Everyone knows that childbirth is no walk in the park. But you might not have expected to have challenges with breastfeeding as well. There are several ways breastfeeding can go awry, and cracked nipples are one of the worst.
If you have cracked nipples, you already know that this is a very uncomfortable, even painful, condition. You want relief so you can get back to comfortably nursing your little one and keeping both of you happy!
But before we jump into how to treat them, it’s important to understand why you have cracked nipples in the first place.
What Causes Cracked Nipples?
First of all, women can develop irritated nipples even if they aren’t breastfeeding. If that’s you, the problem could be from rubbing or irritation (like wearing the wrong bra), a bacterial or fungal infection, or nipple eczema.
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.
But back to your painful, cracked nipples. If you’re breastfeeding and you find yourself with what appears to be a little crack or cut on your nipple, there are a few probable causes.
1) Incorrect Latching
Incorrect latching is a major cause of cracked nipples. When your baby latches on to your breast to nurse, their mouth should be over your entire nipple and part of the areola. This places your nipple at the back of their mouth, where it won’t be irritated.
But if your baby’s latch is too shallow, there will be a lot of pressure and suction on your nipple and it may rub against their mouth, causing irritation.
2) Tongue Tie Or Other Mouth Condition
If you and your little one just can’t seem to get the hang of latching on correctly, it could be that your baby has a problem with their mouth. A condition like tongue tie, lip tie, or high palate might make it hard for them to nurse properly.
3) Nipple Confusion
Nipple confusion is just what it sounds like — your baby gets a bit disoriented and confused about what type of nipple he or she is sucking on.
If you’re breastfeeding and also giving your baby a bottle or pacifier, your little one might have a hard time switching back and forth and figuring out the right way to latch on to your breast.
It’s no surprise — there’s a pretty big difference in the size and texture of a mother’s nipple and the nipple of a bottle or pacifier!
4) Incorrect Use Of Your Breast Pump
If you’re using a breast pump, your baby’s mouth isn’t the only thing latching on to your nipple. Using the wrong size of breast shield or a too-high suction level might irritate your nipples.
How To Treat Cracked Nipples
When it comes to curing your cracked nipples, it’s important to get to the root of the problem, which is most likely the way your baby latches on to nurse.
First things first: talk to a lactation consultant for advice and tips. It’s not normal to be in pain while you’re breastfeeding, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
A lactation consultant can show you how to get your little one to latch on correctly and help you find a pump that’s right for you and fits you properly. Once you address the cause of your cracked nipples, you’ll be on your way to healthy breasts and comfortable breastfeeding.
While your nipples are healing, keep an eye out for infection. Notice how you feel and if you have a fever.
You’ll also want to look for inflammation, redness, swelling, oozing, or pus in the nipple area. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
There’s no doubt — dealing with cracked nipples can be painful and discouraging. To ease some of your discomfort and help your nipples heal, we’ve made a list of 10 things to do.
10 Natural Remedies For Cracked Nipples
1) Notice Baby’s Hunger Cues
Figure out your baby’s signs that tell you they’re ready to eat. And don’t wait too long to feed them!
If your little one gets very hungry and impatient, it will be harder for both of you to get in the correct feeding position and for them to latch on correctly.
2) Ice Before Breastfeeding
To ease the initial discomfort of baby latching on, try applying ice to your nipples before breastfeeding. Wrap a few ice cubes in a light cloth or towel and gently press them to your skin for a few minutes.
You can do this before feeding as well as throughout the day.
3) Start With The Healthy Side
Both of your nipples might be in bad shape, in which case it doesn’t matter which one you start with when nursing your little one.
But if one side hurts more than the other, put your baby on the least painful side first. They’ll nurse more gently on the second breast because they won’t be as hungry.
4) Use Nursing Comfort Balm
Before you apply a cream or lotion to your breasts or nipples, check that it’s safe and healthy for both you and your little one.
After breastfeeding, apply our Nursing Comfort Balm with confidence, knowing that it’s eco-friendly, safe for both you and baby, and will soothe and protect your sensitive skin.
5) Apply Breast Milk
When it comes to applying soothing and healing products to your sore nipples, the most natural thing to use is your own breast milk! Dab a few drops of breastmilk onto your nipples after feeding your baby, then let them air-dry.
Your breast milk is antibacterial and, of course, super convenient! Just don’t apply breast milk if you have thrush.
6) Rinse With Saltwater
Rinsing your nipples with saltwater is another way to help the healing process. To make fresh saltwater, simply dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt into a glass (six or eight ounces) of warm water.
Then apply the saltwater to your nipples using a cotton ball or a spray bottle. You could also put the saltwater in a bowl and soak your nipples for just a minute or two.
Rinse your nipples off before nursing if your baby isn’t a fan of the salty flavor.
7) Air Out
It’s also important to take care of cracked nipples in-between breastfeeding times. If you are able, give your nipples some time to air out before putting your bra back on.
8) Wear The Right Bra
As far as the bra you wear, make sure it’s not too tight or too rough. You want to treat your nipples as gently as possible!
One more way to show cracked nipples some TLC: rinse your bras thoroughly after washing them. Why? Traces of detergent left on your bra could irritate your skin even more.
9) Use Breast Shells
If your bra or clothing rubs and irritates your nipples, try wearing breast shells. These are small plastic or silicone cups that sit on your breasts to keep your clothes from touching your nipples.
Using breast shells will provide you with some relief and give your nipples time to heal.
10) Change Breast Pads Frequently
When purchasing breast pads, choose soft, cotton ones or disposable pads. Then be sure you change them frequently so they don’t stay wet on your nipples. Leaving wet breast pads on can further nipple irritation and increase your chances of getting an infection.
Take Care Of Yourself
As a new mom, it’s important to take care of yourself so you can take good care of your little one!
To do away with cracked nipples, first figure out what’s causing them. Then give yourself a little TLC to help your nipples heal more quickly. Keep Mustela’s Nursing Comfort Balm on hand and lather up with our Bust Firming Serum to keep your breasts, neck, and neckline in tip-top shape.
Follow the tips in this article to heal your tender, cracked nipples, and both you and your little one will soon be back to enjoying the sweet moments that breastfeeding provides!
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