Sore and Cracked Nipples

Breastfeeding comes with its fair share of complications and sometimes, the nursing mother may have to deal with some tenderness especially during the first weeks. This is quite normal and you should not be worried about soreness. What is not normal is having sore and cracked nipples that are bleeding. Breastfeeding needs to be a comfortable process and you will need to seek medical attention if you have sore and cracked nipples. Read on to learn more remedies to deal with this condition.

What Causes Sore and Cracked Nipples During Breastfeeding?

1. Improper Latch

Having an improper nursing technique is one of the major reasons why your nipples may feel sore or cracked. A poor latch could bring about severe nipple pain and cracks. This can be resolved by correcting your nursing position and a lactation consultant could help you.

2. Use of Breast Pump

Improper use of a breast pump can also attribute to this. Some nursing mothers prefer to have a high suction level and this could hurt ones nipples. It’s also best to ensure that the pumps have breast shields also known as flanges that are not too small. Your lactation consultant should help you acquire the right pump and flanges. You can also ask to be shown how to properly use the pump.

3. Eczema

Eczema which is a condition that affects the skin could also contribute to cracked and bleeding nipples, this is because it causes the skin to excessively dry out. In such a case, you would need to have the skin condition treated by a dermatologist.

4. Thrush

Thrush, which is a yeast infection, could be passed on from the baby’s mouth onto your breast. Signs of thrush include red, shiny, itchy and painful nipples. The nursing mother may also experience shooting pains while breastfeeding or after. Click here to learn all about thrush and breastfeeding so that you can avoid sore and cracked nipples.

5. Tongue-tied Baby

Your newborn may be tongue-tied, which means that the tissue connecting the tongue and floor of the mouth is either extended on the front of the tongue or too short. This hinders your newborn from latching properly and it can be resolved with a minor surgery.

How to Deal with Sore and Cracked Nipples

It’s always best to get help from a lactation expert as soon as you begin experiencing such discomforts. Seeking medical attention helps you get an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your sore and cracked nipples.

Before Breastfeeding

Applying a cold pack on the injured nipple before nursing could help numb the nipple and consequently dull the pain.

While Breastfeeding

1. Check Your Baby’s Latch

The first thing you should do is ensure that your baby is latching on properly. As a general rule, the latch position should be off the center of the breast and below the areola. Line up your nipple with the baby’s nose and ensure that her lower gum is away from the nipple’s base.

2. Try Different Positions

Experiment with different nursing positions to find the most comfortable one for you and the baby. One of the positions you could try out is the classic cradle.This is the most common position for nursing and it can help you reduce the soreness or even eliminate it all together. Sit upright and hold your baby under one arm, use the other arm to lift up your baby. Lifting the baby to your chest level helps to avoid straining your back, neck, arms and shoulder muscles. You can also position the baby on the side. Your baby need not turn to reach your breast. Remember that turning the head from side to side will make it difficult for the baby to feed and swallow. It will also pull and could hurt your nipples.

3. Nurse the Less Injured Breast

Babies nurse vigorously when hungry. You should therefore nurse with the less injured breast first before switching to the other breast.

After Breastfeeding

1. Clean The Nipples

Cleaning your nipples reduces the likelihood of developing an infection. You can use antibacterial soap to clean the wound and ensure that you rinse it properly using running water. Do not use products containing perfumes, lotions or alcohol around the nipples.

2. Soak with Salt Water

A salt water soak can be helpful. You can make your own saline solution by mixing half a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. You can also purchase sterile solutions from the drug store. Do not reuse the salt water as this could bring about bacterial contamination. Soak the nipples in the warm salt water bath for a minute or two. The easiest and safest way to treat your sore nipples would be pouring the solution into a squeeze bottle and applying it directly onto your nipples.

3. Apply Anti-bacterial Ointment

An anti-bacterial ointment can help clear the infection and is recommended, especially when there is an open wound.

4. Apply A Lanolin Based Ointment

Lanolin basedointments can help reduce soreness and you can apply a small amount after breastfeeding. However, ensure that you use medical grade modified ointment. You do not need to wash off the ointment before nursing, as it will not harm the baby.

5. Use Hydrogel Dressing

There are hydrogel dressings specifically designed for nipples. This could help soothe the nipple and accelerate healing powers. Avoid touching the nipple before applying the dressing as you could trap bacteria into the dressing. Change the dressings frequently to avoid developing a bacterial infection.

6. Use Painkillers

Painkillers can help reduce the pain and swelling. Take mild painkillers such as ibuprofen half an hour before nursing.

For more tips on how to deal with sore and cracked nipples, watch the video below.

When to Worry?

If breastfeeding becomes unbearable, you might need to stop for a while to allow the nipples time to heal. Consult with your lactation consultant and learn to use the pump properly so as to preserve milk supply and also avoid additional injury.

If your problem is accompanied by inflammation, fever, bleeding, pus or any other signs of an infection, you need to seek immediate medical attention. Bacteria can easily access the open wound and this could bring about conditions, such as mastitis.