It’s no joke when it comes to the early stages of breastfeeding. You are exhausted, engorged, and still trying to figure out a routine. One major cause for concern in the early stages of breastfeeding are the sore nipples. They are chaffed, chapped, cracked, and bleeding, and shows the less glamorous side of breastfeeding.
Fear not, having sore nipples is incredibly normal and occurs to everyone who breastfeeds, no matter how many times they have breastfed. Here are the basic reasons as to why your nipples may be sore and the quick fixes to get you back on track to your breastfeeding goal.
Being a New Breastfeeding Mom
One major reason is that you are new to it. A newborn is latching on every thirty minutes. This is called cluster feeding. In the first two months, your newborn won’t do a whole lot except feed from you. Your nipples are sensitive, and now they are even more so because of all the extra attention they are receiving now. Don’t fret. Within six weeks, that soreness will go away, and you won’t feel a thing. If the soreness has prolonged past the first six weeks, there could be an underlying issue as to why.
Nipples are Cracked
Sore nipples can also come from cracked nipples. From all the suckling or pumping, your nipples begin to crack and bleed. If one side is worse than the other, you can always skip feeding on that breast and opt to pump it instead. (It is very important to continue to remove milk no matter what.)
A pump may still hurt since the suction still pulls, so I recommend a Haakaa, a silicone pump that will remove milk but more gently. The Haakaa will pull the milk out and catch your letdown versus the suckling motion of an electric/ handheld pump. If your nipples are cracked, try to avoid using lanolin. Using lanolin moistens the cracks making it longer to heal. It can also lead to infections.
If you are experiencing sore nipples beyond the average six weeks and you are exclusively nursing, you may want to have your baby checked for a tongue/ lip tie. Sore nipples are a sign of a poor latch. Small to no weight gain, a clicking noise while nursing and extra gas are also a sign of a possible tie.
If you think this may be the issue, contact your pediatrician to get a referral to a preferred provider, an E.N.T. Peds. and lactation consultants aren’t always trained in spotting ties. If you got a tongue and lip tie diagnosed by a pediatrician or lactation consultant, get a second opinion with an E.N.T. Getting a tie fixed is not only important for breastfeeding purposes. It is also important for your child’s future dental health.
Wrong Flange Size
If you are exclusively pumping and you have a sore nipple outside the average time, your flanges could be the wrong size. You may have to buy a different size. Your nipples should not be rubbing against the sides of the flanges, but your areolae should not be getting pulled into the tube. Another option is to use Pumpin Pals, silicone inserts for your flanges. You can also measure your nipple diameter in millimeters, so that way, you won’t have to guess and keep repurchasing flanges.
Sensitive Nipples with A Pump
Some nipples are just sensitive to a pump. You could have the right flange, changed pump parts, lower pumping settings. A couple of small tips for you are using a little bit of coconut oil to lubricate your flange, making it easier for your nipple to slide in and out while expressing.
Many parents also loved using Pumpin Pals, for this reason as well because the silicone insert is soft and flexible. Also, play with your pumping functions. Find out what works best for you and your nipples.
If you are nursing and sore, you will want to make sure that the baby doesn’t have a shallow latch. A Shallow latch can create production issues and make breastfeeding harder and more painful. To avoid this, you hold your breast in one hand like you are holding a sandwich. Next, you adjust your hand so that way your nipple is pointing up towards the roof of the baby’s mouth and insert all the nipple and as much of the areola as possible.
When your little begins to teeth, the acidity of their mouth begins to change. So for a brief moment, it may be painful or uncomfortable on your nipples. It can create a soreness on your nipples. If you feel sore and you think the causes might be teething.
After nursing, simply wipe your nipples off with a damp cloth. Your nipples also may be sore from biting and the nibbling. Teaching your baby to note bite is not an easy feat. Stop the nursing session, cover your breast, and firmly say, “no!” Repeat steps until they have learned not to bite. This will help prevent sore nipples from teething in the future.
A few other tricks to try for sore nipples are allowing your nipples to air dry and rubbing your breast milk on them, avoiding bras and tight shirts, and using coconut oil on your nipples. These tricks will also work for cracked nipples. Dealing with the pain of sore nipples is hard, but you can persevere and get through it.
If it seems like you are still struggling with sore nipples, you can always reach out to a breastfeeding support group. A few popular ones are La Leche League, Breastfeeding U.S.A., and Milky Mommas. All have Lactation
Consultants and are a great resource. You can also contact the hospital where you gave birth. The hospital normally has a breastfeeding support group or offers free lactation services. You can also check out your local W.I.C. office for lactation support.