Should I expect to have sore nipples when breastfeeding?
It’s common for mums to have sore nipples in the first few days of breastfeeding. But being in severe or lasting pain isn’t something you should expect, or put up with.
Breastfeeding should be enjoyable for you and your baby. If it isn’t, it’s a sign that you need to make changes, with the help of your midwife or breastfeeding counsellor.
What causes sore nipples?
Difficulty latching on
This is by far the most common cause of sore nipples. If your baby is not latching on well, and has to suck or pull your nipple into her mouth, your nipple will be too far forward in her mouth. Your nipple will then be pinched against her hard palate, which will be painful for you.
To make sure your baby is latched on well, check that she’s taking your breast right back into her mouth when she feeds. She’ll need to open her mouth wide, or gape, to allow your nipple to reach the back of her mouth, close to the soft palate. Your nipple will then be protected from being squashed and rubbed by your baby’s tongue during the feed.
If your baby doesn’t gape to take in your breast, don’t pull your nipple out. Instead, break the suction by gently inserting your finger into the corner of her mouth and above her tongue. Take her from your breast and start again.
Your midwife or health visitor can refer you to a breastfeeding specialist if it will help.
If your nipples are cracked or bleeding, try using a small amount of a purified lanolin ointment on them. This will help them to heal while you’re sorting out your baby’s latching-on technique. With this treatment, your nipples heal without forming a scab. There’s no need to wash the ointment off before feeds.
If your baby has tongue-tie, her tongue will be attached to the bottom of her mouth. If she can’t move her tongue much, she may not be able to draw full feeds from your breast.
The signs will be that she can’t latch on well to your breast and keeps slipping off. She will be feeding often, but not putting on enough weight.
Ask your doctor or midwife to check your baby’s tongue. Tongue-tie can be easily treated in young babies by a simple procedure (frenulotomy). This treatment can make a real difference to how well babies feed.
If your nipples are sore after a spell of pain-free feeding, and you feel burning, shooting or stabbing pains in your breasts, you may have thrush on your nipples. Thrush is a fungal infection that sets in when organisms that naturally exist in your body spread out of control.
Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal treatment for you and your baby. If you have thrush on your nipples, it will also be in your baby’s mouth, whether or not you can see it. You’ll both need to be treated at the same time, so you don’t keep passing the infection between you.
You may have Raynaud’s disease if your nipples turn white when exposed to cold air, or when you feel cold. You may also feel a shooting or burning pain.
During a Raynaud’s attack, muscle spasms in the artery walls cause the blood vessels to narrow, cutting off blood flow to your extremities, causing them to turn white, feel numb, tingle and burn. Your fingers and toes are most likely to be affected, but you may have these symptoms in your nipples during breastfeeding.
If you have Raynaud’s, it may be helpful to breastfeed in a warm room and wear a warm top when you’re breastfeeding. You could also try having a warm shower or putting warm flannels to your breasts after feeds. Regular exercise and managing your stress levels may also help to improve your symptoms. See your doctor or a breastfeeding specialist to rule out other causes.
Dermatitis or eczema
If your nipples are inflamed and itchy it may be a sign of dermatitis or eczema. This can be caused by creams, lotions or soaps that irritate your skin. Swimming in chlorinated swimming pool water can also sometimes cause sore, itchy nipples
Wash your breasts with plain water alone, and see your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve.
If your baby has tender gums due to teething, she may change the way she feeds. If her tongue isn’t down and forward enough to take in a big mouthful of breast, she may end up biting your nipple.
Help your baby to gape and keep her tongue forward by touching her lips to your nipple and then moving her quickly on to your breast as she responds. Older babies sometimes keep their mouths open, but pull their tongue back after they have gaped, so you’ll have to move fast.
Breastfeeding during pregnancy
Your nipples may be tender if you are breastfeeding and pregnant again.
Your nipples may only feel tender in the early days of your pregnancy, or they may only feel sore towards the end of your third trimester. If your nipples get really sore, you can try using a purified lanolin ointment or cream to soothe them.
Soreness from your bra or breast pads
If your nursing bra is too tight, it will put pressure on your nipples. Try wearing bigger or more comfortable bras, and ask a specialist fitter to help you.
Some breast pads and plastic linings in bras don’t let your skin breathe, and trap too much moisture, which may exacerbate the problem. Opt for pads made from natural materials, and if your nipples are cracked, you may want to try healing pads.
Will sore nipples affect my baby?
Even though it’s painful for you, having sore nipples won’t affect your baby. However it’s usually a sign that breastfeeding isn’t going well. If your baby is not latching on properly, she may stop feeding before she’s got enough milk. Warning signs that your baby is not feeding well are that she:
is not putting on enough weight
spends a long time on your breast
wants to feed very often
makes clicking noises during feeds
is unsettled after feeds
If your nipples are cracked and bleeding, it’s possible for your baby to swallow a few drops of your blood. These may show as streaks of blood if your baby possets, or is sick, but it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with her. Mention it to your midwife or health visitor, just in case.
Don’t continue to suffer if your nipples stay sore. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor and ask to be referred to a breastfeeding specialist. She will be able to watch what you are doing and put you on the right track.Leave a reply →