The Breastfeeding Nipple Injury: How to Prevent, Treat, and Heal
When you look at the process of breastfeeding, it seems like there should be a lot of skin-on-skin contacts. But in reality, there is a lot going on underneath that skin. This is why so many new moms struggle with nipple pain or “cracked” nipples while breastfeeding their babies. They are tender and irritated! The constant friction between your baby’s gums and your nipples can cause damage. Even if you don’t see any cuts or scrapes, the friction alone can cause pain and sensitivity.
Nipple pain is also common for first-time moms who have sensitive nipples from growing their milk ducts during a pregnancy. The good news is that you can take proactive steps to help prevent nipple injuries from occurring after delivery, as well as know how to treat them should they occur regardless of what precautions you take!
What is a nipple injury?
A nipple injury is any type of damage to your nipple while breastfeeding. A nipple injury can come in many forms, including a cut, burning, rash, soreness, cracking, bleeding, or a combination of these symptoms. A nipple injury can happen to anybody, whether you’re a new or veteran breastfeeding mom. A nipple injury can be caused by many things, including your baby’s sucking style, your breast size, your breastfeeding technique, whether or not you have inverted nipples (where the nipple is tucked inside the breast instead of sticking out), and even your breast milk supply itself.
What causes a nipple injury?
A nipple injury can occur for many different reasons. Your breast size and shape can cause your nipples to be pulled too far into your baby’s mouth. This is usually a problem for moms with larger breasts. If you have smaller breasts, it can be a little trickier for your baby to latch on. Breastfeeding nipple tips and tricks
- If you’ve had nipple pain in the past, use breast shields. Breast shields worn inside a bra can help prevent nipple injuries by enlarging the nipple’s surface area. If your baby is showing signs of nipple confusion or you are experiencing nipple pain, try using breast shields to ensure proper latch and good milk transfer.
- Avoid bottles. If your baby is formula fed, you could try hand-expressing your breast milk into a bottle, but breastfeeding can be significantly harder to continue if you are bottle-feeding.
- Choose the correct latch. If you have inverted nipples, you can try massaging your nipples with a warm washcloth or towel to help them stand out before feeding your baby. You can also try placing your nipple in your baby’s mouth with the top of your breast, rather than the bottom.
How to treat a cracked nipple
If you have a cracked nipple and you’re breastfeeding, there are some steps you can take to treat it.
- Wash your hands. Start by washing your hands with soap and water. This will help prevent infection from getting worse.
- Apply lanolin to your nipple and surrounding area. Try coating your nipples with a breastfeeding lanolin cream to help them heal and decrease itching.
- Use a nipple shield. If breastfeeding isn’t going well and you have cracked nipples, using a breast shield or nipple shield can help you feed your baby while your nipples heal.
How to heal a nipple injury
If you’ve had a nipple injury and you’re breastfeeding, there are several steps you can take to help the healing process.
- Apply lanolin. Just like when treating a cracked nipple, apply lanolin cream to your nipples and the surrounding area to help with healing and itching.
- Wear a breastfeeding support bra. Using a support bra (especially one with built-in breast shields) can help ease nipple pain and protect your nipples from further injury.
- Use a nipple cream. Many breastfeeding moms who have sensitive nipples find relief from using a nipple cream throughout the day.
- Avoid overfeeding your baby. If your baby is overfeeding, he or she will be putting more pressure on your nipples and you’re more likely to get injured.
- Take a break from breastfeeding. If your nipples have been injured and you’ve been trying to continue breastfeeding, you might want to take a break to let your nipples heal.
The best way to protect your nipples while breastfeeding is proper latch positioning. Whether you’re a new or veteran breastfeeding mom, it’s important to know how to properly latch your baby on so your nipples don’t get injured. Additionally, you need to follow proper hygiene practices and make sure you are wearing the right types of garments, so your nipples don’t get chaffed or damaged. When you are taking proper care of yourself, it can help prevent nipple injury and make breastfeeding a more enjoyable experience for both you and your baby.