Nipples are the most sensitive regions of the woman’s breasts. We all know about how erogenous these regions are, and the important part they play in the foreplay before sexual intercourse. However these nipples are actually provided by nature for the purpose of breastfeeding. This happens shortly after pregnancy, when the nipples begin to secrete the milk that is produced in the milk ducts within the breasts.
Babies have a natural talent to suckle at the mother’s nipples. They do so by pushing the nipples with the palate of their mouths. For some women, especially who are breastfeeding their babies for the first few times, this could be a very painful process. Babies could sometimes clamp the nipples very hard causing the nipples to become sore and cracked.
Milk let-down is a naturally occurring phenomenon during lactation. When the baby suckles at the nipples, then the milk is drawn into the baby’s mouth through them. As a result, more milk runs towards the nipple area from the milk ducts situated within the breasts. For most women, this process occurs quite normally. But if there is a problem with the milk let-down process, then the baby would need to suckle harder at the nipple in order to draw milk. This would cause pain in the nipples. Such difficulty for the baby to draw out milk could also occur if the woman has inverted nipples, i.e. nipples which point inwards.
Women who are breastfeeding for their first baby would mostly not know the correct breastfeeding technique. They may not be holding the baby properly, due to which the baby would have to press at the nipples in order to get at them. Wrong breastfeeding techniques are the prime causes of women having sore and cracked nipples. Wrong breastfeeding techniques could include not keeping a support under the baby (due to which the baby becomes uncomfortable in its position and wriggles a lot), sitting in an incorrect posture while feeding the baby, pulling the baby away from the nipple quite suddenly, etc.
Sometimes the fault is with the baby itself. There is a congenital condition known as ankyloglossia, which is commonly called as tongue-tie. Babies with this condition have tight frenulums (this is the membrane attaching the tongue to the base of the mouth). Such babies would find it very hard to suckle at the nipples as their tongue movement is highly restricted.
If you have sore and cracked nipples, then you would need to stop giving the baby that breast for feeding for a while and meet your doctor urgently. If the baby continues to feed on that breast, then the pain would also continue, eventually leading to bleeding from the baby. A bleeding nipple could be very dangerous to the baby if it is fed on it. Almost all cases of sore and cracked nipples occur when the woman is breastfeeding a baby. But if you are getting sore and cracked nipples even though you are not breastfeeding, then it could be some very serious problem with the breast, including breast cancer. You must rush to the doctor to seek medical attention.
Study in Index
Taking care of your nipples
Causes of sore nipples
Usually, sore nipples do not last for more than a few days. The most common cause is when the baby is not able to suckle at the mother’s breast properly. If this is not the reason and your baby latches on properly, you may be experiencing an infection called thrush. The other reasons could be blisters, nipple pain, nipple cracking, or bleeding. In such relative cases, you must seek advice of a lactation consultant or a specialized doctor, to help you with these problems.
Sore nipples caused by poor breastfeeding techniques can be easily treated by simply getting more educated on the right method to breastfeed. It is best to sit in a cross-legged position on a bed if you are finding holding the baby during breastfeeding uncomfortable. Sitting on a chair could compound the pain in the nipples. It is also advisable to keep the baby in your lap on some support. You can use a pillow on your lap and keep the baby on it. This way the baby will be comfortable and would not need to suckle hard at the nipples. Also do not encourage the baby to suckle on the same breast for a long time. Take turns with both the breasts.
Precautionary measures for nipple care
Find the most comfortable breast feeding position for yourself. Change positions often. Use pillows to prop up your baby, so that tugging and pulling is less.
Breast feed your baby as often as it likes. If your baby is not left hungry for long periods, then it will not feed at the breast as vigorously. Also, always feed the baby on the less sensitive breast first.
There are other breast feeding problems, such as plugged ducts and mastitis. These can be prevented by taking good care of your nipples. However, if the problem persists, you must visit your health care practitioner.
You should also read a lot of good books and health magazines of medical advice on breast feeding problems. The more you learn about your condition, the better informed you will be, and being well informed is the first step to better health.
If you have any problems with letting down the milk properly, then do not let the baby suckle much on it without seeking medical help first. The doctor could provide some supplements in order to increase the amount of milk produced in the breasts. One such commonly prescribed supplement is the supplement containing Asparagus racemosa. There are also counselors in all maternity hospitals who could help you in learning the correct method to breastfeed the baby so that it would not need to pull hard at the nipples.
