Sore, tender, cracked nipples are par for the breastfeeding course, regardless of how careful you are when you start off. Breastfeeding does become a painless, convenient, bonding experience fairly quickly - but not quite yet. Some women’s nipples toughen up in a matter of days, yet all it takes is one time that the baby latches or unlatches incorrectly to cause painful cracks and scabs (only made worse by subsequent feeding sessions). Be sure to contact a local lactation consultant if you need help positioning the baby correctly, and, beyond that, just fight through it. Once the rocky beginning is over, you’ll be glad you stuck it out. In the meantime:
- Use a little breast milk to help heal sore nipples. Use left-over hind milk or simply express a little to rub on yourself
- Make sure your nipples are dry at all times - meaning changing your nursing pads as soon as they’re wet and letting them breathe (at home, of course.) Don’t immediately cover up when you’re done with a feeding - the air is good for you
- Buy breast shells if even the touch of fabric on your nipples is irritating. The shells are designed to give your nipples some breathing room
- Try switching your positions so that different parts of your nipple are being used. This is also helpful in preventing clogged milk ducts.
One of the most important things to remember when dealing with sore nipples is to keep feeding on both sides, even if one is painful and the other isn’t. If you favor one side over the other, not only can you do damage to your milk production, but you’ll most likely wake up to find one breast two times the size of the other. It’s also important to know that most breastfeeding woes are temporary and most likely normal. Before you know it, your nipples will take to breastfeeding as if they were designed for it.