Your nipples can get damaged and sore if your baby isn’t well positioned and attached for a breastfeed. If feeding is painful and/or if at the end of a breastfeed your nipple seems flattened and squashed, then your baby probably isn’t feeding properly. It is important to fix this problem as not only will it be painful for you but also your baby will not be satisfied after feeds and feeding will take longer.
If breastfeeding is to be pain free the baby needs to be able to bring your breast and nipple into his mouth in such a way that the nipple is up over his tongue and resting at the soft spot on the roof of his mouth. That way his tongue will press against your breast and not your nipple. See the section on positioning and attachment for more details.
If your nipple is not far enough back in your baby's mouth then it will get rubbed and will become very sore, the skin will become inflamed and may actually break. This is sometimes called a cracked nipple.
Sore, red nipples which occur after the first few days and are painful after feeding are usually caused by a thrush infection. If you think this is the problem, check our section on thrush.
The best treatment is to fix the cause of the soreness, so ask your midwife or health visitor or a breastfeeding counsellor to help you improve your baby’s positioning and attachment. See the section on positioning and attachment for more information.
Nipple creams and sprays can be used, but you need to be careful which one you choose. Some contain ingredients which may cause an allergic reaction in you or your baby. Applying a purified lanolin ointment can help with moist wound healing and may mean the crack will heal faster.
A natural alternative is to apply a few drops of your breastmilk to the grazed area at the end of each feed. Human milk contains properties which help fight infection and aid healing.
Nipple shields are not recommended for treating sore nipples because:
- they stop your baby from learning how to attach correctly to the breast;
- they lower milk supply because the breast is not properly stimulated;
- babies tend to get used to nipple shields and then won’t feed without them.
If you are using a nipple shield and want to stop, ask your midwife or health visitor or a breastfeeding counsellor for support.