The Complete Guide To Treating Your Sore Nipples
Have you ever heard some whopper statements from well-meaning friends and family members about nipples and breastfeeding? Has anyone ever told you to “rough up” your nipples prior to your baby being born? Are you wondering if nipple pain, cracked nipples, and soreness are normal when breastfeeding, just the name of the game.
Nipple pain while breastfeeding is a common concern for new mothers, BUT pain is not normal and it is a signal to dig deeper into what is going on during your baby’s feeding. Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation on nipple pain, soreness, and breastfeeding. Let’s unpack it together.
3 facts right at the top
- Nipple pain has been normalized, but it is not normal! Breastfeeding should not inherently cause you pain.
- Nipple pain is a warning sign that something is off and requires further investigation. Tongue ties, body tension, and/or shallow latching can all contribute to nipple pain. (Say hello to an IBCLC near you for a full assessment of your baby’s latch!)
- Once nipple pain has occurred and you are dealing with very sore, cracked, and/or bleeding nipples, there are strategies to help you get out of the pain cycle! Read on.
What IS Normal
- mild discomfort and soreness with latching- this means a mild discomfort for the first 10-15 seconds during the initial latch-on but fades away during the feeding. Your nipple should be round when it comes out of the baby's mouth and not pinched or creased.
- mild soreness and chapped feeling afterward for the first few weeks of nursing, as you and your baby learn how to get a consistent deep latch at the breast.
What's NOT Normal
- toe curling pain every time your baby latches
- extremely chapped, cracked, bleeding nipples
- your nipple looks like a tube of lipstick when the baby unlatches
Common reasons for nipple soreness
Your latch is often the biggest window into what may be causing your nipple pain and what you can do to fix it.
- The most common reason for early-onset sore nipples is a shallow latch. When the baby is not latched deeply to the breast they compress the nipple in their mouth. This is very painful and damaging to the nipple tissue. Click here, for my top tips on fixing a shallow latch.
- Body tension: if your baby has a lot of body tension, it can make latching deeply difficult leading to a shallow latch that causes nipple damage. Many babies can be helped by working with a tension-informed provider like a Craniosacral Therapist and/or Chiropractor.
- Engorgement: When the breasts become overly full, it can contribute to your baby having a shallow latch. Try reverse pressure softening to soften the breast tissue to make it easier for the baby to latch. Click here for my hand expression blog.
- Breast compression: Add in breast compression while your baby is latched to increase milk flow and keep them content at the breast. Gently squeeze your breast tissue and listen for an increase in swallows.
Click here for a more in-depth guide on latching.
In Boob School, we have an entire latching class with actionable tips for you to improve latching right now, plus a latching checklist and access to my Latched AF live class recording.
How to heal sore nipples
Damaged nipples can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. It can also happen very quickly in the early days of breastfeeding. Baby Shark may play through your mind every time your little cherub opens wide and comes in for the kill. The good news is there are strategies that work and products to help you along the way.
1) Silverettes: these are a product designed to provide relief from nipple pain caused by breastfeeding. They are small, silver-plated disks that are applied to the nipple before and after breastfeeding, you can wear them 24/7 in the early days. I could write a love letter to silverettes. They are so useful during the early days and can help with a variety of tasks. From the silverettes site, "Silver – a naturally antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial metal – contains potent anti-inflammatory properties that can be used to heal and prevent cuts, cracks, soreness, wounds, and infections." What more could a girl ask for??? They can also double as a great collection cup for hand expression that the baby can drink directly from.
- To provide relief from nipple pain caused by breastfeeding: The silver in the disks is believed to have antimicrobial properties, which can help to prevent and heal nipple cracks and soreness.
- To prevent and heal nipple infections: The silver in Silverettes can help to protect the nipples from bacterial and fungal infections.
- To soothe sore nipples: Silverettes are cool to the touch and provide a soothing sensation to the breast.
- To provide a barrier between the baby's mouth and the nipple: Silverettes can be used to protect sore or cracked nipples from further irritation.
2) Let's do a little soak: Soak your nipples in a saline solution. Use 1/4-1/2 tsp. of table salt per cup. This can help soothe and heal your nipples. I like to pour the solution into a shot glass and apply it to the nipples.
3) Pull out the pump: try taking a break from breastfeeding to help heal your nipples. I often recommend taking a 24-hour break from bringing your baby to the breast, (check out my blog on this, here), while pumping and bottle feeding. This can PRESERVE your breastfeeding relationship and help you keep on keeping on. There is no straight path in breastfeeding and the winding road is often the path for MOST moms.
IT IS OKAY to take a break. It is not the end of your nursing journey and can be the choice that allows you to keep going.
Why prioritizing healing your nipples matter
Pain can be one of the biggest hurdles when breastfeeding. Basic human biology folks… if something is majorly painful and unpleasant then YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WANT TO DO IT FOR VERY LONG! Tackling nipple soreness early on is key to meeting your breastfeeding goals.
When to get help for nipple soreness
My most important tip.... do not go it alone!! Even mild soreness can be helped and you can find adjustments with an IBCLC. If you are having any signs of nipple damage, it is vital to reach out for help and address the root cause of what is causing it. Support and guidance can make or break your journey.
So many mothers tell me “I just wish I reached out for help sooner” and I completely understand. Pain and suffering have been so normalized when it comes to breastfeeding. Parents just expect that they need to deal with pain for days, weeks, or even months. This really is not the case and in many instances, simple adjustments to latch strategy can make an ENORMOUS difference in pain and discomfort.
One mom who took our latched AF program which is a part of Boob School reached out to me saying:
“I was so ready to toss in the towel (not really I was just going to keep feeding my baby while dying inside) and today’s class changed my breastfeeding game… I have now fed twice in a reclined position and the baby has fully taken control of his latch and I could cry from NOT feeling any pain!”
Breastfeeding comfortably really is possible and for some, it is as simple as getting the right education and support.
Ready for more? I have sooooo much more to share with you in Boob School. Let's unpack breastfeeding together so you can more confidently navigate your way through whatever your feeding journey has in store for you and your babe. With 12+ modules, 11 bonus pdf guides, a membership to Natural Breastfeeding, a private Facebook group for your 2 am questions, and weekly live support calls, you will have the know-how and empowerment to make the choices that are best for YOU and your baby.
I want you to feel SUPPORTED now and throughout your entire story! It is the support and knowledge I wish I would have had and the breastfeeding class and support network I would want for my baby sister. It is my mission to give parents the support they deserve. See you there!
***It is important to note that if your nipple pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, redness, or discharge, you should seek medical attention asap as you might have an infection and need antibiotics.***
Cheering you on, always!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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