How to Heal Tender, Sore and Cracked Nipples

Mum breastfeeding with engorgement

Anyone who’s breastfed with nipple pain knows how agonising it is, so it’s no wonder that nipple pain is the second-most-common reason people stop breastfeeding.

 

WHAT’S NORMAL?

With a proper latch and good positioning, you shouldn’t experience any nipples soreness or pain when breastfeeding, beyond a slight tenderness in the first week after birth. 96% of breastfeeding people report having sore nipples in the first week of nursing. But it is not normal to feel pain extending beyond one week postpartum, and especially not after 10 days. Broken (cracked) or bleeding skin is not normal and is most likely due to poor latch.

 

CAUSES

If your nipples are still sore, tender or damaged after one week after birth, or you have cracked and bleeding skin, it might be due to one of the following causes:

  • Poor latch and positioning
  • Engorgement affecting the baby’s ability to latch effectively
  • Tongue tie in baby
  • Raynaud’s of the nipple (nipple vasospasm/blanching)
  • Infection of the nipple or areola, such as thrush
  • Milk blister (blocked nipple pore)

 

TREATMENT

It’s best to seek advice from your LMC or a lactation consultant to confirm what factors are causing or contributing to your nipple pain. Going right to the source of the problem is most important to ensure you don’t cause further damage to your nipples and can continue breastfeeding successfully.

With your midwife or lactation consultant’s help, you will be able find a solution to prevent the pain from reoccurring, either with latch correction and positioning help, medication or topical ointment for an infection, a tongue tie assessment, or another treatment option depending on the exact cause.

In addition to the help you receive from your healthcare profession, there are some effective solutions you can adopt at home that may help alleviate some discomfort:

  • Silverette Nursing Cups are anatomically-shaped, mini cups made of sterling silver that are worn over the nipple in-between feeds. Silver is naturally antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe and offer natural healing properties to your nipples.
  • Applying Lanolin cream is helpful for a technique called ‘moist wound healing’. This is where the Lanolin forms a moisture barrier on the nipple in between feeding sessions to keep the internal skin moist (FYI – you don’t want the exterior skin to be wet). The reason you want to keep the internal skin of your nipples moist is to ease discomfort, keep the skin subtle and promote healing (so a scab doesn’t form) and using lanolin cream is a great way to assist with this. After a feed, thoroughly wash your hands before applying a pea-sized amount of ultra pure pharmaceutical grade modified Lanolin cream to the nipple and areola. Pat it on, don’t rub. It doesn’t need to be removed between feeds either.
  • Hydrogel pads are amazing for providing relief from nipple tenderness in-between feeds. If you store them in the fridge, they’ll work like a cold compress and provide much-needed soothing benefits. Just keep in mind that if you have nipple thrush, gel pads aren’t recommended.
  • Apply your own breast milk to your nipples. Breast milk has incredibly powerful immunological properties so it’s great to hand express a little after the conclusion of each feeding session and apply the milk to your nipples to promote further healing, before following up with some Lanolin cream.
  • Breast shells can be helpful for those who are experiencing friction or dampness when wearing a bra. Alternatively, make sure you’re using fresh nursing pads (change when damp) to minimise the chance of developing infection or irritating your nipples any further.
Silverette Nursing Cups for sore nipples
Silverette Nursing Cups, $89.95, from Mother Nurture.
Lansinoh Lanolin Cream for sore nipples
Lansinoh HPA Lanolin, $32.99, from Life Pharmacy.
RiteAid Hydrogel Breast Discs for sore nipples
Rite Aid Hydrogel Breast Discs, $19.99, from Countdown.
Phillips Avent Breast Shells for sore nipples
Philips Avent Breast Shells Set, $28.99, from Babycity.

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