Nipples can have rough time in the early days - not only is the skin unaccustomed to getting so much action, but often as a result of learning how to breastfeed correctly you make mistakes which may cause grazes and splits in your nipples that can make you very uncomfortable.
Relieving sore nipples:
Try to feed your baby often - don't put off feeding because of this early discomfort. Nipples are often sore in the early days just because this is one part of your body that doesn't usually get this kind of work-out. Try to view nipple soreness as being akin to sore muscles - you expect and accept a little soreness in your muscles when you've had a break from exercise.
Before you breastfeed:
- Make yourself comfortable and try to relax.
- Gently massage your breasts to soften them which will make it easier for your baby to attach correctly.
- Soothe your breasts by applying a warm face cloth.
- Express a little milk from behind the nipple to make attachment easier.
- If you need pain relief, talk to your GP or try putting an ice pack on the tender area.
- Offer your less sore breast first - your baby will be hungry and may pull at your breast which will make you more uncomfortable.
- Check your baby's attachment and positioning - make sure that you're holding his body weight so he's not dragging your breast downwards
- There are many different positions for feeding that you can try if you feel that your nipple soreness is the result of the way your baby is positioned. Some mothers change positions as their baby grows to accommodate their changing size and weight.
- When you remove your baby from the breast, break the seal with your finger rather than pulling him off (which will drag at the nipple and be painful).
- Check your nipples after every feed for wear and tear.
- Express a little hindmilk and rub it over your nipple. Leave your nipples to air dry
- Don't let your nipples stay wet - you may have change breast pads more frequently and avoid using plastic-backed breast pads at all.
- Nipple protectors will protect tender nipples from contact with clothing.
- Avoid using a express pump while you have sore nipples as this may exacerbate the problem.
To relieve cracked nipples:
Cracked nipples are the result of incorrect attachment. They are painful but you should try to continue feeding your baby as they heal, paying particular attention to his attachment and positioning.
- Air is a great curer of cracked nipples, so give your sore breasts plenty of air time after each feed.
- If you're finding it's too painful to feed, try expressing for 24 hours to rest the nipple and allow it to begin to heal.
- If you do need to express, do it by hand and avoid using a pump (which may make your nipples feel worse).
- Reintroduce feeding slowly. Try to offer short feeds throughout the day.
- If healing is slow, or the pain is excessive, ask your GP for advice.
- If you keep getting cracked nipples, you may need to consider getting the advice of a lactation consultant to get an expert opinion on your attachment difficulties.
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