When it comes to breastfeeding babies, sore nipples might be the most frustrating drawback. And, because it’s so common, some moms even assume it’s an inevitable part of the nursing experience. However, there are many ways to manage and reduce this symptom. No worry, here are 10 tips to prevent and treat sore nipples at any stage of your breastfeeding journey.
Let Your Baby Self-latch
Newborn babies have breastfeeding instincts and they are capable of finding and latching on their mother’s breasts well with minimal help. So, there’s no need to worry too much about supporting your child to find your breasts while breastfeeding. With your baby’s mouth near your breasts and the skin to skin contact, your baby will orient to latch on instantly. This will take time but usually results in an effective and comfortable latch.
Although some medications during labor might make this process more difficult for some babies in the first hours or days after birth, they will figure it out eventually.
Whether you’re using cradle position, side-lying or laid back, make sure that you focus on supporting their shoulders and neck, not their head. So, your newborn can tip their head back and bring their chin into your breast first, which is the first step of practicing a good latch. On top of that, your nipple should be pointed towards their nose. Therefore, when your baby latches, it will be in the perfect place to slide deeply into their mouth.
Adjust without Unlatching
Many moms might think that something is wrong whenever they feel hurt while breastfeeding. And, sometimes, mothers are advised to unlatch and start over. But, the problem with this approach is how babies will respond every time their mom does that. Some might get so frustrated, they even refuse to nurse and start crying or begin clamping down on your nipple. Also, it will put you at more risk of nipple damage, if your baby fails to latch on repeatedly.
Instead, try first to adjust your baby’s position while nursing. So, the rest of the feeding process can be more comfortable. You can also try to bring your baby closer, let their head tip back a bit more, so both of you and your baby and adjust to make it more pleasant. Depending on the position of your nipple, your baby may need to be lower or more out to the side.
Watch for Early Hunger Signs
Normally, moms with sore nipples will want to space feedings out as long as possible. That’s totally understandable because it takes time to heal! However, a hungry baby isn’t going to have much patience. Therefore, they might try to grab at your nipple more vigorously, which will cause more pain. So, feeding your baby as soon as they seem hungry can make it easier to work on getting a good latch every time.
Check for Tongue-tie
Tongue-tie might not cause any health issues but it can make your baby difficult to feed. A baby with a tongue-tie isn’t able to lift their tongue or move it forward normally. And, this means they can’t use it to help extract milk from the breast. Instead, they will try to use their gum and chew it, causing severe pain and eventually, sore nipples.
Look to see if your baby can stick their tongue out past the bottom lip or lift it up to the roof of their mouth when crying to check. If your baby seems unable to make these movements, consult with your doctor for more advice.
Use Nipple Shields Cautiously
Nipple shields are often recommended to protect sore nipples while feeding. But, it is usually used as the last resort. Moreover, you should only wear this device to breastfeed if you are under the care and supervision of a physician, lactation consultant, or another person who has experience with it. Sometimes, if nipple shields are not used correctly, they can cause more problems than helping. Even though nipple shields look like normal bottle nipples, your baby might not latch onto it well. Also, the different shapes and feel may make your baby have difficulty in breastfeeding while you’re not using it.
Your Milk Can Heal
With its natural antiseptic properties, breast milk can be placed on scratches or sores to reduce pain. On top of that, the antibody IgA prevents germs from forming on your wound and boots the healing process. So, you should express a little milk onto your nipple and let it air-dry to heal the damage. In addition, another option is to apply an ice pack just before you feed your baby to temporarily numb the nipple as you latch your baby on.
Give Your Nipples more Space
If your nipples are sore and damaged, you may find that anything contacts can make it hurt even more. So, using breastfeeding pads to protect them from being touched by your bra is a great idea. But still, we recommend exposing your nipples to the air for a few minutes after breastfeeding. So, they will stay dry and heal more effectively.
Seek out Help
Many people think it’s normal for breastfeeding to be painful, at least in the beginning. But, if these tips haven’t helped you resolve the problem, seek out a lactation consultant who can look at your particular situation and give you some suggestions.
Remember that sore nipples will normally disappear after the first few days of breastfeeding. Don’t let it wear you down and stop breastfeeding your baby. It’s nothing for what you had been through during pregnancy! Be proud of yourself because you are a great mom. Feel free to share your mom’s experience in the comments!