Preventing & Treating Sore Nipples

March 7, 2012

Breastfeeding should be a comfortable and pleasant experience, however sometimes sore nipples can make it a challenge. By learning the causes of nipple pain, you can get back to enjoying the special moments you spend breastfeeding.

What are the causes of sore nipples?

  • Improper latch or positioning. If your little one only latches to a small portion of your nipple, you may experience pain as your little one tries to breastfeed. Likewise, if your baby is uncomfortable or frustrated by the lack of milk flow, he or she may begin to bite. To avoid this, make sure your little one is comfortable and opens wide. If you still have concerns about latching, meet with a lactation professional for support. She’ll be able to work with you to ensure your little one is breastfeeding properly.
  • Improperly fitted breast shields. If your breast shields aren’t a correct fit, your nipples could be damaged as the nipple is drawn in and out while pumping. Also, be sure to listen to your body when selecting suction levels. It should never be so high that it causes you pain. To prevent this, follow your instruction manual closely when you begin pumping and select a properly-fitted breast shield. A lactation professional can help you with this process and ensure pumping is a comfortable experience. You can find a Lactation Consultant near you on our website.
  • Tongue-tie. If your baby is tongue-tied, he or she could struggle to nurse correctly. If you are experiencing unexplained nipple pain, have your healthcare provider check for tongue-tie, as a minor procedure can correct the problem and help you begin to nurse in comfort.
  • Thrush. A thrush infection can occur in your baby’s mouth and consequently on your nipples, causing pain. If this type of infection develops, you’ll most likely notice painful, itchy and red nipples with shooting pains while breastfeeding. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms, as they’ll be able to treat it.
  • Nipple bleb or blister. A nipple bleb forms over the nipple itself and looks like a tiny, milk-filled blister. It is possible to remove the bleb at home, but a healthcare professional can break it with a sterile needle. A blister is usually larger and caused by an improper latch or poorly-fitted breast shield. It’s best to reach out to a lactation professional to correct the breastfeeding or pumping discomfort.

Treating Sore Nipples

First, speak to a lactation professional for guidance on reducing nipple soreness. In addition, you can also follow these helpful tips:

  • Follow general first-aid guidelines. Also, continue with your usual hygiene habits and routine.
  • Soothe with purified lanolin or hydrogel pads. These products provide great relief and the ingredients are entirely safe for your little one.
  • Use your own breast milk to relieve discomfort. Just a few drops of expressed milk placed on your nipples can be very soothing.
  • Consider using a gentle manual breast pump or hand express breast milk. This will put less stress on your nipples and allow them to heal.
  • Use breast shells to prevent fabric from rubbing against sore nipples.
  • Begin feedings on the least sore breast. Babies tend to nurse more vigorously at the beginning of a feeding. Start by offering your baby the least sore breast. So, by the time you switch, your baby will suck more gently.

Preventing Sore Nipples

  • Avoid early use of breast milk bottles and pacifiers. When you first begin breastfeeding, you’ll want your little one to focus entirely on a proper latch to the breast, without the confusion of a bottle or pacifier. This will help encourage comfortable breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeed frequently. Feeding often will prevent your little one from sucking vigorously due to hunger. Watch for your baby’s feeding cues..
  • Ensure a proper latch. Work with a lactation professional to establish a proper latch. Your baby should open wide and you should bring baby in close to your body..
  • Manually express some breast milk to stimulate letdown before your baby latches. That way, your little one won’t have to nurse as vigorously at the beginning of the feeding.
  • Remove baby carefully from breast. Once you’re finished nursing, gently break the suction using your pinky finger. Then, remove your baby from your breast. This will prevent unnecessary pain at the end of feedings.
  • Keep bras and bra pads dry and clean. This gives sore nipples the best chance to heal and prevents them from becoming chapped. Medela offers both disposable and washable bra pads.

How did you manage nipple pain while breastfeeding? Share your tips in the comments below.

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