How to Care for Sore Nipples when Breastfeeding
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a total blessing in disguise that new mommas are so tired, because they’re never fully awake enough to realize just how much pain their body is in! Let's start with the mild pains: her legs are sore from all the walking done before labor to boost contraction consistency, her shoulders and arms are sore from holding the babe, and her neck is sore from looking down so much at that cute new bundle. I’ll also add a sore behind from laying in bed for a few days straight and, of course, having oodles of pressure on it during delivery.
But do we feel any of that pain? Nope. Because of the more prominent or obvious pain: healing “down there” or from a C-section incision that takes ample amount of time and remains painful, or at least uncomfortable, for just as long! Then, there’s the uterine contractions trying to reduce everything back to normal (this is the actual worst), and of course, the dreaded sore nipples from breastfeeding.
Now, do you see what I mean by zombie-mode not being the worst thing in the world?? A woman’s body is amazing, that’s for sure. While each of these pains deserves its own post, this time around I am going to focus on how to care for sore nipples when breastfeeding and some useful products to help ease some of the pain.
First, know you’re not alone! I don’t think it’s possible to go from non-breastfeeding nipples to breastfeeding nipples with at least SOME discomfort or pain. I guarantee if you ask for advice, or at least a little sympathy, you’ll be flooded with tips and support from many experienced breastfeeding mommas. Also, Lactation Specialists are available all around and are wonderful resources when it comes to any issues with breastfeeding.
Second, realize there are more than one type of sore breasts. Cracked, bleeding, or dry skinned nipples, engorged breasts, clogged ducts, or simple discomfort from milk let-down are all common side effects from nursing and none of them are enjoyable! The majority of these just come with the occasion but some could mean there's an underlying problem. Listen to your body and seek medical attention if you feel it is necessary.
Third, there is hope! Not only do these symptoms come to an end after some “toughening up” and over a period of time (usually around three months, mommas start having some relief) but there are some amazing products that can be purchased for temporary relief and to help newly breastfeeding moms adjust!
Hydrogel Nursing Pads
These offer cooling relief for soreness in between feedings. Just the word hydrogel sounds soothing!
If you’re unfamiliar with how to use a nipple shield, read all about them from one of my previous posts: How to Use a Nipple Shield. Basically, nipple shields are great for helping with latching issues and/or flat or inverted nipples. They are used during feedings, and have a perfectly placed groove to allow baby’s nose to still be in contact with mom’s skin.
These are to be worn continuously between feedings or for about a half-hour before a feeding. It comes with incredibly handy instructions for use in a couple of different areas. There is a function for flat or inverted nipples, or engorgement, which puts mild pressure on the bottom of the areola to help slowly push the nipple out far enough for baby to easily latch. Another function is for sore nipples in general since it bubbles out far enough to keep the nipple from the movement of clothing and from wet nursing pads. The SoftShell has holes for ventilation, which also aid in the healing process.
Boob-Ease Therapy Pillows
Not your ordinary nursing pads. Not only is the name incredibly witty, but their function is out of this world; no wonder they’re such a popular product! These pillows are very soft and comfortable and have flax seed inside to be warmed up in the microwave to help comfort mama and help with milk letdown, or it can be tossed into the freezer for pain relief! They are large, measuring about 8 inches in diameter, and are made with bamboo fleece on one side and bamboo and organic cotton jersey on the other side; take your pick!
Tubby Todd is my new favorite! They have something for every occasion including a nursing salve for dry, cracked, or sore nipples. This is fragrance free and is perfectly safe for you and your baby before, during, and after breastfeeding.
Here are a few extra tips from Medela when dealing with sore nipples:
- Limit the nursing time on the sore nipple if possible
- Nurse on the least sore side first. For many moms the most painful part is the beginning sucks while waiting for let-down to occur
- Express milk with hand before feeding to help speed up let-down
- Massage breast while nursing to stimulate milk flow
- Where a cotton bra and non-plastic lined bra pads
- Use deep breathing, soft music, or other relaxation techniques before and during breastfeeding