FAQ: Why are my Nipples Sore and cracked? How can I cure it?
Breastfeeding, for a first time new mother, may take a little while to get used to. For some women, breastfeeding causes a little discomfort in the beginning. In most cases, this is just a physical response toward trying something new. It settles in a couple of days. For some women, the initial process of latching the baby on could be mildly painful. This pain is mild, transient and disappears within a few seconds. The rest of the nursing session is painless. In the above-described scenarios, mild discomfort and mild pain do not need any treatment. It settles on its own within a few days.
When is professional help needed?
In the following scenarios, it is important to seek help either through online resources or by seeing a professional.
In most cases, sore nipples are a result of poor latching. When a baby latches only on the nipple, or with very less part of areola in the mouth, it creates a shallow latch. A shallow latch does not yield milk from the breast and as a result the baby gets frustrated. In order to get the milk, the baby then bites or chews the nipple. This is of course painful. When a shallow latch continues for 2-3 or more feeds, the mother starts to get sore nipples. And when the latch is not corrected, these sore nipples can develop cracks. And these cracks might bleed during breastfeeding. However, it is completely safe for the baby to receive the milk from sore/cracked/bleeding nipples.
Common causes and remedies :
Cause - Poor latch or attachment
A shallow latch is a prime reason for sore nipples for most breastfeeding mothers.
More information in our article on ‘Deep Latch’.
Cause - Wrong positioning
When the baby is positioned in an uncomfortable manner, or if the mother is poorly supported and in an uncomfortable position while nursing, sore nipples can occur.
More information in our article on ‘Positioning’.
Cause - Tongue ties
Tongue ties can potentially inhibit a deep latch.
Cause - Engorgement
It is difficult for a baby to attain a deep latch on an engorged breast.
Cause - Unusually strong Suckling
Baby suckles unusually vigorously if the baby is extremely hungry by the time breast is offered.
1. Feed at early hunger cues - Following are the hunger cues that babies display in this order.
2. Do not wait until the baby cries.
Cause - Conditions like eczema, psoriasis etc.
Cause - Infections like thrush
Cause - Oversupply / forceful letdown
A mother with an oversupply of breast milk likely has an overactive or forceful letdown. The baby clamps onto the nipple to control this fast flow of the milk which she is unable to handle. This clamping can lead to sore nipples
Cause -Low supply
A mother having legitimate low supply can also face sore nipples as the baby struggles to get milk at the breast. The baby bites and chews out of frustration leading to sore and cracked nipples.
Low supply is dealt with by -
Cause - Incorrect flange size for pumping mothers
Cause - Solids
The residue of solids in the baby’s mouth can cause irritation and soreness on the mother’s nipple.
Cause - Teething
Every time the baby is teething, the baby has to change the latch a bit in order to accommodate the new guest in the mouth.
Cause - Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes while ovulating and/or menstruation can increase nipple sensitivity in some women. Also, some women face a little dip in supply before and/or during periods. Baby clamps down on the nipple at such times causing sore nipples.
Cause - Pregnancy
Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy sometimes cause nipple pain for the mother while breastfeeding.
Seeking the guidance of a lactation professional to continue nursing during pregnancy is a good idea.
Other Remedies :
While it is important to determine the root cause of sore and cracked nipples; there are some remedies that can be tried alongside to get some pain relief and to speed up healing. Kindly note that these are additional measures and not cure for sore nipples. Unless the root cause is addressed and treated, these measures alone will not help.
What not to do?
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