How to Deal with Sore and Cracked Nipples with Breastfeeding

Many new moms encounter sore cracked nipples when breastfeeding. It kind of goes with the territory and often leads some to give up on nursing and switch to bottle feeding. However, breastfeeding that is painful is a sign that your baby may not be latching right, and there are ways to correct the issue. This article addresses why you are experiencing pain, ways to correct it, and experiences of other moms.

Why do I Have Sore Cracked Nipples While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a natural thing, but it does takes some time for both you and baby to learn. With proper encouragement, you can get it right and be successful. Sore cracked nipples usually occur due to improper an improper latch by your baby, and positioning issues.

1. Not Latching Correctly

Latching on is the act of your baby taking your nipple into your mouth, and forming a seal when they suckle. Your baby needs to take the nipple in, plus part of the skin of your breast. If they only take in the nipple area, it will cause chafing to the nipple. This is because when they take enough of the nipple and breast into their mouth, the nipple actually sits at the back part of their mouth, where the tissue is softer and less irritating to your nipple.

2. Positioning

If you hold your baby too far away from your breast, it can cause pulling. Pulling the skin can cause sore cracked nipples when breastfeeding. Positioning is also key to a proper latch. When you position your baby, face them directly at your breast when bringing them in. Point the head up to position their nose away and bring the chin into your breast. If you stroke their cheek while doing this, you will trigger the “rooting reflex” and they will open their mouth.

Once you find the issues, there are things you can do to correct them and find some relief. There are also creams to help your nipples heal from the trauma.

3. Check for Medical Causes

There are a few medical related issues that should be addressed by your doctor first. These include; mastitis (a bacterial infection of the breast common in new moms), thrush (yeast on your breast skin), cleft palate (malformed palate inside baby’s mouth), milk flow issues, and inverted nipples. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics or help you with a treatment plan to correct breast or mouth issues.

One other physical issue is your baby may be “tongue-tied.” The small flap of skin in the front under the tongue may not allow the tongue to move forward and suckle properly. This causes only the nipple area to be suckled. The pediatrician can clip this flap of skin to allow the tongue to move in and out of the baby’s mouth. This is a minor procedure that can be performed in the nursery at the hospital or the doctor’s office.

Tips To Prevent Sore Cracked Nipples

With a little perseverance and tricks from seasoned mom’s, you can overcome sore cracked nipples and continue to successfully breastfeeding. It just takes some patience. Try these tips to help:

1. Allow Baby To Latch

Rather than force your baby to the breast, allow them to find the nipple and latch. You can give their head a little help, but let them do most of the work. If you push too hard against your breast, you may put them in the wrong latching position. Relax. Breathe. Sit in a comfortable position with your baby in your arms, tummy-to-tummy. Expose your breast and stroke the side of their cheek. When their mouth opens, gently pull them forward and allow them to take your breast as soon as their mouth opens wide.

2. Try Not To Unlatch

Once you have your baby latched onto the nipple, try not to unlatch to fix things. Sore cracked nipples when breastfeeding can result from ripping the nipple out of your baby’s mouth suddenly. If you notice some pain starting, place your hand next to baby’s face and your breast skin to help them readjust. Try not to place your fingers inside your baby’s mouth and unlatch, this can make things more difficult and painful. Just move the skin and/or your baby to get them to adjust their position on their own.

3. Try A Nipple Cream

A nipple cream may help to soften the nipples and heal them from cracking. When choosing a cream, you have to use something that won’t cause your baby to reject your breast or cause internal issues. Make sure you choose something unscented with safe ingredients. Many breastfeeding creams contain lanolin. There is a small risk of allergy to the lanolin in some infants, but is the most successfully used ingredient.

  1. 4. Leave Nipples Open and Free

You can also try airing out your breasts after each feeding. If you are at home, just leave your shirt and nursing bra off for 20 to 30 minutes after each feeding. Many breastfeeding moms also find it helpful to sleep shirtless at night to allow the nipples time to air-out and heal while you sleep. It’s also more convenient for night feedings.

  1. 5. Feed Your Baby Early

An over hungry baby will suckle harder on the nipples. It’s hard to put a breastfed baby on a schedule, but watch baby’s cues and try to feed them before they are too hungry.

  1. 6. Pump Some Milk

During healing of cracked nipples engorgement may be a problem. If your breasts are getting too full, try pumping a little milk first to relieve the pressure. This will help your baby latch better in the beginning. Make sure you feed your baby the milk you expressed because the “foremilk” has many nutrients your baby needs.

Experiences of Other Moms

It helps to know other mom’s have gone through the same thing. Here are some experiences to help you see you are not alone:

“Breastfeeding started out great for me! Then my nipples began to crack around 3-4 months in and it was miserable. One day, I was feeding my little Jack and he had blood running down his cheek from my breast. My lactation consultant reassured me this can happen. We worked on healing up my nipples and learning new positions since Jack had a growth spurt It took about 2 weeks, but we are back at it successfully. Don’t give up!”

----Anna and Baby Jack, 8 months Breastfeeding

“I was about 3 weeks in and loving breastfeeding my baby. I had such bad sore cracked nipples when breastfeeding, I cried every time. I couldn’t keep going, it was so painful. I gave up, but want to try again with this baby.”

“I had to stop nursing for a few days due to fever and swollen breasts. My doctor said I had infected milk ducts and put me on antibiotics. He also told me to go ahead and nurse because it won’t hurt the baby. Good thing, I was starting to get engorged. The more I nurse the less the nipple pain gets.”

----June and Brady, 4 months Breastfeeding

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