How do I soothe sore nipples whilst breastfeeding?

Being a mum is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. But it can come with a whole host of problems. If you are a mum that is breastfeeding, you might have a problem with cracked or sore nipples.

Having sore nipples while nursing is a frequent occurrence and, luckily, there are a lot of tips on how to prevent and treat it.

What causes sore or cracked nipples when breastfeeding?

There is more than one possibility of what is the cause of nipple soreness while nursing. In this section, we will mention the most common ones and explain them further in detail through the article. With that being said, here are the most common causes of nipple pain while nursing:

• Improper Latch  - Having your baby latch properly will ease your breastfeeding experience. Getting familiar with latching takes some time, so be patient and if you feel like you need some help, don't be afraid to consult your midwife.

• Tongue-tie - Tongue-tie is when the strip of skin connecting the tongue and the floor of the mouth is shorter than usual. If your baby’s tongue cannot reach past his lower lip, it could mean he or she has a short or restricted lingual frenulum that prevents a good latch. If you think your baby has tongue-tie or are worried that he or she isn't feeding properly, get in touch with a breastfeeding counsellor, midwife, or health visitor.

• Flat or inverted nipples - Having flat or inverted nipples could make it difficult for your baby to latch on, which causes pain. You can consult your doctor about drawing out inverted nipples, as there are some techniques.

• Limiting the length of the nursing session - If you try to break the suction before your baby does it, it might cause injuries and more pain. Allow your baby to decide when he or she is done feeding and to release the suction when he yawns or falls asleep.

Clogged milk ducts - When you are nursing, the milk goes through the milk ducts, but sometimes the milk causes the duct to become clogged, which may feel like a small lump.

• Improper bra - If you have sensitive nipples, a bra that is too tight can cause discomfort and irritation. Have a comfortable maternity bra with support and wash it properly - so there is no detergent or other chemicals left on it when you wear it.

 • Thrush -  If your nipples are pink and painful, you might have thrush. It can be passed from you to your baby and vice versa, so it needs to be treated by your doctor.

• Breast engorgement - Breast engorgement happens when the breasts are full of milk. It can be uncomfortable and really painful and another reason your baby might not latch
Mastitis Mastitis is a breast infection that happens when bacteria enter the breast through a crack in the nipple or one of the milk ducts. Antibiotics are quite often prescribed and effective, so contact your doctor to start your treatment.

Sensitivity of nipples

The sensitivity of the nipples is one of the most frequent problems related to breastfeeding. Nipples start being sensitive during pregnancy and the sensitivity peaks a few days after birth.

When you first start breastfeeding, it is normal to feel a bit of discomfort when the baby latches. It can go away with some time and practice, but sometimes the tenderness gets worse and the whole breastfeeding experience can become a painful task.

Mastitis

Mastitis can be a serious problem. It is a breast inflammation that can sometimes include an infection.

Contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

1. A swollen area on the breast that feels hot and painful to touch

2.  Breast lump or a hard area on your breast

3.  Burning pain in your breast that is constant or occurs only when breastfeeding

4. Nipple discharge, white or containing blood

5. Flu symptoms like high fever, chills, aches, etc.

Tips for relieving mastitis discomfort

After contacting your doctor and starting your prescribed treatment, you can do a few things to ease the pain.

Taking a warm shower or putting a soaked warm cloth on your breasts may help in easing the tender area.

Drink a lot of fluids and rest. Now is not the time to be a superwoman. Relax and heal. Don’t stop breastfeeding unless your doctors tell you to. Breastfeeding helps clear the infection.

Massage your breasts to help clear any blockages. Try stroking from the sore area to your nipple to help with the milk flow.

Engorgement

Breast engorgement happens when the breasts are overfull of milk. Your breasts might become painful and swollen, which makes it hard for your baby to latch. It can happen a few days after birth when your milk first comes in, or if you nurse less after some time. A breast pump is a good investment to prevent breast engorgement.

You might have breast engorgement if you notice some of these symptoms:

1. Painful, swollen breasts.

2.  If the breasts are severely engorged, they might look shiny, hard, and slightly lumpy to the touch

3. If the area around the nipple becomes swollen, your nipple might become flat. The areola might be very firm to touch.

4. Nipple discharge, white or containing blood

5. Swollen lymph nodes under your armpits

Treatment for breast engorgement - When the engorgement makes breastfeeding hard, there are a few things you can try.

Apply a warm compress for a few minutes before breastfeeding, or try to relieve a bit of milk with your hands / a breast pump.

Try to nurse more often. Make sure to empty your breasts every time, use a breast pump when your baby decides he’s full.

Take Ibuprofen that will help you reduce swelling and pain. Consult with your doctor before using any medication on your own.

Thrush infection

Thrush is a fungal infection in the breasts. It can be very painful and requires medical attention. It easily spreads and can be passed to your baby. The ideal environment for thrush development is moist bras and nipples, which is hard to not have while breastfeeding.

