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Painful Breastfeeding

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: BStone • updated: 9/30/2010

Painful breastfeeding can be frustrating for both mom and baby; enough to make many women stop. Before you consider quitting, learn how you can relieve nipple soreness, heal cracked and bleeding nipples, and prevent future episodes.

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    Painful Breastfeeding

    Breastfeeding - Image courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture Breastfeeding should not be painful if done correctly.

    Poor positioning and an improper latch are the most common causes of nipple soreness, including cracked and bleeding nipples.

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    Tips to prevent painful breastfeeding:

    • When positioning your baby, his or her entire body should be turned toward your breast (tummy to tummy). Both you and your baby should be comfortable.

    • When latching your baby on, hold your breast with your thumb placed on the upper portion of the breast and the remainder of your fingers cupped under your breast (C hold). Keep your fingers away from your nipple area. Bring your baby to your breast and direct the nipple straight into the mouth, not toward the palate or tongue, and include as much of the areola (the darkened area around the nipple) as possible.

    • When unlatching, break the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth.

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    Treating Nipple Soreness

    Breast Milk

    There are a number of creams and ointments on the market, and even some home remedies (such as cooking oil and honey), that claim to help promote healing but according to La Leche League, most commercial preparations and home remedies are not useful and some can even be harmful.

    Breast milk is an excellent remedy for nipple soreness. It is natural, safe, always available, and free. Breast milk contains vitamin E and antibacterial properties which can protect the skin (preventing problems) and help promote healing of cracked and bleeding nipples (never apply vitamin E oil to your nipples because this can be toxic to your baby).

    • After each feed, express some breast milk and gently rub it on your nipples and areola.

    Warm Compresses

    Tea bags, a common folk remedy used for nipple soreness, should be avoided. Tea contains tannic acid which acts as an astringent and can cause cracked and bleeding nipples.

    • Apply a warm, moist compress (using only water) over your nipples for 15 minutes at a time.

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    More Information on Painful Breastfeeding

    • Do not stop nursing on your sore breast, even if you have bleeding nipples. This can cause your breast to become engorged.

    • Begin nursing on your breast with the least amount of nipple soreness. Babies can have a vigorous suck when beginning a feed.

    • Short, frequent feeds will help decrease vigorous sucking.

    • Between feeds, wear nipple shields in your bra to keep clothing from rubbing against your nipples.

    • To prevent cracked and bleeding nipples, avoid soaps and products with perfume or alcohol.

    • If nipple soreness has a sudden onset, it may be caused by a thrush infection. Both you and baby need to be treated. Thrush thrives in moist areas, so until treated, your nipples should be kept dry (do not apply breast milk or use a warm compress).

    La Leche League

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.