If you’ve never had sore, cracked nipples, you might think it’s an exaggeration to say it’s one of the worst (physical) things a mom has to deal with. But for everyone who has had to latch a baby onto sore, bleeding, cracked nipples, you know it’s a pain not soon forgotten.
You cringe every time baby latches, bracing for the sharp, radiating pain. You hold your breath as baby sleeps, knowing that her waking up means another painful nursing session. And one slip up of the latch makes existing pain levels surge.
I know it’s hard. And I know you can get past it.
What to Do When Breastfeeding is Painful
Before any healing can really begin, you need to identify the source of the problem. If it’s a bad latch, for example, your efforts to heal the cracked nipple or alleviate soreness will be lost the next time you nurse.
Check these things out if nursing is painful.
- Change position – try laying belly to belly
- Check baby’s lip position – Are they flanged, fully outward on top and bottom?
- Check for lip and tongue tie
- Check for signs and symptoms of yeast – white on baby’s tongue or roof of mouth, for example
- Check for any knots in the breast or other signs of impending mastitis
If you’re unsure of any of these points of reference and are outside of the care of a midwife or birth worker, consult lactation consultant or La Leche League Advisor. It’s important to have a good latch and address any yeast overgrowth/thrush before they become established. When in doubt, seek help! It really does take a village, and it starts now.
How to Heal Sore, Cracked Nipples
Sometimes, early nursing is uncomfortable. Nursing while pregnant or at certain points of your cycle can be less than pleasant, as well. In other words, pain while nursing indicates something, but it’s not always something that can be fixed.
Depending on the source of your discomfort and the extent of the sore, cracked nipples and damage, you can try a few things to heal cracked nipples and relieve soreness.
- You may need to use a nipple shield temporarily, but be sure to plan to wean from it quickly. It can be difficult to move away from using a nipple shield. Check out Kellymom.com for some advice on when to use a nipple shield and how to wean from it.
- Use a gentle healing salve to soothe cracked, bleeding, and raw nipples. Lanolin is a common recommendation, but I prefer using an herbal nipple healing salve prepared with pesticide free ingredients and safe for baby’s inevitable consumption.
- A healing compress can be made from your postpartum herb bath, or you can soak in a full bath. I recommend keeping some prepared and soaking a rag or smaller compress in it to apply to the sore areas.
You may also need to change nursing positions regularly to keep from wearing out a specific spot.
Don’t Give Up!
The most important thing is to not give up. Like resetting your computer to see if it works better, the answer for nursing woes is almost always to keep nursing! You can fish out the source of the pain and, with a tool or two and the support of some mamas and experts who’ve been where you are, you can do this.
If you don’t have local support, reach out to our online community. Comment here and post your questions, concerns, and to just have someone understand where you’re coming from.
You can get past this and to a pleasant breastfeeding relationship with your little one. Remember to let your love and milk flow!
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