Your body went through some pretty crazy changes during pregnancy, including changes in your breasts. Even though your little one is now in your arms, the challenges aren’t over yet. Many new mothers struggle with tender, sore nipples from breastfeeding.

While it’s normal to experience sensitive breasts and sore nipples when you start nursing, it’s not normal to have ongoing soreness or pain while breastfeeding. If the latter sounds like you and ready to throw in the towel, don’t give up just yet!

In this article, the experts at Mustela explain some of the common causes of sore nipples and how to treat them. You and your little one might be back on the happy breastfeeding train faster than you think!

What Causes Sore Nipples When Breastfeeding?

Mom breastfeeding with sore nipples

There are several reasons that nursing moms might deal with sore nipples. The good news is that once you figure out what’s causing your discomfort, it will be easier to remedy. Let’s jump right into some of the most common causes.

Baby’s Attachment Or Position

When your baby latches on to nurse, their mouth should be over part of the areola and your nipple should be at the back of their mouth.

If they aren’t attaching well or don’t have their mouth where it should be, the roof of their mouth or their tongue can rub against your nipple. The likely result? Nipple soreness.

Flat Or Inverted Nipples

Just like bodies and breasts, nipples come in various shapes and sizes — and they’re all beautiful! The only problem is that certain nipple shapes might make it hard for your baby to latch on well.

And, as we mentioned, if your infant doesn’t latch on correctly, you may end up with sore nipples.

Flat nipples, for example, won’t stick outward from the breast even when stimulated. And inverted nipples turn in, or retract, even when stimulated. Having flat or inverted nipples might not prevent you from breastfeeding entirely, but it could present challenges.

Tongue-Tie

Baby crying with tongue-tie

What exactly is a tongue-tie? There is a piece of tissue that stretches from the underside of your baby’s tongue to the floor of their mouth. When that tissue is unusually short, it’s called tongue-tie.

Some babies with tongue-tie are still able to breastfeed without problems. But it could cause your little one to have trouble latching on and nursing, which, in turn, can lead to nipple soreness for you.

Palate Abnormality

Another potential cause of breastfeeding difficulty (and sore nipples) is a palate abnormality. If your baby’s palate (the roof of their mouth) is abnormal, breastfeeding might be tricky.

Incorrect Breast Pump Use

Just like it’s important for your little one to latch on correctly, it’s also important to use your breast pump correctly! Your nipples can become irritated if the suction on your breast pump is too strong or if you use the wrong size breast shields.

Infection

Thrush is a fungal infection that can infect your baby’s mouth as well as your nipples. You’re especially at risk for thrush if your nipples are damaged and cracked.

It’s also possible to contract a bacterial infection that causes sore nipples.

Vasospasm

Vasospasm occurs when the blood vessels in the nipple narrow. This condition is associated with a shallow latch and Raynaud’s Disease. If your sore nipples are related to vasospasm, you’ll probably notice that they’re white after nursing.

Eczema

If your nipples are itching as well as being sore, it could be that you’re dealing with nipple eczema. This is usually caused by clothes, soaps, or products that irritate your skin.

Speaking of eczema, if it runs in your family and your little one has eczema as well, don’t worry. When it comes to dressing, bathing, and quick cleanups for your eczema-prone baby, we’ve got you covered.

Happy Baby lying on a bed next to sunflowers

Mustela offers specifically designed products for eczema-prone skin — like Stelatopia Skin Soothing Pajamas, Stelatopia Cleansing Wipes, and our Eczema-Prone Skin Bathtime Set to help soothe your little one’s skin and relieve discomfort. 

Preventing And Treating Sore Nipples

Tips For Preventing Sore Nipples

Preventing sore nipples before they even strike is your best option! To do so, check that your baby is latching on correctly and follow these four tips.

1) Notice Your Baby’s Hunger Cues

Learn what your baby does when they start to get hungry — and don’t wait for the late signs of hunger, like crying.

When babies begin to get a rumbly tummy, they often suck on their fingers or open their mouths and move their heads side-to-side, which is called rooting.

Once your baby gets too hungry, you’ll probably have a more difficult time getting in the right position and helping them latch on correctly. To make things easier for both of you, nurse your baby before they get cranky.

2) Change Positions

Part of breastfeeding is learning what works for you and your little one, and that includes positioning. Experiment with breastfeeding positions to see which one makes it easier for your baby to latch on.

If you have a few positions that work well, consider switching things up at each feeding so that your baby’s mouth isn’t always in the same position on your nipple, which can contribute to sore nipples.

Mom breastfeeding in a special position to avoid sore nipples

3) Keep Your Nipples Dry

Keeping your nipples dry between feedings is an important step in preventing soreness and irritation.

Ensuring that they don’t stay wet includes airing out when you can, letting your nipples air dry if you’ve applied breast milk, and changing your breast pads frequently.

4) Wear A Comfortable Bra

As obvious as it sounds, when your nipples are extra sensitive, you’ll want to treat them as gently as possible by wearing a comfortable bra. This might mean you need to do a little shopping or browsing on the internet.

For the least irritation, choose a bra that’s not too tight and make sure the fabric is soft.

Tips For Treating Sore Nipples

If you’re reading this article, you might already be dealing with the discomfort and pain of sore nipples. Follow the above tips for prevention in addition to these five tips for treatment.

Take care of your sore nipples so you can get back to pain-free breastfeeding as soon as possible!

1) Talk To A Lactation Consultant Or Your Doctor

Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, so don’t be afraid to go to a professional for help and advice! If you’re experiencing major discomfort, check in with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing serious.

Your doctor can check to see if your baby has tongue-tie and, if they do, he or she can make recommendations on how to deal with it. Your doctor will also be the one to prescribe antibiotics or an antifungal cream if you have an infection.

They may also recommend seeing a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help you find the right position and make sure your little one latches on correctly — both of which are important in preventing and treating sore nipples.

2) Start On The Good Side

Even if breastfeeding with sore nipples is uncomfortable for you, try not to limit the time your baby spends nursing. Instead, start your baby on your least painful nipple. They won’t be quite as vigorous on the second breast.

3) Apply Breast Milk

Applying breast milk to sore nipples is effective and easy — it’s antibacterial and you’ve always got it on hand! To help soothe and heal sore nipples, apply a couple of drops of breast milk to your nipples after breastfeeding.

4) Apply Nursing Comfort Balm

To prevent sore nipples or treat them once you’ve got them, apply Mustela’s Nursing Comfort Balm after breastfeeding.

It’s made of 100% food-grade ingredients and contains nourishing olive oil, which is rich in Omega-6 and 9. Plus, it’s fragrance-free and dermatologist-tested.

Use our Nursing Comfort Balm with confidence, knowing that it’s eco-friendly, safe for both you and your baby, and will soothe and protect your breasts.

5) Apply Warm Compresses

Applying moist heat to your breasts and nipples might provide you with soothing relief, and it’s easy to do! Simply soak a washcloth in warm (not hot) water, wring out excess water, then lay it over your breast and nipple.

Enjoy Breastfeeding Again

Happy mom breastfeeding her baby

Breastfeeding can be a sweet, intimate moment between you and your little one. But it’s far from enjoyable when it causes you discomfort and pain!

Take steps toward healthy nipples with these nine tips, and keep Mustela’s Nursing Comfort Balm handy. In no time, you’ll say goodbye to sore nipples and hello to enjoyable, pain-free nursing!