Heidi lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She has a B.S. in Secondary Education and works in surrounding schools.
Challenges of Breastfeeding
I have three children and have breastfed all of them. But to be completely honest, the first week of breastfeeding was horrible. I love being close to my babies, but I did not enjoy the toe-curling pain that occurred when they latched on. In the hospital for the first two days, there are nurses, lactation consultants, and doctors to offer you as much support as you need, but when day three rolls around, you are on your own. Unfortunately, days three to four are usually when your nipples reach their peak soreness. There were quite a few times between those first few days that I considered giving up on breastfeeding altogether, but I’m a very stubborn person.
Over the course of feeding my three children, I have found a few tips that help relieve nipple soreness and cracks.
1. Alternate Feeding Positions
Sometimes when you are feeding your new baby, they suckle hard enough that blisters can form, but if you alternate positions regularly it will help prevent suction blisters. There are many different feeding holds you can try, but a few of the most common are the cradle, football, and side-lying positions.
2. Apply Breast Milk to Your Nipples
Breast milk will speed the healing process for sore or cracked nipples, and it is the easiest and cheapest remedy. After feeding your baby, smear a little residual milk over your nipples.
3. Air Dry Your Nipples
After applying breast milk to your sore nipples, it is best to let them air dry. Air drying your nipples while you are out and about is not very practical, but it is the best practice to use while you are home. Damp nipples are sore nipples.
4. Apply Healing Cream
After air-drying your nipples, apply a cream to keep them supple and crack-free. I would recommend Motherlove Nipple Cream because it will speed healing, but Lanolin works great also. Both products are safe for baby and do not need to be removed before feeding.
5. Stimulate Your Breast
Massaging your breast before feeding will encourage let-down. This is helpful in relieving soreness because your baby will not need to suck as hard to receive milk.
6. Apply a Warm Compress
Put a wet washcloth in a Ziploc bag and microwave it for 20-30 seconds, then apply it to your breast before feeding to help induce milk flow.
7. Wear a Clean Nursing Bra or Tank Top Every Day
If you are anything like me, personal hygiene took a backseat when I had a newborn baby. I soon discovered that wearing the same top or nursing pads for more than one day caused soreness in my nipples. Have several nursing tanks or bras so you are able to have a clean one every day without having to do extra laundry.
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8. Try a Nipple Shield
Nipple shields are usually used by women with inverted nipples, but I found that using one for a few days or every other feeding gave my painful nipples a little break. I was still breastfeeding my babies, but the silicone nipple gave cracks a chance to heal. The shield provided a thin layer of protection that helped keep cracks from reopening.
These are practices I have used while breastfeeding my three children, and I can tell you they do work. If you are still having nipple pain, it would be a good idea to see a lactation consultant or your doctor.
Reasons for Soreness
Here are a few reasons why your nipples may become sore or cracked while breastfeeding:
- Improper latch is a big one, so be sure a lactation consultant has checked to be sure you have a proper latch.
- Nipples are sensitive in general, and having a baby suckle you every two to three hours is a big workout for your skin.
- Your baby may be a hard sucker. This can be painful at first, and you may develop a few little suction blisters even if you rotate positions. In my case, though, super suckers can be fast eaters. Feeding time may only be 10 minutes rather than 20 minutes, which gives you more time for yourself or your other children.
Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your child and to give them a healthy start on life. I hope these tips help you overcome the challenge of sore or cracked nipples because breastfeeding should be pleasant for both you and your baby.
A quick note for new mothers: If you can’t breastfeed, it's OK. You should never feel bad about not being able to.
A Great Start: A Guide for Breastfeeding. Customized Communications, Inc. 2001. Arlington, TX
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.