Sore Nipples: Reasons & Tips to Deal with Breast Pain

Sore Nipples: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Breastfeeding is considered best for your baby. It helps you meet your baby’s nutritional requirements through breast milk. But sometimes, breastfeeding can become challenging due to issues, such as sore nipples. Read this article to know more about sore nipples and what you can do about them.

Is it Normal to Have Sore Nipples When Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding mothers commonly experience sore nipples during the nursing phase. Although it is a common problem, it certainly should not be considered an inevitable discomfort of breastfeeding. New mothers mostly experience sore nipples within the first few days after giving birth; however, they may also experience them weeks or months after comfortable breastfeeding.

Some pain or mild discomfort is normal for a few seconds after the baby begins to suckle. But if you experience pain throughout the feeding session, then it is recommended to inform your doctor about the issue. The pain and tenderness may be associated with sore nipples, and any delay may result in bleeding or cracked nipples, which can make breastfeeding even more painful.

Causes of Sore Nipples

There are many causes of nipple soreness, tenderness and pain. We shall discuss some of the common causes of sore nipples:

1. Improper Latching

It is very important for the mother to remember and follow the proper latching technique and position. Babies tend to try different feeding positions as they grow older. This may result in improper feeding position and thus lead to nipple soreness.

2. Irritation Around the Nipple

Sometimes, mothers may feel irritation around their nipples. This is commonly seen in mothers who have teething babies. The excess production of saliva and enzymes during this time may irritate the nipples.

3. Blockage in the Nipple

Conditions such as plugged milk ducts and mastitis may also cause sore nipples. This condition is usually seen in one nipple but may occur in both nipples, too.

4. Any Kind of Hormonal Changes

You may experience sore nipples before your period or around the time of ovulation, too. You may also experience nipple soreness if you are pregnant again.

5. Thrush

If you notice a sudden outburst of cracked nipples and pain on both sides, then it may be associated with thrush (yeast infection).

Do Sore Nipples Affect Babies?

Sore nipples, if not treated in time, can be painful for the mother; however, the condition does not affect the baby or the breast milk. Even when you have sore nipples that are cracked or bleeding, you may still feed your baby. You may get in touch with your doctor if you have any concern about feeding your baby with sore nipples. If your condition does not get better and you keep experiencing nipple soreness, it is recommended to seek expert medical help.

How to Treat Sore Nipples

If you notice any symptoms of nipple soreness, it is recommended to get in touch with your doctor for the correct treatment. However, the following remedies may also be helpful in treating sore nipples:

  • After feeding your baby, wash your nipples and dry them. Squeeze some of your breast milk and apply on the sore nipples.
  • Warm water compressions also prove to be helpful in treating sore nipples.
  • In case of intense pain, you may manually express your breast milk or use a breast pump.
  • You should adopt proper latching and feeding position to help ease the problem.

How to Treat Sore Nipples

  • Washing your breast and nipples with mild antibacterial soap can keep away any infection.
  • If you have a severe infection, you may use ointments recommended by your doctor.

Tips to Deal With Sore Nipples

Mothers can deal with sore nipples by using the following tips:

Before Breastfeeding

  • It is important for you to stay relaxed and calm and settle yourself for the feeding session.
  • Gently massage your breast for the milk to flow naturally.
  • You may also squeeze out some milk and apply it on your nipples to lubricate them.
  • It is also recommended not to have long feeding gaps, which may make your baby hungrier and thus latch harder.

During Breastfeeding

  • You may try different feeding positions or make use of pillows to properly position your child. You may get in touch with an expert to discuss proper breastfeeding positions and find one that suits you best.
  • Always offer the entire areola to the baby and do not let the baby latch on to the nipple only.
  • You may start feeding on the less sore breast first, as the baby in the first few minutes of feeding tends to latch harder.

After Breastfeeding

  • You should wipe your nipples with a warm washcloth and let the nipples dry.
  • Leave your brassier open for some time.
  • Apply your own milk on the sore nipples.
  • You may use any nipple protector to stop the clothes from rubbing against your nipples.
  • Use cotton breast pads and change them often.

How Can You Prevent Sore Nipples?

There are various measures that may be adopted to prevent sore nipples. Here are some of them:

1. Self-Latch

Like all mammals, your baby has the natural instinct to self-latch. You should let your baby latch on himself. If you think your baby needs help, then you may intervene.

2. Position Your Baby Correctly

It is important to position your baby in the correct way so that the baby can latch properly.

Position Your Baby Correctly

3. Do Not Wait for Too Long

A hungry baby can not only be irritable and cranky but may tend to latch harder, causing your nipples to become sore.

4. Tongue-Ties in Babies

A tongue-tie is a condition wherein the skin connecting the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth is either too short or extends too far to the front of the tongue. The babies with these conditions are not able to latch correctly and tend to pull the nipple. You should look for any such signs of tongue-tie-related problems and get medical help.

Can You Avoid Getting Sore Nipples by Limiting Baby’s Time at Breast?

Sore nipples while breastfeeding are majorly caused due to improper latching position and not by prolonged latching. If you notice that your baby is latching on to you for longer, this means that your baby is not latching correctly and not getting enough breast milk. You may limit your baby’s latching time by getting in touch with a lactation expert. The expert will guide you on the correct latching and feeding position for keeping sore nipples and other breastfeeding problems at bay.

Breastfeeding should not be an uncomfortable or painful experience for the mother. It is, instead, an experience that strengthens the bond between the mother and the baby. The mother should get the hang of the correct way to breastfeed her baby to stay away from any such breastfeeding issues. Timely action can help her get some relief and treat sore nipples quickly.

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