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Breastfeeding is the most natural way to provide nutrition to your baby.
When you start breastfeeding, it is natural to feel some tenderness as you get used to this new experience.
If tenderness continues, it can lead to cracked and bleeding nipples.
Most commonly cracked and sore nipples after breastfeeding are due to latching problems.
Thus, learning the proper breastfeeding technique is an essential part of avoiding and healing cracked nipples.
Use your milk to soothe cracked nipples
One of the easiest remedies to soothe your cracked nipples is applying your own milk to the tender skin.
Your own milk is sterile and the most natural liquid to apply over the skin that will not adversely impact your baby.
Manually express a little milk and let it air dry on your nipple.
Besides providing a natural way to soothe the skin, the human breast milk is also thought to carry antibacterial healing properties.
However, you should not let your skin bathe in the breast milk for extended period of time if you have thrush.
Yeast can thrive in the milk if allowed to do so and this can worsen the infection.
Wash your nipples after breastfeeding.
Make sure to clean your nipples with water and a gentle soap after breastfeeding to wash off your baby’s saliva and dried milk.
Rinsing off your nipples after each feeding will decrease a risk of infection, which can lead to cracked and sore skin.
Use only unscented, gentle soap to wash the skin to reduce irritation.
Be sure to rinse off the soap entirely as leaving a residue can irritate the skin and worsen the problem.
After washing your nipples, gently pat them dry with a soft cloth and allow them to air dry.
This can help reduce soreness and prevent irritation caused your bra or a shirt.
You can also keep your irritated nipples from coming into contact with a constricting bra by putting them into doughnut-shaped nipple shells.
You may want to check out over-the-counter ointments to help soothe cracked nipples.
Make sure you evaluate their ingredients, as they should be all natural and contain no chemicals that are unsuitable for your baby.
Choose antibacterial ointment to soothe and treat skin that is infected.
Your lactation specialist or doctor may also recommend a prescription strength ointment.
Olive oil or medical-grade lanolin ointments can also help promote healing of your cracked nipple and keep it from forming a scab.
Because the ingredients are all natural, you do not need to worry about washing it off between feedings.
A moisture barrier may also help speed the healing of your sore nipple, as research has shown that keeping a cracked nipple naturally moist and slowing natural evaporation promotes healing.
Apply a cold compress or hydrogel dressing over the nipples.
You can use a cold compress or a moist dressing to treat your cracked skin.
Both techniques can help relieve irritation, pain, and inflammation.
Hydrogel pads can be applied to your nipples between feedings to keep them from drying out.
Make sure that you do not touch your nipple tissue directly with your fingers, as you could possibly transfer bacteria to it.
Avoid using hydrogel pads if you already have a fungal or bacterial infection on your nipple, as enclosing your nipple in a moist environment can worsen the infection.
You can make a cold compress using ice or purchase an ice pack from the drugstore.
A cold compress helps soothe your nipples and can decrease inflammation.
Use nipple shields with the guidance of a lactation educator.
Some practitioners may recommend using nipple shields, which are silicone shields placed over your nipples during breastfeeding.
Be aware that these devices can do more harm than good if used improperly, including increasing your baby’s difficulty to latch.
Get help from your doctor or lactation educator so you know how to use them correctly.
Ineffective latching and breastfeeding due to the nipple shields can cause your nipples to be pinched, creating a larger injury.
Try salt water rinse
A saline solution that is about as salty as tears can be prepared at home to clean and disinfect cracked nipples.
Mix ½ tsp of table salt in a cup of sterile water.
Bathe your nipples for no longer than 5 minutes in the solution.
Rinse your nipples in sterile water to remove the salty taste before nursing your baby.
Recognize other causes for sore nipples
Sore nipples are almost unavoidable in the first few weeks after delivery, as your baby’s mouth is very small.
Poor latching and positioning are typically the main causes of sore and cracked nipples during nursing.
However, there are other causes of sore nipples you should be aware of.
Your baby may get a yeast infection in her mouth or throat, known as thrush, and pass this onto you during nursing.
Symptoms of thrush include painful, and sometimes cracked nipples, as well as redness and itchiness of the breast.
If you suspect thrush, seek medical treatment for both you and your baby.
Mastitis, a bacterial infection of the milk ducts, can cause your nipples to become cracked and your ducts to become too inflamed to let milk down effectively.
This infection can also result in a fever, chills and body aches with more serious complications.
You may suffer from nipple discomfort due to Raynaud’s syndrome, which causes your nipple to become blue or white after a feeding session and you experience pain as blood flows back to your nipple.
Know when to seek medical help.
If nipple soreness persists after the first week of nursing or if you think your nipples might be infected, seek help from a lactation consultant or doctor.
You might have another underlying problem in addition to a poor latch from your baby.
If you experience any symptoms of infection, including bleeding or oozing nipples, tenderness around the areola, pain during or after nursing, fever and chills, talk to your doctor.
Allow your baby to self-latch.
Your baby is born with the innate instinct to feed.
Barring anatomical abnormalities, you may be able to avoid painful breastfeeding by letting your baby direct the latch.
Sit in a semi-reclining position and place your baby belly-down on your chest with her head close to your exposed breast.
Allow your baby to orient herself to your nipple and self-latch.
Position baby correctly.
You can help guide your baby’s body and your own body into the most effective nursing position.
This helps your baby to latch onto your nipple correctly.
Sit comfortably with your baby on your lap.
Support your baby’s shoulders with your arm but do not direct her head so that they are able to self-latch.
Point your nipple downward toward your baby’s nose so that she can latch properly and the nipple will be aimed for the roof of the baby’s mouth.
Adjust your baby without unlatching.
If your nipple hurts as your baby starts to nurse, then adjust her body instead of detaching them from your breast.
Detaching can cause your baby to become frustrated and to clamp down on your nipple, causing more damage.
Position your baby’s shoulders lower or higher to help adjust the angle of her head, as this may improve the latch.
Try bringing your baby closer to your body so that her head dips down slightly. This allows her to bring your nipple further into the mouth and improve latch.
Recognize early signs of hunger.
A frustrated hungry baby is more likely to clamp down on your nipple than to latch onto it correctly.
Look for feeding cues and feed your baby before she gets frustrated and over-hungry.
Soothe your fussy baby by allowing her to feed immediately when she shows signs of hunger.
Check if your baby has a tongue-tie.
Your baby may be unable to latch properly due to having a tongue-tie.
A small piece of skin tethers your baby’s tongue at the bottom of her mouth, which makes it impossible to move the tongue forward.
Check to see if your baby is able to extend her tongue past the bottom lip or can lift her tongue to the roof of the mouth when crying.
A doctor can clip the small piece of skin tethering your baby’s tongue in order to help improve the latch.
This is a simple procedure that your baby recovers from very quickly.