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Help! Sore nipples!!!

Posted In Breastfeeding, Education, Health - By Moms & To Be On Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 With 0 Comments

This is probably one of the most common challenges in breastfeeding around the world. However, breastfeeding should NOT hurt and it is definitely possible to avoid sore nipples as well as heal them.

 Avoiding sore nipples

 In the early days after birth you might feel discomfort at the beginning of every breastfeeding because the nipples may be sensitive. However the discomfort should not be longer than the first 30 seconds of each feeding and it should start going away after the 3rd day after birth. If the pain is very strong, lasts all through the feeding and does not get better after 3 days from birth, it’s a sign that you need to change something as soon as possible or you might lose your milk and get nipple damage with cracks and bleeding. When we feel pain during breastfeeding our body might not release all the milk that baby needs and this will eventually lead to decrease of milk supply! So there is no point to suffer through pain, it does not do any good to anyone – damage on the nipples will be only getting worse while baby might be getting less and less milk this way! And before we start using any creams or remedies for sore nipples, first thing we should do is remove the cause of the pain!

The most common reason of sore nipples is incorrect or shallow positioning of baby at the breast. Baby should open his mouth very wide and take inside not only the nipple but also a large part of the darker circle around it (areola).  That’s why it’s called “breastfeeding”, not “nipple-feeding”!  Ideally he should take all the areola inside the mouth! If it’s not possible then he should take more of it from the bottom and less from the top. The angle of his mouth during breastfeeding should be about 130 degrees, not 90 as you usually see when the baby is eating from a bottle.

CORRECT                                                                                                   INCORRECT

Here are some ideas how to help baby take the breast deeper in his mouth:

1)      Start with the baby’s nose (not mouth) at the level of your nipple (this will encourage baby to open the mouth wider when reaching for the nipple).

2)      Check that the baby is fully turned to you so that his belly button and feet are touching your body and there are no spaces between you two.

3)      Gently stroke the space under baby’s nose with your nipple while making sure that baby’s chin also comes in contact with the lower part of the breast (touching the chin stimulates baby’s feeding reflexes).

4)      Wait till the baby starts opening his mouth and when it is really wide open (like when the baby is yawning), you can quickly bring the baby closer to you and let him take the breast deep into his mouth with the lower part of the breast going in first and the nipple last to the top of the mouth (when our nipple is at the top of the mouth, not in the center, breastfeeding becomes much more comfortable for the mother and more efficient for the baby!).


“COMING FROM BELOW” (to help the baby take more areola into the mouth)







If your baby is taking the breast deeper than before you will feel immediate improvement as for how comfortable it is! If you still experience pain then you will need to remove the baby from the breast by putting your pinkie into the corner of his mouth to break the suction first and then start over again. Some babies learn quickly, while others need more time. This training is very important. Not only it prevents sore nipples, but it also ensures the baby gets all the milk he needs. Soon it will be fast and easy to put the baby to the breast, but in the beginning plan to spend some time at each feeding helping your baby take the breast deep so it does not hurt you.

Healing Sore Nipples

 When you start working on positioning with the techniques described above, the improvement will be very fast! Often this will be all you need to remove pain and discomfort completely! However, if the damage on the nipples was already severe, then you might want to use some comfort measures to speed up the healing process:

1)      After every breastfeeding put several drops of your milk (or colostrum – the early milk in the first 3-5 days after birth) on your nipples and gently rub it inside. Wait till it is completely absorbed before you put back the bra. (Our milk has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It also has a pain-killer, oxytocin, and 3 types of stem cells that can regenerate any damage on the skin!) Thus, the more milk and the more often you put it on the damaged area, the faster it will heal!

 2)      Stop using breast pads as they create a moist and warm environment around the nipples which encourages bacteria to grow and makes nipples even more painful. If you are leaking, use breast pads only when you go out or have visitors and better use washable cotton pads.

3)      Allow your nipples to air dry after each breastfeeding (when nipples stay wet between feedings bacteria grows inside and creates more damage).

4)      Expose your nipples to the sun – this will strengthen the skin and will kill any surface bacteria.

5)      Don’t use soap if there is no damage on the nipples. Soap has a unnaturally strong drying effect that can cause nipples to crack even more. Warm water once a day is all your nipples need for cleaning. Your body already secrets special components around the nipples to keep them clean for the baby. However, if there is a visible wound, you can wash the area with mild soap once a day to minimize bacterial growth inside.

6)      After applying milk after breastfeeding and waiting for it to absorb well, you can put nipple cream that is made out of lanolin. This component is safe for baby to swallow so you don’t need to wash it off before breastfeeding. Avoid any cream that has a smell (baby might not take the breast after it) or has anything other than pure lanolin. Remember, if you have to wash the cream off before feeding, you will be breaking the new skin that was just building there and it will totally defeat the purpose!

7)      Breastfeed more often. When we offer the breast before the baby is hungry the suction will be less and it will be easier for sore nipples.

8)      Start feeding on the least painful side till milk releases and baby satisfies some hunger.

9)      Make sure nothing is touching the nipples between feedings. Go braless and topless if you can. And you can also try putting breast shells inside the bra that create a space between the nipples and the clothing.

10)   Hand express or pump a little milk before feeding to start the milk flow (the most painful moment is usually when the baby is stimulating the flow, so if we can do it for him, it will make the process more comfortable while the nipples are healing).

Breastfeeding is NOT supposed to hurt! So if you worked on improving positioning and used comfort measures but breastfeeding is still painful, please call me so that we can check if there is some other cause of discomfort that needs attention! Breastfeeding should be enjoyable to the mother and baby! Help is just a phone call away! I’ll be waiting!

 Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti,

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