Sore nipples are a common complaint for many new breastfeeding mothers.
When your baby first begins nursing, it’s quite usual to feel some tenderness that lasts for a few seconds.
But any pain that lasts for most, or all, of the feed is not normal.
If you’re experiencing sore nipples when breastfeeding, it’s important to get in touch with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or breastfeeding counsellor (e.g. from the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League) to figure out what’s causing your sore nipples.
In the meantime, trying to get some immediate relief is a top priority.
Sore Nipples – 12 Tips To Soothe Sore Nipples
After all, if you curl your toes each time your baby attaches to your breast, and tense your shoulders throughout the feed, breastfeeding will hardly be the relaxing and rewarding experience it should be.
This kind of tension might also result in your baby fussing during feeds – perhaps because your milk is not flowing as well, and your baby is not feeling stable and secure at the breast.
So, first take some deep breaths. Now relax, and read through these ways that will help make breastfeeding more comfortable as your sore nipples heal.
Here are 12 comfort tips to soothe sore nipples:
#1: Position And Latch
The first things to look at are how well your baby is positioned at the breast, and how well she is latching or attaching to the breast. If your baby isn’t getting enough of the breast into her mouth, and is sucking on the nipple instead, the result can be sore nipples, and possible damage.
It’s important to have your breastfeeding observed by a lactation consultant, who will make sure positioning and attachment are optimal. Sometimes, simple adjustments can result in immediate and significant improvement in your comfort level.
It can also help to offer the least sore side first. Then, when your baby takes the sore nipple, she won’t be in such a hurry to feed, and you can work on optimal attachment.
Some mothers find it soothing to smear a few drops of their breastmilk onto their nipples with a clean finger after feeds. Allow the breastmilk to air dry before covering up.
The anti-infective and anti-inflammatory properties of breastmilk might help to heal minor nipple damage.
#3: Warm Compresses
An easy and readily available treatment for sore nipples is to use a warm, wet washcloth held over the nipple immediately before and/or after a breastfeed. A warm compress might provide some immediate relief for sore nipples. Have a bowl of warm water and a washcloth ready, to apply after feeding.
#4: Saline Soak
Saline soaks might help ease sore, damaged nipples. Soak some gauze with ¼ – ½ teaspoon of salt per litre of warm water, and then apply the solution to your nipples for 10 minutes after breastfeeds. You should make a fresh batch of saline solution each time. If your baby doesn’t like the taste, make sure you wash the saline off after the soak.
#5: Purified Lanolin
Purified lanolin specifically formulated for use by breastfeeding mothers can assist with pain relief. It might also promote quicker healing of damaged nipples.
If you use lanolin formulated for breastfeeding mothers, there’s no need to remove the lanolin from your nipples before breastfeeding your baby.
#6: Hydrogel Dressings
Hydrogel dressings can assist with pain relief and might also promote quicker healing of damaged nipples. These dressings are water-based – often a combination of water and glycerine. They can help by maintaining moisture, inhibiting scab formation and enhancing wound repair.
#7: All-Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO)
This prescription ointment was developed by Canadian paediatrician, Dr Jack Newman. It is a combination of several ingredients, including antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory agents, which can promote healing, depending on the cause of the nipple pain. A similar ointment more commonly prescribed in Australia is Kenacomb. Alternatively, you could try a solely antibacterial ointment called Bactroban.
Using peppermint water to prevent and treat sore nipples is an old folk remedy from the North West of Iran. Research has found the use of peppermint water between breastfeeds might help protect against nipple damage. Peppermint has antibacterial qualities and can enhance tissue flexibility, making it an easy and practical treatment.
#9: Nipple Shields
A nipple shield provides a barrier between sore nipples and a baby’s mouth. Nipple shields come in different sizes and it’s very important to choose the correctly sized nipple shield. If you use the wrong size, or if the nipple shield is used incorrectly, it can lead to more problems.
It’s a good idea to discuss this with a lactation consultant in a face-to-face consultation. Nipple shields can help some mothers with very sore nipples get through really challenging times.
#10: Breast Shells
Breast shells are dome-shaped plastic devices that are worn inside your bra. They prevent fabric from touching your nipples; this can really hurt when your nipples are sore. They also allow air to circulate around your nipples, which promotes healing.
#11: Low Level Laser Therapy
Use of low level laser therapy (LLLT) can help to accelerate wound healing and ease the pain of damaged nipples. However, LLLT will only heal damage in the short term, so it’s important to find and correct the cause of sore nipples to prevent ongoing pain.
If you have reached the point where breastfeeding has become too painful, expressing is another option. For some mothers, 24-48 hours of expressing can make all the difference.
Sore nipples can really get you down.
The best advice is to get help as soon as possible, and try some of the tips above.
This might help make breastfeeding enjoyable again.