Some symptoms of thrush may include:

1. Shooting pain in the breast during or after breastfeeding

2.  Burning sensation in nipples

3. Cracked or sore nipples

4. Nipple discharge, white or containing blood

5. Shiny, red, itchy, or flaky nipples

Tips for handling thrush infection

After seeing your doctor, he may prescribe antifungal tablets or cream.

If you get the antifungal cream, it is important to apply it after every feeding.

If you have a thrush infection, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly and use separate towels to stop the spreading of the thrush to other household members.

Wash everything that your baby puts in the mouth.

Dry out the breasts after every feed and use nursing pads to help keep your bra dry.

Tips and treatment for sore nipples

Until you determine the cause of sore nipples, it is important to continue breastfeeding. The nipple is being protected from further damage when the baby is latched onto it. You can try different soothing methods to help ease the discomfort.

Applying your milk to your nipples can help in healing. You can also use some natural soothing balm.

Another thing that can help relief is using gel pads or applying Lanolin. Lanolin acts as a protective barrier and also moisturizes the skin of the nipple.

However, Lanolin and gel pads are not recommended if you have thrush.

Make sure your latch is good

A healthy latch that is deep on the breast will help the baby get the most milk. It may take some time for first-time mums to learn, but once you and your baby get used to it, it will be much easier.

 It is crucial to recognise your baby’s early feeding cues so you can get ready and be in a relaxing, comfortable position. Early cues might be yawning or sucking a finger. When you learn your baby’s cues, you will have enough time to prepare and sit comfortably. You can play some soothing music or do anything that creates a calm ambience.

breastfeeding

How to know if my latch is good?

• When the latch is not painful

• Baby’s head is straight, not turned to the side

• Your baby’s chin touches your breast The baby’s mouth open wide and cover the whole area, not just the nipple

• Your baby’s tongue is positioned under your breast

• You can hear your baby swallowing

• You can see your baby’s ears slightly moving while eating

When struggling to get a good latch, don’t be shy and ask someone who can advise you. If you are giving birth in a hospital, you can ask your nurse to help you and correct you when needed. Also, if you are having a home delivery ask your midwife or whoever is by your side. You can seek a lactation consultant who can give personalised help.

Try different nursing positions

Before you even start nursing, remember to gather everything you need and maybe go to the bathroom, because you might not get up for a while. Make sure your baby is stable and supported. Both of you need to be in a comfortable position, so get lots of cushions and get comfy. 

When nursing, try switching between these positions:

•  Reclined position, also known as laid-back nursing is often a mum’s first try.

•  The cradle hold is a popular method, but might not be easy with a newborn because your baby doesn’t get enough support and might have difficulties with latching.

•  Cross cradle hold, on the other hand, is good for small babies and those with latching difficulties.

•  Rugby ball hold is a really helpful nursing hold for newborns because it supports your baby well.

•  The side-lying position is one of the most relaxed positions,

•  Upright breastfeeding, also known as the koala hold, is a helpful position for babies who suffer from reflux, and it can also help babies who have a tongue-tie.

Changing positions ensures that different parts of the nipple and the breast are compressed each time, which helps prevent soreness.

Be relaxed and calm

Being relaxed while breastfeeding helps you and the baby to make it an easy, beautiful experience. When relaxed, you enhance milk letdown (which means your baby will feed easier). You can try 5-minute light stretching, yoga, or meditation before breastfeeding.

Try using a natural aromatherapy candle for a more soothing environment.

FAQ

How long until your nipples stop hurting when breastfeeding?

Nipple pain usually peaks three days after giving birth, and it is typical to a high number of women. After that, you should start getting used to the feeling and it shouldn’t be painful. Although, you might feel latch-on pain which only lasts for about 30 seconds after your baby latches. The pain should not last for the whole feeding, nor should it hurt between feedings.

How to get a better latch for my baby?

You will get a better latch with practising. It might be frustrating for first-time mums, but remember that both you and your baby are in the learning process. Create a calm environment, try breastfeeding skin to skin as much as possible, and let your baby lead.

You can try tickling your baby’s top lip or cheek to encourage him or her to open wide. When aiming, watch your baby’s lower lip and aim as far from the base of the nipple as possible, so that baby takes a large mouthful of breast

What can I put on my sore nipples?

You can try putting your own breast milk and letting it air dry before getting dressed (unless you have thrush).

Another natural remedy for sore or cracked nipples is olive oil with a single drop of tea tree oil combined with some warm water. It can help soothe pain and the tea tree is amazing because of its antibacterial benefits.

Massaging your breasts while showering can help ease the tension, you can put a natural balm that is safe for mum and the baby.

Takeaway

There are many possible reasons why nipples get sore while breastfeeding. Consult with your doctor if the pain lasts longer than 24h and try using some above-mentioned techniques for relief.

 Remember to enjoy time with your baby, because babies stay little for such a short period. Treasure these days and ask for help if you need it.