Breastfeeding Concerns: How to Alleviate Cracked Nipples?

Sore, cracked or even bleeding nipples can be very painful and are unfortunately sometimes experienced when breastfeeding.  They can happen at any stage so it’s important to know how to treat and prevent this uncomfortable problem, so that your breastfeeding journey can continue to be comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your baby.  Fortunately there are lots of ways to prevent nipples from becoming cracked so read on to learn about what can help.

What Causes Cracked Nipples?

There are several causes of sore nipples which can lead to them cracking.  These include:

• Poor attachment (latch) of the baby at the breast

• If you’re suffering from thrush

• Tongue tie in your baby

• Excessive pumping

• Using a soap which irritates or dries your skin

What are the Complications of Cracked Nipples?

If your nipples are becoming sore or cracked, don’t just try to power through the pain as it could get worse, sometimes even leading to an infection and it is often very easy to correct an improper latch if that is the cause (see below).  

How Can I Treat Cracked Nipples?

Cracked nipples should always be treated but you should also determine the likely cause (see above) and try to prevent it happening in the future.  Lanolin cream (Lansinoh is a popular and recommended brand) is usually recommended by healthcare professionals to help ease the pain and discomfort of cracked nipples and it’s readily available without a prescription.  You can also try experimenting with different breastfeeding positions as you may find a different position more comfortable.  If you have a nipple which is so badly cracked that breastfeeding is too painful, you still need to empty that breast while it is starting to heal to prevent clogged ducts and/or mastitis so if you are unable to pump due to pain, try hand expressing as it may be more comfortable. 

How Can I Prevent Cracked Nipples?

The good news is that the nipple soreness you may experience with a new baby usually clears up within a few days and often does not lead to cracked nipples.  Ensuring your baby is correctly latched on is essential to breastfeeding comfortably and preventing cracked nipples.  It’s really easy to have your latch checked if you’re not sure by asking a midwife or lactation consultant or attending your local breastfeeding support group.  Keep some lanolin cream in the house in case you start feeling sore as this can stop sore nipples from becoming cracked.  Some women use lanolin cream as a preventative measure, or you might find just rubbing in some breastmilk and letting it air dry on your nipples after a feed helps prevent your nipples from becoming dry.  If you need to unlatch your baby, do not do it without first breaking the suction gently as this can also cause sore or even cracked nipples.  If you find your nipples are prone to cracking or you have any concerns it is a good idea to make an appointment to see a doctor or a lactation consultant as soon as possible.