Nipples can sometimes get sore during breastfeeding. Shallow latching or pump flange fit are two common causes of nipple pain. If you suspect one of these, try the steps below for pain relief. If nipple pain continues after trying the steps below, it may be due to another cause.
Expressed breast milk
Nipple cream (options below)
Proper fitting flange, if pumping
FOR SORE, RED, CHAPPED-FEELING NIPPLES While working on a deeper latch and ensuring your pump flange fits, here are some remedies that can provide pain relief. So long as your skin is not cracked, you can choose to try one of these ideas, or a combination.
• Olive or coconut oil: Try gently rubbing these oil onto the nipple to provide hydration. They have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and are easy to find in pantries and stores.
• Expressed breast milk: Hand-express a small amount of breastmilk after breastfeeding and rub it on the sore nipple. Breastmilk contains antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral factors that can help ease nipple pain.
• Commercial nipple butter/cream/lanolin: Apply a thin layer to nipples after breastfeeding. Be cautious of products that contain herbs, as they are not regulated for safety. This is not to be used if skin is broken because they can promote bacterial growth.
• Hydrogels: These can help by keeping the skin moisturized and providing a cooling feeling.
FOR NIPPLES WITH SKIN DAMAGE, CRACKING, BLEEDING, SCABBING OR BLISTERS If your tissue is broken, cracked, or bleeding, you need to initiate wound care to prevent infection and identify the cause of the damage. See your healthcare provider to prevent or heal infection. Your provider may recommend one of the therapies below. Untreated broken skin can lead to a breast infection called Mastitis. As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you have health concerns and before introducing any new medication.
• Mild soap: For any wound, daily cleaning is essential. Wash nipples once daily with a mild soap and water. Dry gently.
• Antibiotic ointment: Once skin is broken, moist wound care is needed. Antibacterial ointment can prevent bacterial infection. Polysporin is safe to use during breastfeeding and is available over the counter. Do not use Neosporin. See your care provider to for Bactroban or other prescription strength options.
• Triple Nipple Cream: This cream is used when a provider suspects multiple infections, including bacterial and fungal. Developed by Dr. Jack Newman, this cream may require a prescription and may be filled at a compounding pharmacy or can be made with over the counter ingredients.
If pain levels are not reduced using these measures, or you are noticing an increase in your symptoms please contact a qualified lactation professional and your healthcare provider for evaluation and assistance.