Women having inverted nipples would also need to talk to the gynecologist before the child is born.
Some preparation before the breastfeeding could be very helpful in preventing sore and cracked nipples. If the breast is too engorged, then try letting out some of the milk using a pump, or simply by squeezing by hand. This will loosen the pressure in the breast a little. Also, removing a little milk before the breastfeeding would allow the milk to flow naturally when the baby begins to suckle.
Using some creams like lanolin could reduce the pain during feeding, but you would need to ask the doctor whether they would be safe for the baby. Lanolin, which means “wool oil”, is a yellowish and waxy secretion from the sebaceous glands of woolly animals; most commonly from sheep. Lanolin is collected from the sheep’s wool when it is pressed between rollers and squeezed out.
It seems as though lanolin may increase the incidence of thrush, OR, if you have thrush (or the baby) don’t use it because it may sustain the infection. Lanolin doesn’t have anti-bacterial/fungal properties (like coconut oil) so this may be why infection occurs; mothers may not always have clean hands when applying nipple cream and bacteria could be introduced.
As for coconut oil, it is a plant based oil with antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, SPF(5), and moisturizing properties and it can be safely used on or consumed by almost anyone (allergic reactions are rare, if they do occur they are often mild).
Finally, shea butter. From the nut of the Shea Tree, found in Africa, shea butter is a highly nourishing moisturizer which can be used for a great variety of skin and hair related issues; as well as for cooking and baking. There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and other excellent compounds found in shea butter, it has an SPF of 6 and it appears to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties as well. Seeing as how it comes from a nut, some people with nut allergies may experience a minor reaction. Seems like an excellent moisturizer and prevention/treatment for stretch marks!
Nipple care in pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time when a woman’s body passes through various physical and emotional changes. The main reason for these changes is the hormonal variations associated with your pregnancy. It is a clear fact that these hormonal changes are essential for you to have a healthy and happy pregnancy. But, at the same time you have to experience some difficulties during your pregnancy period. One of the major problems that almost all women face during their pregnancy is tender nipple.
Your body will be preparing for making yourself ready for breastfeeding your baby. The related physical and hormonal changes will make remarkable changes in your nipples as well. The nipple changes may include an increase in the size and tender nipples. As you near to your delivery time, your nipples and areola will change in shape and size and you may even notice leakage of a yellowish substance known as colostrum. These are the preparations of your body to feed your little one.
Nipple care during pregnancy is very important to keep yourself comfortable. There is no need to get worried about thinking how to do nipple care while pregnant. It will be very helpful if you know some tips for nipple care during pregnancy. Here are some ideas that you can try for nipple care during pregnancy.
Wear a comfortable bra: Selecting a proper bra has great importance in nipple care during pregnancy since your breast size is increasing. Try to wear bra made of soft cotton, so that it will help alleviate your nipple pain. It is better to avoid padded bra as a part of nipple care while pregnant.
Use olive oil: Doing a short massage with olive oil is a good idea for nipple care during pregnancy. This will help retain the moisture of the skin. This will help to prevent any problems that are related to dry skin, which is very common during pregnancy.
No soap on nipples: Do not try to use soap on your nipples, as it will make the nipples dry. Excess dryness of the nipple may eventually result in cracking. Use a good moisturising cleansing lotion instead of scented soaps. This is an important point to remember for nipple care while pregnant.
Moisturising creams: If you feel dryness on your nipples, use a good moisturising cream or lotion. It will help keep your nipple moisturised. There are products available in the market that is specially made for nipple care during pregnancy.
Nipple protectors: Nipple protectors are available in market that will help you to get rid of painful nipple. This acts as a barrier between your nipple and your clothes. Nipple protectors are very helpful in nipple care during pregnancy for women with painful nipples.
Use ice pads: Tender nipple during pregnancy is a difficult condition. It is a good idea to use an ice pad on your nipple to help relax. This will alleviate the pain and will make you feel comfortable. Do this as a part of your nipple care during pregnancy.
Breast pads: It is important to give extra care to your nipples while you experience leakage. Use a good quality breast pad. Keeping your nipples dry and clean is very important to avoid any infections. Remember this point while you proceed with nipple care during pregnancy.
