What Can I Do to Prevent Sore Nipples? 9 Must-Know Tips
Unfortunately, sore nipples are a common problem for breastfeeding mothers, especially during the first months.
Although the pain may make you want to give up, there are some things you can do to soothe the area so you can continue giving the benefits of breast milk to your baby.
In this post, we’re sharing 9 tips to help prevent sore, dry and cracked nipples.
Why Do Sore Nipples Happen?
If you’re breastfeeding, sore nipples are common and they happen for a variety of reasons:
- Pain from latching/baby not latching properly
- Improper use of breast pump
- Just getting used to breastfeeding
- Hormonal changes (ovulation, period, etc.)
- Medical reasons mentioned in the last section of this post
Finding out why your nipples are hurting can help you find a treatment or solution that will work. Many times during the early days, nipples can hurt because the basics of latching aren’t being followed. If your latch is perfected and you still are a little sore, you may benefit from some products designed to soothe or shield the area.
Tips to Prevent Sore Nipples
#1 Use Baby-Led Breastfeeding
One tip to getting a proper latch is letting your baby do it herself. The goal is to encourage her to follow her instincts without forcing her to feed. Here’s how:
- Begin when you are comfortable and calm.
- With her diaper on, lay your baby against your bare chest (skin-to-skin). Hold her between your breasts and relax, without any expectation.
- If she’s hungry, she’ll probably give you a sign. She may move herself to look up at you or start looking for your breast.
- If you see her searching for your breast, simply support her head and shoulders without guiding her.
- When your baby’s chin feels your breast, she should move up and open her mouth for a proper latch.
A good latch should be deep. Your baby should have your breast in her mouth to get the most milk, not just your nipple. If your nipple is flat after nursing, it’s probably because she’s not sucking on the entire area, causing too much pressure.
#2 Encourage Self-Latching
If your baby seems to be having trouble with the steps above, you still don’t want to force her to feed. But there’s a few things you can do to encourage her to latch onto your breast herself.
- If your baby can’t find the correct position, move her so that her chin and lower jaw are touching your breast.
- Glide your nipple across your baby’s lips and see if her tongue opens.
- If she’s not latching deep enough, position her lower lip further from the base of the nipple.
#3 Unlatch Properly
When your baby has had enough to eat, she’ll stop and unlatch herself by simply pulling her mouth away. However, if you need to stop feeding for whatever reason, you should be careful how you unlatch her. If you don’t break the suction before moving your baby, it could strain your nipple and cause pain. Instead, gently place your finger between your breast and your baby’s gums.
#4 Change Your Position
There are a variety of nursing positions you can try out, so if you’re sore, don’t stick to just one. You can check out illustrations and the full instructions for each position here. Switch your breastfeeding positions to see if your baby gets a better latch, reducing any nipple pain.
#5 Use a Breast Pump
If your baby’s latch is causing sore nipples but you still want her to have breast milk, a great option is to use a breast pump. Electric pumps can help you express milk to save for whenever your baby is hungry.
You should also know that your breasts may get sore if they’re too full. If you’re producing more than your baby is drinking, it’s a good idea to express some milk to prevent pain. Although this can be done using a wet towel compress, it’s quicker and easier to use a breast pump.
A good option is the Serenity Breast Pump. Since the pump has a 10-step suction, you can adjust it so that it’s not hurting your nipple. It’s simple to use, easy to clean and battery-operated so that it can be used anywhere. The breast shield it comes with also provides a snug fit so you can be comfortable while expressing.
Here’s another tip for using breast pumps: Start with a slower and lower suction level. Some mothers make the mistake of setting the pump suction too high and making it pump quicker, thinking they will get the breast milk out faster. Unfortunately, using it incorrectly can cause nipple pain and may lead to less milk.
#6 Feed Frequently
Watch out for signs that your baby is hungry and try not to go more than a few hours without breastfeeding. If your baby is already very hungry when you start feeding her, her suck can be more aggressive. This can put unnecessary pressure on your nipples, causing them pain. You can also begin nursing on the breast that hurts less. That way, your baby can get out any hunger-related pulling before turning to the sore breast.
#7 Ask Yourself if Nipple Shields are Helping or Hurting
If your nipples are in pain, it’s likely you’ve already tried nipple shields during breastfeeding. If you’ve noticed some relief and you’re addressing any latching issues, they can be a good short-term solution. However, if it doesn’t seem like they’re working, stop using them. Many mothers find that their babies suck the tip of the shield instead of the nipple, which can lead to more pain.
If you’re interested in trying nipple shields, look for one that provides the most skin-to-skin contact. For example, this Medela shield has great reviews and the cutout provides more contact. Many experts advise mothers only to use shields if a doctor or lactation consultant has given them the okay.
#8 Moisturize Your Breasts
To prevent your nipples from becoming sore, you should pay close attention to your breasts during your months nursing. If they aren’t hurting and are naturally moisturized, you don’t need to do anything. However, if you notice them becoming cracked or dry (especially in dry, cold climates), apply a moisturizer right away. There are plenty of ointments and creams made specifically for breastfeeding that are safe for the baby. Pay attention to the ingredients in the lotions you use since your bundle of joy could get what remains on the skin in her mouth. If you don’t have any moisturizer on hand, a quick trick is to rub some of your breast milk into your nipples. Some mothers find this works as well as creams.
It’s also a good idea to stay away from any products that could cause irritations. This includes scented soaps, body washes, and lotions. Since the fragrances and chemicals in some products can tend to dry out this area, some mothers choose to stick with natural, sensitive-skin or fragrance-free alternatives.
#9 Try Breast Shells
Breast shells are products that fit over your nipple and protect them from rubbing against your clothing or bra when you’re not breastfeeding. If your nipples tend to get a little sensitive after feeding, this can stop them from getting more irritated and prevent soreness. Good shields include holes, allowing air to reach your breasts so they don’t become dry. Since they’re made of flexible silicone, they’re comfortable to wear and aren’t noticeable through clothing.
If you’re already experiencing nipple soreness, shells are also a good idea. Since they reduce the friction between your breasts and clothing, you’ll prevent further damage and speed up healing time.
What to Do if Nothing Works and You’re Still Sore
If you’ve tried the above tips and your nipples don’t feel any relief, you should see your doctor or a lactation consultant who can help you determine the issue and/or solution. The problem may include:
- Tongue tie— Tongue tie is a condition when the skin that joins the tongue and the bottom of the mouth is too short. This can lead to problems latching. Your doctor or lactation consultant will be able to diagnose this.
- Latching problems— You may be ready to give up breastfeeding because you’ve tried every tip with no improvement. However, a lactation consultant may be able to teach you and your baby how to get a better latch.
- Thrush— If you develop a yeast infection on your nipple’s skin, it can cause soreness. Learn the signs of thrush when breastfeeding.
How do you prevent sore nipples during nursing? If you have any additional tips, please let us know in the comments below! If you have any nursing or pregnant friends, help them out by sharing this post!
P.S. Have you heard about fetal heartbeat monitors? These handheld devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat through headphones, similar to an ultrasound. Many mothers find that fetal dopplers help ease anxiety and promote bonding.