Liquid love, gold in the form of milk… fostering bonds, improving the health of both the baby and the mother… Breastfeeding is beautiful! Until it’s not. When nipples crack or become sore, then, breastfeeding becomes the most challenging part of a mother’s day.
Cracked and sored nipple tips are painful and, unfortunately, a fairly common issue affecting many mothers. Breastfeeding can quickly transition from your biggest dream to your worst nightmare with this “detail”. Hear me out:
Feeling pain while breastfeeding your baby is not a beautiful maternal sacrifice; it’s a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed promptly before further harm occurs.
After all, breastfeeding should never, ever, EVER be painful. First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand how cracks develop. This way, not only can you take action to heal the injuries, but you’ll also know how to prevent new cracks from forming.
What Causes Nipple Cracks and Sores?
Sored nipples or nipple cracks are caused by friction during suction or what we refer to as an “improper latch” or “wrong latch” by the baby.
Therefore, it is common for cracks to appear in the first weeks of breastfeeding, especially for first-time mothers who have not breastfed before and/or have not been guided on how to position the baby correctly for nursing.
Persisting in breastfeeding with a sore nipple without correcting the latch can even result in minor bleeding and uncomfortable pain for the mother. Therefore, it is ideal to take action as soon as possible and learn the correct latch.
If you’re dealing with cracked or sored nipples and don’t know what to do, this text is for you. We’ve gathered tips from various doulas, nursing professionals, and breastfeeding consultants to heal cracked nipples. Take a look!
If only one nipple is sored
All mothers have a favorite side to breastfeed, let’s be honest. We know we should use both and alternate, but there is always that one side that is more comfortable to hold the baby and do something else. This means that is very common to have nipple cracks appearing on only one side. If this is your situation, consider breastfeeding exclusively with the unaffected breast while addressing the sored nipple using the following tips!
If both nipples are cracked, start breastfeeding with the less painful breast first and then switch to the other. This way, the baby will be more satisfied during the second feeding, resulting in a gentler suction and less damage to your skin.
If the sored breast becomes engorged due to lack of breastfeeding, perform gentle hand massage to express milk, preventing additional discomfort to the nipple. Using coconut oil, olive oil, or letting warm water run over the breast can also help in expressing milk without the need for nipple suction.
How to treat sored nipples and nipple cracks?
1 – Apply Breast Milk to the Crack
Besides helping to keep the skin hydrated, breast milk has healing properties. Apply a small amount of your own milk to the entire nipple several times a day to accelerate the recovery of the cracked skin, allowing it to air-dry naturally.
2 – Sunbathing for the breasts
Expose your breasts to sunlight (without clothes and bra) for at least 15 minutes a day to aid in skin recovery. The absorbed vitamin will assist in faster healing. It’s important to respect the sun exposure times: avoid peak heat hours and prefer periods before 10 am and after 3 pm when ultraviolet rays are less aggressive.
3 – Cold Compress on the Nipples
Applying a cold gel or ice compress to the cracked nipples will help alleviate pain and discomfort after breastfeeding. A few minutes should be sufficient.
4 – Use a Warm Moist Cloth
Dampen a cloth or clean fabric with warm water (not hot, just warm), wring out the excess water, and place the warm, moistened fabric on the nipples. This will provide a sense of pain relief and comfort. This method can also be used in the case of breast engorgement (milk blockage).
5 – Lanolin-based Nipple Creams
Lanolin is a natural oil extracted from sheep’s wool. There are many healing creams for nipple fissures based on lanolin that can be used without interfering with breastfeeding. They don’t need to be washed off and are safe for the baby. The best part is that this cream can be used in conjunction with the previous methods!
6 – Use Hydrogel Nipple Pads for Nipple Protection
There are small hydrogel nipple pads that not only provide relief for pain but also protect your nipples from friction against clothing, which can be uncomfortable and exacerbate sore or cracked nipples. Ideally, avoid wearing bras or use breastfeeding bras, which are usually made of more breathable fabrics that do not cause friction on the skin.
7 – Laser Therapy for Nipples
If nipple fissures are already in a severe stage, seeking medical help is recommended. A certified breastfeeding consultant for laser therapy can help accelerate healing through laser techniques and provide advice on caring for and alleviating pain!
How to Prevent Nipple Cracks?
By following the tips above, you’ll be able to quickly recover if your nipples are already sore. However, it’s essential to pay attention to the following tips to prevent the recurrence of fissures. Learn how to avoid it!
1 – Practice for the correct latch
Incorrect latch is almost always the cause of fissures, so it’s essential to correct the latch to prevent this from happening again. The correct latch involves the baby taking in as much of the areola as possible, not just the nipple.
If you have a large areola and the baby can’t latch onto it entirely, the upper part of the areola should be more visible than the lower part.
The baby’s mouth should be wide open, with lips turned outward, never inward, and in a fish-like shape. You can help the baby latch correctly with a few techniques:
a) Squirt a bit of milk before offering the breast to the baby and spread the milk on the nipple. Bring the nipple close to the baby’s nose so they can smell it and open their mouth to latch. Smell is a significant stimulus for mammals!
b) Using your index finger and thumb to form a C-shape, hold the breast and point the nipple towards the baby’s mouth. The other fingers should help squeeze the areola to get as much as possible into the baby’s mouth.
c) If it’s warm, take off your shirt and the baby’s shirt and have belly-to-belly contact. Scientific studies suggest that this position stimulates sucking and mammalian reflexes for breastfeeding!
2 – Try different breastfeeding positions
While we’re accustomed to the classic position where the mother is seated, and the baby is lying in her arms breastfeeding, this is not the only breastfeeding position! There are various ways to breastfeed, whether standing, sitting, lying down – the important thing is to find one that works for you. Sometimes it’s also a matter of angle. If there is a breastfeeding clinic in your city, the nurses there can help. Otherwise, it’s advisable to seek help from a private Breastfeeding Consultant to teach different positions correctly.
3 – Pump milk before breastfeeding
This may sound odd, but having too much milk can also hinder the baby’s ability to properly suck. They may choke, experience reflux, or have difficulty maintaining a latch. Therefore, if your breasts are very full, it’s recommended to express a little milk beforehand to control the milk flow when the baby feeds.
4 – Avoid Pacifiers and Bottles
Although tempting, especially with sore nipples, avoid giving your baby pacifiers and bottles to “rest” your breasts. Artificial nipples can cause confusion and further hinder the correction of the baby’s latch, potentially prolonging the fissure instead of speeding up recovery.
Most importantly, don’t give up at first: it’s definetely worth persisting in breastfeeding, specially if that was one of your dreams as a mother. Remember that it truly is the best for your health and your baby’s health, aiding in boosting immunity and the healthy development of your child. Seeking help is your best option!