Nipple care – home remedies
Apple cider vinegar
Make a mixture with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. After feeding your baby, dip a cotton ball or a clean, small piece of cloth in the solution. Wring out the excess solution and gently apply to the nipple and the areola. This mixture ensures that the nipple remains clean and destroys dangerous bacteria or yeast infections. Next, take 1 tablespoon of raw coconut oil and lightly apply it to your breast. If you live in a warm area, keep the bottle of coconut oil in the refrigerator so that it remains solid.
Salt in warm water
Saline soaks are one of the most effective home remedies for sore nipples. Make a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Allow your nipples to soak in the saline solution for 10 minutes. Let your nipples dry naturally.
Tea tree oil
Another effective and soothing mixture for sore nipples can be made by mixing a few drops of tea tree oil in a glass of tepid water. Soak a piece of soft cotton cloth in the mixture and wring out the excess water. With soft touches, apply the mixture on the nipples. Allow them to dry naturally and then rinse off with warm water. Repeat this procedure a few times every day for relief.
Did you know that breast milk is also an effective remedy for sore nipples? Apply breast milk on your nipples and allow it to air dry.
Coconut and olive oil
A more luxurious mixture can be made with 1 drop of pure tea tree oil and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil. Apply this soothing mixture to the affected nipple and let it dry naturally. Before feeding, rinse the area with tepid water and pat dry with a soft and clean cloth or towel.
Swollen nipples can be extremely painful. You can use cold compresses to reduce the swelling. Wrap a few ice cubes in a soft and clean towel and apply it to the affected nipple for around 10 minutes. When used regularly, this home remedy is quite helpful in treating the problem of swollen nipples.
Calendula flowers are not only pretty to look at, but they are also useful in treating sore nipples.
1) Make a paste of 1-2 calendula flowers by crushing them well. Apply the paste on the sore nipple and let it dry on its own.
2) If calendula flowers are not available, equal proportions of olive oil and calendula oil can be mixed in order to make a mixture. Gently dab this mixture on the sore nipple.
3) Yet another option is to apply calendula ointment on the sore nipples for relief.
Sore and cracked nipples can also be prevented by regularly applying olive oil, sweet almond oil, Comfrey ointment, or lanolin. Applying any of these substances during the second half of your pregnancy and during the starting of the nursing period will minimize the chapping and cracking.
Ensure that you do not use cologne, deodorant, or powder on your nipples or breasts. Also, avoid washing your nipples with soap since it exacerbates chapping and cracking.
The ubiquitous aloe vera gel is also soothing and soft for sore nipples. Cut open a leaf from an aloe vera plant and remove the sticky get. Gently apply it to sore and cracked nipples.
Personal hygiene is also important to help prevent sore nipples. Change your bra every day and wear clean and soft bras only. When washing your bras, choose mild detergents in favor of harsh ones that contain chemicals which will irritate your skin, leading to sore nipples.
Another technique that can be tried at home for sore nipples is chamomile tea bags. Soak some tea bags in hot water for a while. After removing them from the water, allow them to cool down to tolerable temperature. Wring the teabags to remove excess water. Now, place the wet teabags on your nipples to soothe them. Remember to wash the nipples with tepid water before feeding.
A habit that will help in treating sore nipples is to dab a hot towel on them every day. Before feeding, soak a soft and clean towel in lukewarm water. Wring out the extra water and place it like a hot compress on your nipples for 15 minutes. This method should be used every day.
Sore nipples can be treated by using rubbing alcohol. Using a clean sponge, apply some rubbing alcohol on your nipples. After some time, wash with water.
Increase your intake of vitamin C, eat foods loaded with vitamin C such as oranges, lemons, limes, guavas, kiwis, strawberries, papaya, acerola cherries, black currant, melons, amalaki fruits etc. Consume vegetables like kale, broccoli, mustard greens, bell peppers, parsley, brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens etc. You can also take vitamin C supplements but consult your doctor before using it.
Basil leaves have excellent healing properties which help you cure many kinds of skin problems and infections, including sore nipples. This green or dark green herb speeds up the healing process of sore nipples and also gives you relief from cracks, dryness, pain and bleeding.
1. Take cup of fresh basil leaves and wash them in the water to remove dirt.
2. Then grind these leaves into a paste, you can add 1 teaspoon of honey to this paste.
3. Apply this basil paste on the nipples for 30 minutes.
4. Or wash off the application before feeding your baby.
5. Follow this remedy 3-4 times a day for fast healing.
The home remedies mentioned above are effective, simple, absolutely safe, and popularly used by women all over the world to treat sore and chapped nipples.