How to Treat and Prevent Sore Nipples During Breastfeeding & Pumping

Breastfeeding and pumping shouldn’t hurt! Really, we mean it. If it hurts, something is probably not right. Common causes for painful, cracked or bleeding nipples from breastfeeding and pumping include:

  • The baby’s latch or positioning is off when breastfeeding.
  • Flange size is off when pumping.
  • Your body is adapting to the new skill
  • Your nipple skin is dry
  • You have thrush-a common yeast infection that survives in human milk
  • Baby is teething

How to Prevent Sore Cracked Nipples

Nipple pain and breast sensitivity are common during the first weeks of nursing and pumping as your body adapts to the new skill, this should go away in a few days. However, if you experience severe pain something is not right and needs to be assessed by an IBCLC or your provider. You can help to avoid breast and nipple pain by:

Mastering Your Latch

Believe it or not, mastering the latch is one of the most important and difficult parts of the breastfeeding journey! Without a proper latch, there will likely be breast and or nipple pain and can even cause your baby to intake air and increase fussiness.

Breastfeeding should not hurt. If you find that your baby’s latch is painful, or you notice that food tapping while nursing, be sure to reach out for support in adjusting things and mastering your latch!

Breastfeeding in the Right Positions 

Both you and your child need to be comfortable while breastfeeding. Change your breastfeeding position often for better comfort and latching. Changing positions might help to reduce pain and prevent cracking.

Soothing the Breast When Engorged for Easy Latching

It is common to have engorged breasts on the first few days of nursing or when you go for long periods without breastfeeding. Always express a little milk by hand to soften the breast before feeding your baby. It helps to minimize pain and cracking.

You can also use a breast massager or warm compress prior to or during nursing and pumping to help soothe the breast and encourage milk-flow.

Breastfeeding or Pumping Often to Avoid Engorgement

We know, this seems counter intuitive and the thought of re-latching or pumping on an already sore breast can feel like too much! The truth is, frequent feedings and pumping sessions help to prevent breast engorgement. Empty your breast every 2-3 hours during this time.  Keeping the milk flowing will help avoid excess build-up of milk, causing pain and sometimes cracking of nipples.

Avoiding Harsh Soaps on Your Breast

It is okay to clean your breasts with plain warm water. Avoid harsh soaps that dry out your skin, leaving your breasts susceptible to cracking. When you wash or wipe, be gentle. Avoid rubbing too hard as this can further irritate your nipples.

Changing Your Breast Pads Frequently

If you’re using breast pads, be sure to change them frequently to keep your nipples dry and clean. Having soaked breast pads for a long time is likely to irritate your nipples. Choose breast pads made from natural materials for the best absorption and least irritation.

Going Easy with Your Breastpump Speed and Suction

You don’t necessarily need to level up! Take it easy; the milk will still come out. Try hand expression if your pump flange is irritating your nipples to give your body a break and keep on schedule with pumping.

Using a Lubricant for Pumping

You can use lubricants when pumping to avoid friction. This makes pumping much easier and more comfortable. Use a drop of breast milk or fractionated coconut oil for the best results.

Finding the Perfect Flange

Pump flanges are not a one-size-fits-all! Don’t settle for the flange that your pump supplies as a standard. Reach out to a pumping expert to determine the best size for your body. Having the right flange can really make or break your pumping experience! From comfort to milk supply, having the correct flange size is essential. If you need help determining the best size and style flange for your body, reach out, we can help.

How to Soothe Sore Cracked Nipples

If you have cracked nipples already, do not stop breastfeeding your little one. It is still safe; however, there are a few remedies to soothe the pain. 

  • Apply fresh breast milk after feeding or pumping
  • Use warm compress
  • Rinse with diluted saltwater (1 tsp per cup of water) 
  • Use an all-natural nipple cream, ointment or coconut oil. 

Please don’t take your cracked nipples for granted; it could indicate a more serious issue like thrusts or lead to an infection. If you don’t address the problems, they could become worse like mastitis and blebs.

The Help You Need!

Don’t let it go. If your nipples do not stop hurting, reach out to one of our IBCLCs! Our “rescue 911” nipple repair will change your world and your nipples will thank you for it! 

We’re available virtually and in-person throughout the Puget Sound with breastfeeding and breastpumping support and classes in Tukwila, West Seattle, and Poulsbo. Reach out or schedule a virtual consultation today for more information!