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Mothers of La Leche League
Photo: Belle Verdiglione
Are your nipples sore or cracked? Are you dreading putting your baby on your breast?
Sore nipples and tenderness at the beginning of a feeding may be normal in the first few days of breastfeeding. But soreness that is more intense or continues for a longer time is a sign that you probably need to make some adjustment.
Breastfeeding is not meant to hurt!
Try to determine the cause of your pain
To begin healing sore nipples, look at what might be causing the pain.
If it hurts, make changes.
Try different holds
Experiment to find what works for you.
Holding your baby in a way that helps him attach himself well is likely to give you immediate relief from nipple pain. Offer your breast frequently, but when both you and your baby are calm. It may be easier if she isn’t already hungry. Small adjustments can make a big difference.
Position to Breastfeed explains how a natural position to breastfeed—mother leaning back, baby tummy down, and adjusting body, baby, and breast—helps make breastfeeding easier. Being comfortable is what matters.
Nipples heal really fast when no longer being injured and there is no infection present.
Breastfeeding solutions to breastfeeding problems
There are nearly always solutions but it may take time and you may want to seek skilled support to help you establish comfortable breastfeeding.
Contact a local La Leche League Leader or an IBCLC for more information and support during this challenging time. Help and encouragement from other breastfeeding mothers can be invaluable when you are trying to establish breastfeeding.
Artificial nipples on bottles and pacifiers in the first few weeks can cause problems. A baby’s jaw, tongue, and mouth movements when sucking on these are different and if your baby uses the same action at the breast this can cause nipple soreness.
Tips to get more comfortable
A few steps may allow you to continue breastfeeding your baby until the problem is resolved.
- Check positioning and encourage your baby to open wide when latching on.
- Short, frequent feedings at the first sign of hunger. Watch for your baby’s cues: fidgeting, rooting (head turning with an open mouth), sucking fingers and fists. Crying is a late sign.
- Breastfeed on the less sore breast first, if possible.
- If you need to remove your baby from your breast, break the suction gently by inserting your little finger between your baby’s gums, as pulling him away can damage your nipple.
- If you have skipped feeding or removed your baby during a feed due to nipple pain, then drain the breast using a pump or hand express your milk (which can be the more gentle option). A badly fitting flange or too high a setting on a pump can cause nipple damage.
- Freshly expressed breast milk applied to your nipples may be soothing and reduce the chances of infection, as human milk has antibacterial properties.
- Moist wound healing may be effective for healing grazed or cracked nipples, especially once the initial cause of the damage has been addressed. Applying a tiny smear of medical grade (100% pure) modified lanolin ointment or a hydrogel pad will encourage any cracks to heal without scabbing or crusting. If the crack weeps or crusts, it may be a sign of infection—visit your health professional who may prescribe an antibiotic. If the skin is broken, wash daily with a mild, unperfumed soap and water.
- Full body contact, skin-to-skin with your baby is calming and encourages a good latch.
Take a look at the following resources for more specific help:
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