Sore or cracked nipples are quite common especially in women that are breastfeeding. In fact, 80% of nursing mothers experience nipple soreness or pain in varying severity.
The major cause of sore or cracked nipples, amongst nursing mothers, is the inability of the baby to properly latch on to the nipples during breastfeeding.
Other causes of sore or cracked nipples include; dry skin that could lead to cracks in the nipples, wearing bras of the wrong size, exercising without wearing an appropriate sports bra and hormonal changes that is usually due to pregnancy or premenstrual syndrome. Additionally, certain health problems, such as skin infections, thrush, and mastitis, could trigger sore nipples.
Symptoms of sore nipples include; tenderness, pain, swelling, and itchiness. In some cases, there could be a discharge from the nipple area.
Below are tips, and good practices, to consider, when dealing with sore or cracked nipples;
- Avoid washing your nipples with alcohol, soap, or petroleum-based products as this could increase nipple dryness.
- Strive to expose the nipples to air as much as possible.
- Try to feed your baby often so that he does not bite hard on your nipples when he is hungry
- Try to change position often, while feeding your baby, so that excess pressure would not be exerted on one side of the nipple.
- Ensure your baby is latched on properly while breastfeeding.
- Avoid wearing bras that are too tight.
- Leave your bra off, for a couple of minutes, after breastfeeding your child.
- When you exercise, ensure you wear an appropriate sports bra.
- You could use dome-shaped breast shells to protect the nipples from excessive friction and rubbing.
Below are home remedies for sore or cracked nipples;
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a potent remedy for sore or cracked nipples. Coconut oil works as a moisturizer while preventing skin infections. Moreover, it’s safe, so you don’t have to worry about feeding your child with the oil on. Unlike other chemical products, it does not have any side effects. If you have painful nipples, just warm some coconut oil and massage them gently around your sore or cracked nipples. Only use organic coconut oil from a reputable brand.
2. Wear A Sports Bra Or Go Braless
A bra that fits well will reduce breast movements. However, since cracked nipples can be a nightmare to breastfeeding mothers, you could go braless under a light shirt. When you expose your nipples, you toughen them up. So, when you finish feeding your baby, you can go braless for 15-20 minutes.
3. Cold Pack
Placing some ice cubes on your breasts or nipple area would numb the area, so you’ll feel less pain when feeding your child. Although the cold temperature will not cure the problem, it would provide some temporary relief. To prepare the pack, wrap a few ice cubes with a soft cloth and place them between your breasts. To make sure the packs are in the right place, make sure you wear a fitting bra. At the same time, you can put a thin cloth between your breasts to avoid frostbite. If you don’t have ice, you can use bags of frozen carrots or peas. Use the cold compress several times a day to reduce pain and swelling.
4. Breast Milk
Breast milk works as an antibacterial making it effective in the healing of cracked nipples. To prevent nipple dryness, apply some breast milk on the affected area 1-2 hours before breastfeeding and allow it to dry naturally. Then, apply purified lanolin cream to moisturize the breasts. Continue applying the milk throughout the day until the soreness subsides. Avoid this remedy if you have thrush.
5. Warm Compress
While a warm compress doesn’t offer any antibacterial benefits, it would soothe the cracked nipples. Simply dip your washcloth in water and place it on the affected nipple until it gets cold. Another way is to soak your nipples in hot water or allow hot water to run over them. This technique also relieves pressure from engorgement. Use warm compress up to four times a day until you get some relief from soreness.
6. Basil Leaves
Basil leaves have an antibiotic and soothing effect on the nipples. Additionally, they relieve cracks, dryness, bleeding, and pain. Just take 10-15 basil leaves, crush them, and apply on the problem area. Wash with warm water before starting the next feeding session. Apply the paste at least three times a day.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe gel is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat numerous skin conditions including healing of cracked nipples. Aloe vera has strong healing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects. Before you use the herb, place it in a refrigerator for extra cooling. Then, extract the gel and apply on the nipples three times a day. Since the gel might have a negative effect on the baby, you should wash off with warm water. You can also get the gel from your local health store.
