The Early Weeks
In the first two weeks, it’s normal to have tenderness. Your body is adjusting to nursing a baby and the changes that pregnancy and birth have brought. Sometimes there is pain when baby latches on initially, but this should dissipate after a few seconds.
With pain often comes damage. You may see abrasions (like a scrape), bruising, blisters, cracking, or bleeding. Damage can occur with one bad latch. You’re tired and baby has finally latched on and seems to be happily drinking! It hurts, but you’re willing to work through the pain in order to feed your sweet baby. While the effort is noted, it’s best overall to adjust the latch before damage can occur. Cracking and blisters from one shallow latch can cause pain even as you get deeper latches at the next feedings.
Work on a Deep Latch
Watch this video for a great visual on shallow vs. deep latch. You’ll see how a shallow latch can lead to nipple damage. Even though your instinct may be to tough it out, keep in mind that baby doesn’t get as much milk when not latched on deeply – and comfortably.
How to Heal
- Express some milk and allow to air dry on the nipple. It’s soothing and antimicrobial. Then apply a nipple ointment of your choosing. Motherlove and Earth Mama have great reviews.
- Use cool packs for extra soothing. Try gel packs or booby tubes or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel.
- If the skin is broken: wash the nipples gently once a day with warm water and mild soap. Apply an over the counter antibiotic ointment such as polysporin (if your provider has given the ok).
- Soak the nipples. Warm saline (one cup water to one tsp salt) or warm water with Epsom salts will do the trick. Put in a bowl or a mug and lean over it. You can also use a silicone milk collector to do this. Aim for five minutes at a time, three times a day.
- Use some TLC – shower with your back to the spray, always gently pat, avoid clothes that rub.
- Consider Silverettes – many people love them, and they help to create a moist wound healing environment. Keep them in the fridge if cold feels good.
- What about nipple shields? Nipple shields can be tricky. They can be very helpful, but can also reduce stimulation at the breast. It’s best to hand express after feedings if using nipple shields. If you’re at the point of feeling that you need a constant barrier, contact an IBCLC to figure out the root cause.
Is the pain continuing? Call an IBCLC and get to the bottom of the cause. Nipple pain is common, but it’s not normal. You don’t have to tough it out alone.
Amanda is an RN, IBCLC (lactation consultant) who helps breastfeeding families through classes and home visits in the greater Baton Rouge, La area. Secure virtual visits are available for breastfeeding support no matter the location.
All information on this website is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Magnolia Lactation Consulting encourages all families to have close communication with the medical providers of their choice.