Cracked nipples… the bane of any breastfeeding mother’s existence. It is enough to make you want to run to the grocery store and buy all the formula on the shelf! Before resorting to that, read the following tips and keep on going, nursing mamas!
My Experience with Cracked Nipples
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After successfully nursing Hannah for 18 months, I was very confident I would have a great nursing relationship with Grace. She latched well in the delivery room, just half an hour after she was born and continued to do so during our hospital stay. I knew to expect some tenderness as my milk came in, but felt confident I knew what I was doing.
Well fast forward a few days, and it turns out nursing my second baby wasn’t as easy as I expected and I was in agony for days.
During this time it was hard for me, a veteran nursing mom, to distinguish what was the ‘normal’ pain of adjusting to nursing (ignore anyone who says breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt, for those first few days after your milk comes it, it hurts!) and a bad latch that was doing damage.
After a week or two, the pain seemed to be getting better on one side and worse on the other, and I came to the realization that I had a badly cracked nipple.
With some work on latching properly and a lot of trial and error for healing solutions, things started to correct themselves and we are still breastfeeding successfully. I have no doubt we will continue to nurse until a year or beyond, but I also recognize how hard it is for mamas who are dealing with intense pain while nursing, especially first time moms who don’t have experience with breastfeeding.
For mamas who are new to breastfeeding, I want you to know that some pain is normal, but it is temporary (lasting about 10-20 seconds after latching and will get better after a week or two). It is normal to feel apprehensive when it is feeding time (I felt this way with both my babies for the first few weeks) because you are anticipating pain.
I also want you to know that you will come out the other side of it and breastfeeding becomes SO SO SO much easier. Don’t give up, but do seek help by seeing a lactation consultant if you’re experiencing pain. I promise, you can do it and it is worth it to keep going!
Keep reading to learn how I healed my cracked nipples and what to do to prevent them from returning!
Knowledge is Power
One thing I recommend to any new breastfeeding mom is to take a breastfeeding course. Knowledge is power when it comes to breastfeeding, and being aware of the current recommendations and research is HUGE. There are so many health professionals who are unaware of the latest breastfeeding recommendations and unknowingly give mamas bad advice that can damage or even end the breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby. I urge you to educate yourself.
There are many hospitals and birthing centers that give free breastfeeding courses. Ask your care provider or go to your local La Leche League for more information.
If you do not have a free class nearby (or if you are an introvert like me and would prefer to learn from home), I highly recommend this online breastfeeding course. Created by a certified lactation educator, it is super afforable, easy to understand and ABSOLUTELY FULL of must-know breastfeeding information.
You can watch the informative videos while putting those swollen pregnant feet up, or if you’ve already given birth, maybe during an evening of cluster feeding.
Whether you choose to complete a course in person or online, be sure to educate yourself so you can be as prepared as possible for any breastfeeding challenge.
Ok, now that I’ve ended my rant, onto my recommendations for how to heal cracked nipples:
How I Dealt with Cracked Nipples AND Continued to Nurse:
First, I had to make sure that the baby latched properly. G didn’t latch easily. When she finally did latch, I was so happy, I let her start nursing even when her latch wasn’t quite right. I should have taken her off and re-latched her.
After I realized she was doing damage, I was very consistent about getting a good latch and would readjust her or have her re-latch every time things weren’t quite right.
The right latch is essential. If there is a problem with the latch, more damage is going to be done each time you nurse, and no matter how many ointments you apply, the pain and damage are not going to go away.
If you don’t have a lot of background knowledge about breastfeeding, I can’t encourage you enough to see a lactation consultant! These ladies are so wonderful and knowledgeable, I can’t say enough good things about them! Even if you’ve done a lot of research about breastfeeding, an experienced eye (and someone who is not dealing with postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation) can be a real asset.
Le Leche League Canada and the Le Leche League International are great places to start in locating a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group. The hospital or birthing center where you delivered your baby will also be able to provide you with local resources.
My Post-Nursing Regimen:
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After feeding, do a salt water rinse on your nipple to speed healing. This is a very glamorous ordeal where you make a salt water solution (1/4 teaspoon salt to 1/2 cup warm water) and apply it to your nipple (pour it in a small cup or shot glass and apply to your nipple).
Finally, apply a hydrogel pad. Guys, these are my new top recommended product to new moms and I can’t say enough about how soothing they are. I would apply one to my breast, then place a breast pad over top. Added bonus: these really protect your nipples from any friction that can be so irritating (painful) in the first few weeks. Do yourself a favor and order immediately!
I did this consistently for about a week and noticed a HUGE difference. Nursing was bearable and I was no longer stressing about every nursing session. Now, three weeks later, things have resolved themselves and our nursing relationship is great!
Other Tips for Healing Cracked Nipples:
- Nurse often so baby isn’t nursing voraciously.
- Start nursing on the least sore side, so baby is a little gentler on the sorest side.
- After feeding, express some breast milk, rub it on the nipple and let it dry.
- Allow your nipples to fully dry after feeding. Either air dry, or use a blow dryer on warm (not hot!) to speed up the process.
- Use breathable cotton breast pads. Plastic linings can trap moisture and further irritate your nipples.
- Change breast pads regularly, after anytime they become wet or damp. This will mean you go through a lot of breast pads for the first few weeks. Mine were constantly in the wash!
- Distract yourself during the first few seconds of the feed while the pain is the worst. Deep breathing, relaxing music or a distracting television show can help you get through worst of the pain.
- Use heat or cold to give yourself some relief between feedings. Earth Mama Angel Babies makes Booby Tubes specifically for nursing mothers. I haven’t used them, but they look amazing!
- Don’t wash your breasts with soap when showering (you won’t want anything touching them anyway!). The soap can dry or irritate your skin.
With any luck, these tips will get you through the worst of the pain from cracked nipples. Remember that initial breast-feeding pain will last about two weeks. If the pain is excruciating, or lasts past the first 10-20 seconds, you will want to talk to a lactation consultant and take the steps above to find some relief.
Stick with breastfeeding through the pain. After the initial few weeks, it becomes so much easier and so worth it! Hang in there mamas!
Have you experienced cracked nipples or other breastfeeding problems? What advice would you give to other breastfeeding mamas?
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