Practical tips to heal that sore cracked nipple overnight
A sore and cracked nipple can be absolute agony, and one of the main reasons women give up breastfeeding.
Every new mom that just starts breastfeeding may experience some tenderness or discomfort.
When a woman's nipples crack or bleed it may be a sign that her baby is not latching on correctly.
One of the reasons nipples can get irritated and cracked is that a baby is just sucking on the nipple without taking most of the areola in his mouth, which is essential for a proper latch.
6 Common causes for cracked nipples
- Sometimes babies have a wrong sucking technique because of anatomical problems of the mouth for example, if they are born with a tight frenulum (tongue tie). Surgical release of the tongue tie will often significantly improve baby’s sucking.
- Abruptly pulling baby from the breast before first breaking the suction can also cause trauma to the nipples.
- Breast pumps, especially if used with too much suction, can traumatize the nipples.
- Frequently washing with soap or other harsh cleaning agents may cause dry cracked nipples.
- If the nipples are too long in contact with soggy breast pads, they are extra susceptible to injury and infection (thrush or bacterial).
- Some women are allergic to the nipple cream or lotion they use and get cracked dry nipples or even eczema.
Every mother who has had cracked nipples knows how hard it is for them to heal as they crack open again with every feeding.
Tips on how to heal cracked nipples
Before nursing your baby:
- Take some pain reducing medicine 30 minutes before nursing. Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen are pain reducers you can take when you are breastfeeding.
- Be careful when you are pulling off nursing pads that are stuck to the nipple. They may remove freshly formed crusts and open the nipple crack again. Always wet them first before you take them off.
- If your breasts are engorged, manually compress some milk to soften the breast. This makes it is easier for your baby to latch on correctly. This will also make the milk flowing so your baby will drink not so vigorously.
While nursing your baby:
- Nurse your baby on the less painful breast first. If your baby is not that hungry, he will suck less hard on the painful side. Nursing your baby more often will also make him less hungry.
- Make sure the baby latches on correctly. Baby’s mouth should cover the entire areola and not just the nipple.
- Try feeding your baby in alternate positions (cradle hold, football hold) this will put pressure on different parts of the nipple.
- If a baby does not release the breast when he finishes, break the suction by gently inserting a little finger in the corner of baby’s mouth or by pulling down on his chin.
After you finished nursing:
- After nursing your baby put some freshly expressed breast milk on your nipples and let them dry in the air. Breast milk contains antibodies and promotes the repair and growth of skin cells.
- For painful cracked nipples, one can use special nippel cream to soften the nipples and promote healing.
- Use only products made specifically for breastfeeding. These creams do not need to be washed off before nursing as they do not harm your baby if he ingests them. Also recommended are glycerin gel pads that help wound healing without forming scabs and crusts.
- Use only water to wash your breasts. Washing your nipples with soap or alcohol containing products will dry the skin only further.
Spend as much time with your breasts exposed to the air as possible or wear nipple shells in your bra that allow air to circulate around the nipples. Frequently change your nursing pads and do not use the once with plastic linings.
Often mothers worry when they see blood coming from the nipple and that their baby will drink milk with blood. Bleeding nipples are not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Swallowing some blood will not hurt your baby. Focus on trying to heal the cracked nipple with the advice given on this page.
Just remember correct positioning is the most important factor in helping a damaged nipple to heal and allow effective nursing free of nipple pain.
Photo on this page by Maman