Many breastfeeding mummies have to deal with cracked nipples, which can be quite painful and make the beautiful moment of feeding your baby unpleasant.
It’s not strange that it happens, considering that your breasts and your nipples are going to be more tender, and more delicate, than they usually are.
Let’s take a closer look at how to prevent and cure cracked nipples, one of the most common breastfeeding problems that can occur. Don’t miss the following lines!
Why do I have cracked nipples?
The main reason why you may be suffering from cracked nipples is your baby not latching on how he’s supposed to – which is grabbing the whole nipple without squeezing it. There are other reasons as well, not related to how your little one feeds, but to you: dry skin, eczema, and even not using the breast pump correctly could be damaging your nipples.
How can I know that I have cracked nipples?
Your nipples will be sore, it will be painful to breastfeed and, besides, they could be bleeding. However, during the first few weeks, you could notice some light bleeding without pain – that doesn’t mean that you have cracked nipples, but that the production of milk increases the blood flow in the breast. Cracked nipples will definitely bring some pain, so if you’re fine, you don’t need to worry.
Can I keep breastfeeding with cracked nipples? Will they affect my baby in any way?
Theoretically, yes, you can keep breastfeeding – your baby won’t even notice your cracked nipples, and a little of blood isn’t harmful for him. The problem is that you will indeed feel your cracked nipples… And they tend to be very painful! Some breastfeeding mummies can’t bear it anymore – if that’s your case, do not worry. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be a torture for you. Use a breast pump carefully so you can extract your milk and give it to your baby with a bottle.
Nipple shields can be useful to continue breastfeeding, as they will make it less painful for you. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t solve the real cause of the problem and that, if the cause is that your little one isn’t latching on correctly, it could actually make it worse if your baby gets used to sucking only from the tip of the shield.
How can I heal my cracked nipples?
Cracked nipples can be very painful, but don’t despair: The pain won’t last forever, and there are things that you can do to get some relieve and cure them. Here you have a few tips that you can try:
- Latching on right: The most important thing to cure cracked nipples is to make sure that your baby is latching on correctly. You can try different breastfeeding positions to see if there is one that helps.
- Keep it natural: Don’t start trying different creams and lotions on the affected area, since it could make it worse. Of course, you need to keep your nipples clean, but water is more than enough. You can use a little bit of lanolin cream after you’ve cleaned them.
- Breast milk is good for you too: Surely you know about all the properties of breast milk – but did you know that they are beneficial for you as well? Put a few drops of your breast milk on your poor nipples to benefit from their healing qualities.
- The good breast first: If you only have one cracked nipple, start the feed with the not-affected breast so your little one is less hungry when he gets to the one that hurts. This way, he will be gentler.
- Pump: If you can’t breastfeed because of the pain, you will need to extract your milk, otherwise you could end up getting mastitis. If the breast pump hurts you, try doing it with your hands.
- Cold compresses: Cold compresses of water can be of help, especially if there is a deep crack, a bite or any other kind of injury.
- Ibuprofene: If you can’t deal with the pain, you can take a small dose of ibuprofene, but never too close to the feed – at least 30 minutes prior.
- Go to the doctor: If the situation gets worse and doesn’t seem to improve, go to the doctor.
Is there a way to prevent cracked nipples?
Yes, there is, by making sure there is no cause for it. First of all, make sure that your little one is latching on correctly – you can get help from a lactation consultant if you need to. If you’re extracting milk with a breast pump, read the instructions carefully to make sure that you’re not hurting your breasts. You can ask for help as well if you need it.
If dry skin or eczema are to blame for your cracked nipples, make sure that you are using creams, soaps and lotions that don’t irritate you.
Now you know what to do if you have sore, cracked nipples. If you’re suffering from something different, we have other articles dedicated to other breastfeeding problems, such as blocked milk duct or mastitis.