Almost no woman is spared from the sore and cracked nipples during breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding or are someone with cracked nipples, read this article and get to know about cracked nipples and ways to prevent them.
Redness, irritation, and scabbing of the skin present on or around the skin is an essential characteristic of cracked nipples. Chafing during sporting activities, breastfeeding, and the presence of any underlying dermatologic conditions are most commonly responsible for cracked nipples. It can occur in both males and females. The part of the skin that surrounds the nipple is called the areola. Areola and nipple are the more delicate parts of the body as compared to other areas and share an increased risk of injury.
Oozing Skin With Splits:
Areolar tissues may exhibit splits, bleeding, and oozing.
Although it does not produce outright pain in the nipples, the areola may exhibit tenderness.
The cracks in the nipples might peel off and cause crustation.
It is an important cause of cracked nipples. While breastfeeding should not hurt in general, pain may be exhibited when something is wrong with breastfeeding. Two possible reasons can cause pain during breastfeeding, which can be either due to poor latching at the breast or suction trauma that occurs due to improper positioning of the baby.
When there is not enough latching by the mother to provide protection from the reflexes of a forceful letdown, the babies pinch the nipple. Insufficient milk after a breastfeeding session is caused by shallow latching leading to the need for frequent feedings.
Improper positioning of the baby is common during the initial stages because both the mother and the baby require a bit of practice to learn this skill of adequately positioning the nipple against the mouth of the baby and holding the baby against the mother.
The other possible causes why a baby pinches their mother's nipple are:
Chafing and cracking in the nipples can also occur due to friction. Sexual activity or any athletic activity that is associated with persistent friction can result in cracked nipples. In runners, it is called jogger' nipple, surfer's nipple in surfers, and wetsuit rub in divers.
3. Underlying Skin Conditions:
Skin rashes can occur due to eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and allergic reactions. If these rashes appear on the nipples, dryness, scaling, and splitting can be present. Infection of these cracks, bleeding, and oozing may follow these cracks in some cases.
4. In addition to the above causes, the following might also cause cracked nipples:
Nipple confusion occurs when the baby is both breastfed and bottle-fed, or a pacifier is used.
When the flange of the breast pump is small.
Retraction of the baby or when the baby improperly positions the tongue while nursing.
Problems with sucking.
To prevent the recurrence of cracked nipples, understanding as well as knowing the cause is very important. Breastfeeding, latching techniques, sucking patterns, and strength of the baby can be assessed with the help of advice from a lactation consultant.
Cracked nipples due to breastfeeding can be managed in the following ways:
1. Proper Latching:
Proper latching and positioning of the baby during breastfeeding is essential to treat the cracked nipples. Latching is a learned process, and therefore errors during the few days are pretty normal. While holding a baby, you should ensure that the baby is close to your body, with proper alignment of the ear, hip, and shoulder.
Follow the below tips to maintain proper latching:
The mother should sit in a comfortable position with pillows to gain support.
The baby should be held 'belly to belly’ in such a way that the baby does not have to turn its head to reach the breast.
The baby's nose should almost touch the breasts of the mother.
The lips of the baby should be flared open.
To open the baby's mouth, gently rub the nipple back and forth.
There should not be nipple or breast pain during breastfeeding; however, discomfort is common. If it hurts, break the seal by using a finger on the corner of the baby's mouth.
The baby's mouth should cover not only the nipples but also about half an inch of the areola.
2. Avoid Friction:
To prevent sore and cracked nipples due to friction, do the following:
When there is a severe crack in the nipples, avoid engaging in activities that bring about cracked nipples.
Use antiseptic creams like Neosporin.
With the doctor's advice, all-purpose nipple ointments made of Betamethasone, Muciprocin, and Miconazole can also be used.
Avoid clothes made of coarse materials.
Always use a supportive bra. Make sure the bra is made of material such as cotton fabrics.
Use nipple covers or at least cover them with band-aids.
Do wear clothes with loose fits.
Prior to activities that cause cracked nipples, apply a waterproof topical emollient or balm over the nipples.
3. In addition to this, the following can help:
Avoid tight-fitting bras.
Avoid drying out the nipples. Deodorants, harsh soaps, body powders, etc., can cause dryness. .
Avoid using nursing pads with plastic lining.
With the help of a lactation consultant, evaluate the following:
Positioning of the baby.
Positioning of the mother.
The appearance of the nipple after feeding.
Apply colostrum or freshly expressed breastmilk to the cracked area.
Do warm compresses. Dip a cloth in warm water, remove the excess water and place it on the breast for a few minutes.
Rinse with saltwater. Take a bowl of warm saltwater and dip the nipples in it for a minute soon after breastfeeding.
Apply Lanolin ointment to the injured area after breastfeeding.
Do change your nursing pads often because dampness in this area can delay the healing process. Always use pads made of 100% cotton.
Wet tea bags should not be used over the cracked nipples because it has an astringent effect on the nipples and dries them out. Thereby further worsening the condition.
Creams and ointments that are not made up of Lanolin entirely should be avoided as they cause drying by stopping air circulation.
Cracked nipples are most commonly associated with breastfeeding. To help manage it, depending on the cause, adequate treatment measures should be followed.
Cracked nipples are a common occurrence in breastfeeding women. It can be treated by applying freshly expressed milk to the cracked area, rinsing with warm water, doing warm compresses, and applying Lanolin ointment.
Cracked nipples are a common condition in women who breastfeed. However, it can occur in both men and women due to any activity that causes friction in the nipple area.
The healing period for cracked nipples will vary depending upon the severity. In mild cases, it may heal within hours to days. However, in severe cases, it may take two to three weeks.
Yes, breastfeeding can be continued in the case of cracked nipples. Cracked nipples or sore nipples are a common occurrence in the initial stages of breastfeeding. By understanding the right technique for breastfeeding, this problem can be solved.
The best way to prevent cracked nipples is to keep them hydrated. Vaseline or any other petroleum jelly can be effective in serving this purpose. However, there is not much evidence regarding how safe it is for babies.
The other causes of cracked nipples include excessive friction and skin diseases. Excessive friction during athletic activity or sexual activity can cause cracked nipples. Skin diseases like eczema, dermatitis and other allergic reactions can also cause cracked nipples.
Yes, cracked nipples can get infected in some cases. It is an extremely painful condition. Infection of cracked nipples can cause inflammation, redness, and pus discharge.
Yes, coconut oil can be a good remedy for treating cracked nipples. It helps in moisturizing the nipples. However, there is no scientific backup regarding its effectiveness.
The cracked nipples due to breastfeeding can be prevented by proper latching and positioning of the baby during breastfeeding. Avoid friction of the area and drying out of the nipples. Avoid tight-fitting bras and always wear bras made up of cotton material.
Cracked nipples can be due to breastfeeding, friction, and skin diseases. The cracked nipples due to breastfeeding can be prevented by proper latching and positioning of the baby. In the cases of athletes where cracked nipples are due to friction, wearing the right clothes and using a lubricant can prevent the condition. If cracked nipples are due to skin diseases, treating the underlying condition will help prevent skin diseases.
Last reviewed at:
23 Jun 2022 - 5 min read
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