.
What Causes Sore, Cracked Nipples?
Firstly, just to touch on what actually is causing the cracked, sore nipples. The main culprit is when the baby is not latching on correctly. You may be unaware of this until it becomes a problem, by which point the pain & inflammation has already started. It is not too late to rectify the latch, but it will take some time for the nipples to heal.
If the baby is latching improperly, then this causes strain on the nipple and can cause it become sore, inflamed and cracked. Every time the baby sucks, they are probably not getting enough milk (due to not latching on adequately) and this causes them to get fussy, suck harder, clamp down on the nipple or even refuse to feed. This makes the inflammation and soreness worse. Its a recurrent, vicious cycle.
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Eczema and dry skin can also cause the skin to crack which can result in soreness in the area. If it gets particularly bad, it can begin to bleed, and may also get infected.
If your baby has oral thrush, they may pass this onto your breast, which can result in shiny, red, itchy and sore nipples. Another tell tale sign of you having a thrush infection is if you are experiencing sharp pains in the nipples after or during feeds.
How to Prevent & Treat Sore, Cracked Nipples When Breastfeeding
There are, however, a few simple things you can do to reduce pain from cracked nipples almost instantly & actually look forward to feeding your baby again.
1. Address the Latch
Firstly, you have to address whether your baby is latching on properly or not. I would recommend that you ask your health visitor or doctors office to put you in contact with a lactation consultant, that can observe a feed and help you to adjust the baby if she is not connecting to your nipple adequately.
It is very difficult to make that assessment yourself if you are a first time mom, or if you are deciding to breastfeed your baby for the first time.
2. Adjust the Position
Adjusting the position in which you hold your baby whilst breastfeeding them can make a MASSIVE difference. I can’t stress this point enough. With my son, I was starting to experience pain in the nipple (when he was literally 2 days old), and my sister suggested I hold him in the rugby hold instead of across the front of my body.
Literally, three feeds later, the pain had almost gone completely, and by the next day, I was looking forward to feeding him.
You can do this too. You need no help, no equipment in doing so. Change the position from whatever position you currently feed him in, and be consistent in the new position for at least a few feeds.
3. Ice the Nipple Before Feeds
Next, you can take an ice cube and rub it over the sore nipple to numb and soothe the area immediately prior to each feeds. This will make the pain more bearable during breastfeeding.
4. Take Painkillers Before Feeds
If icing the nipple is not helping, then you can take paracetamol (acetoaminophen) or ibuprofen (if you are able to) 20-30 minutes before each feed. Ibuprofen is an antiinflammatory and will decrease swelling and pain, making it easier for you to feed. Keep it on a ‘need to use, can’t do without it’ basis.
5. Lanolin Ointment
Lanolin ointment is available to buy over the counter in most drug stores and it can help speed healing which preventing the skin from drying out and cracking more. It is safe to leave it on during feed sessions, so this is an added advantage as you dont have to worry about removing it.
6. Feed From Other Side First
Another tip is to feed the baby from the side that is not painful (or less painful), which would mean that by the time the baby comes onto the more painful nipple, she will probably not be as hungry and the suction will be less, thus causing less pain.
7. Ensure Breast Pump Suction is Not Too Strong
Talking about suction, if you are using a breast pump and the suction level is too high this can cause the nipples to become inflamed and sore too. Reduce the suction power and try it like this for a few pumping sessions to see if the discomfort level goes down.
8. Take a Break from Breastfeeding & Pump for a day or two
If you have tried the above options to no success, then it may be a good idea to pump from the painful breast regularly throughout the day for a day or two, just to give your nipple a rest from your babies suckling.
Despite having pain (even if it is bleeding) it is recommended that you continue feeding the baby, for a few reasons. Firstly, it ensures your milk production stays up. Secondly, the baby is not affected by the soreness (even though you are), neither is she troubled by a little blood, she will just poop it out.
Thirdly, if you avoid feeding from that breast and are not expressing, this can lead to your milk production going down which will mean that once your nipple has healed and the baby is back on the breast, they will not get enough milk… which will cause them to suck harder… which may result in you getting sore nipples again. See where I am going with this? Keep feeding or expressing to avoid this from happening.
Having tried these tips, if you are still experiencing pain, you need to get in contact with your physician or health visitor and explain the situation. It may be an infection which needs prescribed treatment.
At the end of the day…
… the most important thing is that you try your best to do the best for your baby… and yourself. If you are unable to breastfeed despite trying, this just means that you have to explore other avenues. Switching to bottle feeds does not mean you are failing your baby by not breastfeeding, rather that you recognize that actually getting milk & nutrition into your baby is the main thing. Everything else is secondary.
The sight of your beautiful bubba totally drunk on the goodness of your breastmilk is an extremely satisfying thing (for me at least!), but it may come with some difficult experiences. It is possible to overcome sore, cracked nipples using the tips mentioned above, but if nothing is helping, consult a lactation consultant first before you make a decision to drop the breastfeeding.
Have you any tried and tested methods to prevent or treat sore, cracked nipples when breastfeeding? We would love to hear it in the comments section below! Share this article if you know someone suffering from this issue, because it might just make the difference between them dreading the next feed to them literally eagerly awaiting the next few precious moments they can share with their baby!
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