Breastfeeding Complications - Sore Nipples

It is not considered a problem if your nipples hurt a bit as your baby latches on in the first few weeks after birth.  If the pain continues throughout the feed and if your nipples become damaged, something is wrong.  Usually the baby is not positioned correctly or has a shallow latch.  Fixing the positioning and latch will result in immediate relief.   Injured nipples will still hurt, though less, with fixed positioning.  Here are some tips to help with the pain during feeds and to facilitate healing.


Begin the feed on the least injured side.  Babies generally suck less vigorously on the second side.


Ice can be applied to nipples before a feed to numb them or pain relievers can be taken 20 minutes before a feed to dull the pain. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are compatible with breastfeeding.


Make sure that your baby is pulled in close to your body throughout the entire feed. 


Some babies slide down the breast to the nipple at the end of feed as they are falling asleep.  Don't let your baby do this if your nipples are sore or cracked.  Take him off and rock him to sleep instead.


If possible, nurse the baby on only one breast at a time.  This gives each breast a longer break in between feedings.  Use breast compression at the end of the feed to ensure that the baby gets more milk.  If he is still hungry after the first side, you will need to give him the second.


After a feed, saline soaks are soothing and healing.  Put ½ teaspoon salt in a cup of water (800 grams) and put it in a shallow bowl.  Soak your nipples for a minute or two.  Pat dry.


Squeeze out some breastmilk after a feed and rub it into the cracks.


A purified form of lanolin made especially for breastfeeding can be put on cracked nipples to facilitate moist wound healing.  Nipples should be dry on the outside, not in the wounds.


Expose your nipples to the sun, if you can.


If you have open wounds, wash your nipples once a day with mild soap.  Rinse well.


If your nipples are infected, you may need an antibiotic ointment.  Ask your doctor.  There are several antibiotic ointments and systematic antibiotics if needed that are compatible with breastfeeding.

Remember, these things will only work if the baby is positioned, latched and sucking correctly.  If your baby is latched on well and feedings still hurt you may have thrush, a bacterial infection or be experiencing a vasospasm (raynauds).  Your baby may be tongue-tied or have another suck problem. If things do not improve, get professional help! 

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