If you’re a breast-feeding mother, you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of sore, cracked nipples. It’s something that many nursing moms endure. It’s usually caused by a bad latch. This results from improper positioning of your baby at the breast.
Try these five natural remedies to treat sore, cracked nipples. Then learn what you can do to prevent this problem from happening again.
What Causes Cracked Nipples?
Traumatized nipples are described as nipples that are:
There are two frequent causes of traumatized nipples: poor latch at the breast and suction trauma as a result of improper positioning.
There are a number of possible reasons for incorrect positioning. Breast-feeding is a learned skill for moms and babies alike. It takes a bit of practice to properly position the nipple in a baby’s mouth and their body against the mother.
Babies who aren’t latched well may protect themselves from forceful letdown reflexes by pinching off the nipple. If a baby has a shallow latch, they may also nurse more frequently. This is because they aren’t getting as much milk at each breast-feeding session.
La Leche League International notes that, in other cases, a baby will pinch their mother’s nipple because of anatomical issues, including a:
- small mouth
- receding chin
- short frenulum
- high palate
Other possible causes include:
- nipple confusion (a possibility if you’re breast-feeding, bottle-feeding, or offering pacifiers)
- sucking problems
- baby retracting or improperly positioning their tongue during nursing
It’s important to determine what’s causing your cracked, sore nipples so you can avoid a recurring problem. Speak to a certified lactation consultant. They will be able to assess both your breast-feeding and latch techniques. They can also look at your baby’s sucking patterns and strength.
How Can I Treat Cracked Nipples?
Proper positioning is essential for preventing future trauma to your nipples. But how can you treat cracked nipples if you have them?
There are several home and store-bought options for treatment.
Apply Freshly Expressed Breast Milk
Smoothing freshly expressed breast milk onto cracked nipples may help them heal by offering antibacterial protection. If you’re a nursing mother, you’ll have breast milk on hand, making it easy to apply after breast-feeding sessions.
Make sure to wash your hands before gently applying a few drops of breast milk to your nipples. Allow the milk to air-dry before covering up.
Note: If you have thrush, this remedy should be avoided. Any breast milk should be rinsed off the nipple after feeding your baby. Yeast grows quickly in human milk.
This is another readily available and inexpensive treatment option. While there aren’t any antibacterial benefits, you may find using warm, damp compresses after breast-feeding to be soothing on sore, cracked nipples.
- To apply, dip a washcloth in warm water.
- Wring out excess liquid.
- Place the washcloth over your nipple and breast for a few minutes.
- Gently pat dry.
Salt Water Rinse
This homemade saline solution will help hydrate the skin and promote healing:
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
- Soak the nipples in a small bowl of this warm saline solution for about one minute after breast-feeding.
- You can also use a squirt bottle to apply the solution to all areas of the nipple.
- Pat gently to dry.
Be sure to make a fresh supply of saline solution daily to reduce the chances of bacterial contamination. If your baby doesn’t seem to like the taste of the dried solution, rinse your nipples before feeding.
Apply Medical Grade Lanolin Ointment
Using a lanolin ointment specifically designed for breast-feeding mothers will help promote moist wound healing. Apply to nipples after breast-feeding. It doesn’t need to be removed before nursing your baby.
Change Nursing Pads Frequently
Change nursing pads as soon as they become damp. Leaving the moisture against your nipples can delay healing. Also avoid nursing pads made with plastic linings. They can obstruct airflow. Look for pads made from 100 percent cotton.
Remedies to avoid
You may hear of other remedies for cracked, sore nipples. But some of these can be counter-effective and should be avoided.
- Wet tea bags: This is a popular remedy in many locations around the world. While they’re inexpensive, the tannic acid from the tea can have an astringent effect on the nipple. This can dry out the nipple or even cause cracking. If the moist warmth is appealing, stick with a plain water compress.
- Using ointments or creams that aren’t 100 percent lanolin, or shouldn’t be ingested: Some products marketed to breast-feeding mothers can prevent air circulation and dry out the skin. Avoid products that shouldn’t be ingested. These could be harmful to your baby. If you must wash your nipples before every feeding, you’ll lose the benefit of natural lubrication.
Remember, cracked nipples are often a symptom of breast-feeding. While it’s important to help cracked nipples heal, it’s also important to address the cause of the problem.
If you have questions or concerns about cracked nipples, see your pediatrician or a certified lactation consultant.