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Sore Nipples Due to Breastfeeding

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Persistent sore nipples associated with pain could lead to early cessation of breastfeeding. This article is detailed on sore nipples and home remedies.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Deepika Dixit

Published At June 2, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 6, 2024

Introduction:

Breastfeeding requires establishing a bond between the mother and the baby that needs time and practice to develop. During the initial breastfeeding phase, the physiological changes in the mother’s body can lead to soreness in the nipples.

Some studies suggest that nearly 90 percent of women develop nipple soreness and pain during breastfeeding. A woman more commonly experiences it during the postpartum period when both the baby and the mother learn to adapt to breastfeeding.

Breast soreness and pain are not just pain, it might be a distressing condition for a mother. It can affect the mother’s mood, psychological health, and sleep cycle. This also initiates disturbance in building the bond between the mother and the newborn.

Should a Mother Continue Breastfeeding When Suffering From Sore Nipples?

After the first birth, it is natural that every mother is cautioned while developing soreness in and around the nipples. However, there is no necessity to be highly cautioned; experiencing sore nipples does not imply a reason to stop feeding. Under such circumstances, a mother can breastfeed with a nipple that is comfortable at first and is less sore comparatively. If this method does not put one at ease, then choosing to breast pump beforehand shall help. Breast milk has antibacterial properties, which tend to heal sore nipples. A few drops of breast milk over the cracked nipples help the condition soothe; while applying, let the area breathe free for a few minutes before dressing up.

What Causes Nipple Soreness?

Nipple soreness may occur postpartum when the mother starts lactating and learns how to breastfeed her baby.

The possible causes of sore nipples include:

  • Poor latch techniques or improper latch are caused due to inverted or flat nipples.

  • A baby suffering from tongue tie or slippage during the feeding session.

  • Cessation of feeding session without first breaking the suction.

  • Wearing a tight-fitting bra.

  • Improper body positioning or hold while breastfeeding.

Tongue-Tie:

Tongue-tie is an oral condition where the tongue remains attached to the lower part of the mouth, hence restricting the tongue movement. A baby suffering from tongue ties cannot open their mouth widely to latch their mother’s nipples. The baby’s sucking ability gets affected as they cannot hold it correctly which can hurt or cause soreness to the mother’s nipples.

  • One might have sore nipples because of their engorged breasts, which is the inflammation of the breast tissue. It may or may not be associated with infections.

What Are the Home Remedies for Sore Nipples?

Some research suggests that applying warm and moist heat can promote the healing of sore nipples.

Technique: To use moist heat on the nipples, one may wet a clean washcloth under lukewarm water, and then after squeezing the extra water, one can apply the cloth to their nipples. They may repeat the process. This remedy is also believed to heal nipple soreness in women suffering from engorged breasts. However, if one is suffering from soreness in their nipples that goes and comes back again and the pain persists for several days, it is advised to visit their doctor or lactation specialist for evaluation.

Breast milk has antibacterial properties that help heal cracks and soreness in their nipples.

Technique: Extract some milk from the breast and apply it to the cracked area of their nipples. Allow it to air dry and avoid wearing a bra or any other clothes.

Warm Compression: A warm compression can help mothers soothe their sore nipples.

Application of Aloe Vera: Some studies have shown that aloe vera has a natural healing capacity and pain-relieving properties that can ease the pain and soreness of the nipples.

Vitamin C: A healthy diet is essential for a healthy body. Vitamin C has healing power and hence can help mothers with sore nipples. It is also known to prevent infections.

Tea Tree Oil: Some studies suggest the usage of tea tree oil to treat sore nipples as it has antifungal and antiseptic properties.

How Can One Get Relief From Sore Nipples Due to Breastfeeding?

If one is experiencing soreness in their nipples, one must seek immediate help from their doctor. The doctor may ask one to breastfeed their baby. Followed by that they will correct their latch and positioning to have successful breastfeeding without further hurting their nipples.

The doctor might do a physical examination of their breast to note the signs of an incorrect latch, like the nipples may grow flattened, wedged, or white if the latch is inappropriate. The doctor will teach different latch positions for breastfeeding.

The doctor can recommend some creams and ointment for application on the sore nipples that provide some relief from tenderness. Nowadays, olive oil-based ointments are suggested for women suffering from sore nipples as they do not have a smell that can affect the baby.

Hydrogel pads are also helpful for sore nipples. They are thin sheets about the size of an areola that create a soothing barrier for their sore nipples. It inhibits the nipples from getting rubbed by nursing or bra cups.

If one feels like their nipple pain has increased from initial days and makes their breastfeeding harder, then it may indicate some other problems like bacterial or fungal infection (thrush), or tongue-tie of the baby. One needs to visit their healthcare provider for treatment immediately.

Preventing Sore Nipples:

Problems related to nipples can be prevented. The ways to prevent include:

  • It is essential to see that the baby latches the nipple properly.

  • It is always better to first breastfeed the baby on the side that is less sore for a few minutes and then feed on another side. This technique is used as the baby’s sucking efficiency is strongest in the initial few minutes of breastfeeding.

  • It is advisable to express a little milk before breastfeeding. This helps the let-down reflex and softens nipples. This further helps the baby to latch gently and easily.

  • Changing the position of the baby is necessary each time the feeding is done. This helps change the pressure of the baby’s mouth to different parts of the breast.

  • A pain killer may be taken after consulting a healthcare provider before 30 minutes of breastfeeding.

Conclusion

The occurrence of sore nipples is widespread in breastfeeding women, especially in new mothers learning the correct way to latch their babies and breastfeed them. One may seek help from experienced mothers or lactation consultants to learn how to breastfeed their baby. The doctor can teach the right latch and different positions, which can be practiced later on to determine the most suitable position for mother and baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How to Treat Sore Nipples and What Is the Fastest Way to Achieve It?

Sore nipples can be treated in many ways, and they are:
- By expressing fresh breast milk.
- Rinsing with salt water.
- Giving warm compression.
- By applying moisturizing ointments like Lanolin.
- Wearing breathable nursing pads.

2.

How Long Does Nipples Soreness Last After Breastfeeding?

Sore nipples are one of the common side effects of breastfeeding, especially in the early days; as the nipples are not used for feeding, the pain generally subsides within a week's time.

3.

Does Sore Nipples Affect Milk Supply or Indicate More Milk Supply?

Sore nipples affect milk production as feeding through cracked nipples induces pain. This, in turn, results in less milk supply as the nipples become hard, tight, and painful.

4.

Can Coconut Oil Heal Sore Nipples, or Which Oil Is More Efficient?

Coconut oil is more efficient for treating cracked nipples; a small quantity is applied to the sore nipples directly. As the oil is of natural source, the oil can be left to absorb and does not need to be wiped off.

5.

Does Latching Induce Sore Nipples?

Yes, latching can cause nipple soreness; when the baby is not latched to the nipple properly, it induces friction that makes the nipple sore. The nipple soreness is also aggravated by the baby’s mouth against the skin.

6.

Is Coconut Contraindicated in Breastfeeding Moms?

No, coconut is the best source of food to intake in breastfeeding moms as it is low in calories and high in nutritional value; it keeps the mothers hydrated, simultaneously increasing the production of milk supply.

7.

Which Hormone Induces Nipple Soreness?

The body undergoes hormonal changes after the pregnancy, which causes a surge in progesterone and estrogen levels. The hormone that is involved in nipple soreness and pain is mainly progesterone, as it triggers the milk glands for increased milk production.
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Dr. Deepika Dixit
Dr. Deepika Dixit

General Practitioner

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