Sore Nipples are caused by one or more things:
- Poor positioning of the baby during breast feeding;
- The baby isn't latching deeply enough;
- The nipple has been traumatized or infected.
Signs of nipple trauma are:
- Redness or irritation
Signs of infection are:
- Redness or deep pink inflammation
- White or green discharge
- Tiny blisters
- Scaling and cracks on nipple that are not healing
- Itching, burning
If redness appears on your breast, you have breast pain, tenderness, sudden flu-like symptoms or fever, contact your doctor. These may be signs of a breast infection that requires medical treatment.
If the problem is the baby's position or latching, you will usually lessen nipple pain immediately by making one or more of the following changes:
To correct the baby's positioning:
- Have baby turned completely towards you;
- Bring baby's chest in and tummy towards you;
- Baby's head should be at nipple level, with nose lined up at the nipple.
To make sure baby is latching deeply enough:
- Baby's mouth should be opened wide.
- Then, latch baby quickly onto the breast, while bringing baby even closer to you.
- When baby latches deeply enough, you may still feel some tenderness, but it should feel more comfortable than previous latches. When you take the baby off the breast, be sure that the nipple is not pinched. The nipple should have the same shape it had before baby latched on, after the latch.
If you've tried these changes and still have pain when baby latches, if your nipples continue to be cracked or bleeding, or if you think baby still isn't latching well, you should get help. A lactation consultant can complete a comprehensive evaluation to assist you and your baby. For information on fees or to schedule an appointment with a Lactation Consultant, call 650-988-8290 (Mountain View campus) or 408-866-3905 (Los Gatos campus).
If you are unable to breast feed due to nipple soreness, you may also try resting the nipple or nipples for 12 to 24 hours. In this case, you should pump your breasts for 15 minutes, eight times in 24 hours, using a hospital grade, double electric pump. If only one nipple is sore, you can breastfeed on only one breast while pumping the other.
Here are some other ways you can help reduce nipple soreness:
- Massage the breast so the milk lets down before you start feeding.
- Latch baby to the least-sore side first.
- Try feeding more frequently but for shorter periods of time. For example, feed 10 to 12 times in 24 hours, and feed for less than 15 minutes.
- Try different positions. For example, cross cradle, football and side-lying.
- If you use nursing pads, change them when they become damp.
- After feeding, express a small amount of breast milk and rub it on the nipple, or apply a small amount of purified lanolin.
- Wear multiple-holed breast shells between feedings.
- If nipples become cracked or damaged, you may use hydrogel dressing (such as soothies or comfort gels), instead of cream.