Care for sore and painful nipples
Even though some tenderness in the early days of breastfeeding is rather common, breastfeeding should not generally hurt. Sore nipples can be caused by the baby not being positioned, latched on or removed from the breast correctly. If you experience nipple pain, always contact your lactation consultant.
The first one or two weeks of breastfeeding
When you start breastfeeding, your nipples will be exposed to a strong vacuum. The strain on the nipples caused by up to 10-12 breastfeeding sessions every 24 hours may lead to soreness or even pain. Your nipples will get used to it very quickly and the soreness will pass. Make sure your baby is latching on properly from the very beginning and ensure that you take care of your nipples.
You do not need to clean your breasts or nipples in a particular way before or after feeding your baby. Just rinse your breasts with clean water during your daily bath or shower. Avoid soap, disinfectants and any substances that could dry or damage your skin, nipples or areolae. During pregnancy the Montgomery glands surrounding the nipple start to secrete natural oil that lubricates the skin and discourages the growth of bacteria. Just leave this natural substance to do its job.
As a daily treatment for your nipples you may express a few drops of milk after feeding, massage it gently into the skin and let it dry. If your skin is especially dry or damaged, you may apply a small amount of purified natural wool-based emollient, also known as lanolin, to your nipples and areolae. Lanolin supports moist wound healing.
Also avoid any kind of non-breathable plastic lining in bra pads or bras.
Sore and cracked nipples when breastfeeding
There is always a reason for sore and cracked nipples. Seek help as soon as possible to solve the problem. If the pain is extreme you might have to temporarily interrupt breastfeeding. During such a break, it is important to continue to express your milk to avoid engorgement and to keep up your milk production. Your lactation consultant can inform you about pumping with a breast pump, hand expression and alternative methods for feeding your baby during this time.
To support the healing process, you can apply nipple cream or modified lanolin once the breast milk you spread over your nipples and areolae has dried. Modified lanolin is considered the treatment of choice. Avoid any ointment that must be wiped off before feeding the baby, as this will irritate your skin even more. Breast shells can also help protect sore nipples in between breastfeeding sessions.
In some cases, nipple soreness can be caused by thrush. If you suspect you might have thrush, contact your doctor to discuss medication for treating both you and your baby.
Breastfeeding should not hurt. If you experience breast problems, nipple pain or soreness, speak to your lactation consultant.