Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. It should never be a “toe-curling” experience. Cracked and or bleeding nipples may indicate there is a problem. Contact your health care provider or lactation consultant if you experience bleeding or cracking nipples during breastfeeding. Below are other problems that women may encounter with nipples and breastfeeding.
If you have sore nipples, you may find these suggestions helpful:
- Check your infant’s positioning and latch-on.
- Encourage your infant to open wide by tickling the upper lip and manually expressing colostrum or milk.
- Your nipple should look rounded when the baby comes off the breast. If your nipple is flattened or angled you need to work on a deeper latch.
- When feeding, start on the least sore side first.
- When removing your infant from the breast, always break the suction with your finger in the corner of your infant’s mouth.
- If you have a crack on the nipple, always gently wash with mild soap when you take your shower.
- Apply fresh breast milk to your nipples before feeding, and let dry after each feeding. There are healing properties in the milk.
- To encourage cracks to heal, try moist wound healing using 100 percent pure, modified lanolin ointment.
- If you have flat or inverted nipples, it may help to use a breast pump to pull out your nipple for a proper latch.
- When using a breast pump, center your nipple in the flange’s walls, and keep the suction at a comfortable setting to avoid injury.
- Breast engorgement may result in flat nipples, which make it hard for your baby to latch-on properly. Hand express or use your breast pump long enough to draw the nipple out and soften the areola for a deeper latch.
- It is well established that early use of pacifiers or bottles before breastfeeding could lead to nipple confusion. Infants use a different technique to suck on an artificial nipple, which could lead to breastfeeding improperly causing sore nipples. We recommend avoiding bottles and pacifiers, especially if you have having difficulty nursing.
A plugged duct is a tender spot or lump in the breast that is not accompanied by a fever. To treat a plugged duct:
- Begin feedings on the breast with the plugged duct.
- Put a towel or a disposable diaper soaked with warm water on the sore area before nursing. Gently massage the area before and during feeding.
- Try to nurse your baby in a position that places his or her chin or nose in alignment with the plugged duct.
- Nurse every two hours, including during the night. Avoid long periods between feedings, and pump if you miss a feeding.
- Make sure your bra is not fitting too tightly.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that may be caused by infection. You should call your doctor to discuss any of the following symptoms:
- sudden, flu-like feeling, achiness, or fever (101 degrees and higher)
- a painful spot or lump in your breast
- your breast feels hot and swollen or appears red
You may need antibiotics to clear up the infection, so always call your doctor.