Breastfeeding: Treating sore nipples

Tips for breastfeeding challenges and dealing with sore nipples.

Early on breastfeeding, many women often experience sore nipples. The first step in managing sore nipples is to eliminate the cause of the soreness. Healing methods will be effective after the source of trauma has been eliminated. One or more of the following steps may help for managing sore nipples.

Nurse first on the least sore side. After letdown occurs, switch the baby to the other side and nurse until the breast softens and then return to the first breast to finish the feeding. If both nipples are sore, the mother should manually express her breast to stimulate letdown before her baby breastfeeds. Breastfeed more frequently and for shorter periods. Apply expressed breast milk to the nipples after a feeding to promote healing. Apply a medical grade lanolin ointment or hydrogel dressing to the affected nipple to promote moist wound healing, or a prescribed antibiotic ointment or an antibiotic anti- inflammatory/anti-yeast combination cream to the affected nipple sparingly after each feeding. Stop putting the baby to the breast temporarily if nipple soreness is interfering with the relationship between mother and baby. Milk removal by manual expression or pumping will be necessary during this break. The expressed milk may be given to the baby using an alternative feeding method until the nipples have been healed. Oral pain medications may help. Immediately consult your health care professional if there is an intense, toe-curling pain, burning in the nipples or soreness that lasts more than three days after mother has taken steps to try to make it better. ­­

Michigan State University Extension offers breastfeeding support to feeding mothers, their babies and their companion. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find support near you.

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