8. Avoid Washing The Nipples With Soap
The nipples should not be dry for a long period otherwise they will crack leaving them vulnerable to infection. With this in mind, you should avoid using soap since it can wash away the natural oil that keeps the skin hydrated. Ideally, the colostrum from the nipples works as a natural lubricant which could easily be removed by soap. To avoid nipple dryness, you should wash the nipples with plain water instead of soap.
9. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has an antiseptic and antifungal effect on cracked nipples. Apart from relieving irritation on the skin, it prevents any infection. Since tea tree oil may be a bit harsh on the skin, you should dilute it with olive/coconut oil. To heal the sores on the nipple, soak your washcloth into the mixture and apply on the affected area. Rinse the extra oil with warm water before the next breastfeeding session. Use this remedy 2-3 times daily until the sores disappear.
Calendula flowers are used in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve pain and swelling. They are rich in glycosides which reduce the risk of an infection. Simply crush the flowers with a mortar and pestle and apply on the affected nipples. Alternatively, mix 1 tsp of calendula oil with two tsp of olive oil and massage on the nipples. You can also use calendula ointment 2-3 times a day until the sores are cured. Since more research is still needed on the safety of the product, it’s crucial that you clean the breasts before you feed your newborn.
11. Tea Bag
Contrary to the belief that tea can crack the nipples, a moist tea bag will provide some comfort immediately after feeding the baby. Since tea contains tannins, it improves blood circulation while relieving pain. Also, warm teabags would toughen up the nipples to deal with pain. Green teabags give the best results.
12. Honey And Olive Oil
Honey works as an antibiotic while olive oil is a natural moisturizer. The two will provide some relief from the itchy skin while softening the nipples. The frequency of application will depend on the intensity of dryness and itchiness. For best results, you should apply the mixture up to four times a day. Wash off the remedy with warm water before you breastfeed your baby.
13. Vitamin C
Vitamin C boosts your body’s immunity which aids in the healing process. In addition to that, vitamin C repairs the skin tissues and most importantly relieves pain. For these reasons, you should eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as papaya, pineapple, berries, lemons, tomato, pepper, sweet potato, orange, kiwi, mangoes, and more. You could also mix some orange and lemon juice and then dab on the nipples three times a day.
14. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. It is capable of reducing the itchiness, swelling, and soreness of nipples. Apart from providing relief from sore nipples, Chamomile tea would speed up the healing process. To brew chamomile tea, steep one tea bag in hot water for 15 minutes, allow it to cool a little, and then place on the nipples. Before your next breastfeeding session, make sure you wash off the remedy with warm water.
15. Oil Massage
An oil massage would not only keep your nipples moisturized but would also reduce the cracks. You could massage your nipples with almond oil, coconut oil or olive oil thanks to their antimicrobial properties. Most people use coconut oil because it’s rich in medium-chain fatty acids which are easily absorbed by the skin. Coconut oil is also an excellent soothing agent. To keep your breasts moisturized, preheat some coconut oil and massage it on your nipples. Wash the excess oil with warm water. You could also use olive oil if coconut oil is not readily available.
16. Gentle Cleansing
An infection on the nipple can be a nightmare especially when you’re breastfeeding for the first time. That’s why you should clean your nipples gently to reduce the risk of such infections. You should use wet wipes to remove sweat or milk remnants as you prepare for your next breastfeeding.
17. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly will relieve pain and hydrate dry skin. Other than working as a lubricant, it would reduce the effects of chafing. As it may not be safe for the baby, you should wash it off before you breastfeed.
18. Lemon Juice And Olive Oil
Lemons contain a weak organic (citric) acid that helps to relieve itching and irritation. To prevent your nipples from cracking, you should blend some lemon juice with olive oil and apply on the nipples. Wash off after 15-20 minutes. You can use it throughout the trimesters and after giving birth.
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