9 Tips for Healing Wounded Nipples

Many moms experience some level of soreness in the early days of breastfeeding. Part of her body is suddenly being ‘used’ every few hours-no wonder! Mild soreness or some gentle tugging is normal but it needs to be separated from something much worse- pain and trauma. Pain and trauma are not ok.

Pain and trauma are typically caused by an improper latch or less-than ideal positioning. To determine what the root issue is, it would be beneficial for both you and your baby to be seen by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If the root of the problem is not corrected, many of the tips below will be less-than helpful.

Nine Tips for Healing Wounded Nipples

1) Wash your nipples 3x for each 24hr period with a mild, fragrance-free soap; let them air dry or gently pat dry with a paper towel. Washing your nipples is extremely important as it will keep harmful bacteria at bay.

2) Make a saline soak and use 1x for each 24hr period. In 8oz of warm water, dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt. Pour solution into two shallow bowls and dip your nipples in. Remember as a kid how fast your cuts would heal after a day at the beach? It’s no different in this situation, just be sure to not exceed 5 minutes or else your nipples can become dry. Let air dry or gently pat dry with a paper towel.

3) Use your own breastmilk to treat any trauma. Breastmilk is full of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. It can help soothe any pain as well. Let air dry.

4) Expose your nipples to air as much as you can. When wearing a bra, consider using breast shells in order to give your nipples space and to eliminate any discomfort you may feel when a shirt or bra is touching you directly. Breast-shells can be purchased at Target, Buy Buy Baby, or Babies ‘R Us.

5) Products such as lanolin, hydrogel pads, silverttes, manuka honey pads, or a nipple shield may be helpful to you when you cannot remain topless. All products listed are safe to use and will not cause any harm to your baby. It is very important however, to be using these products under the instruction of an IBCLC. Most of these products can be purchased at Target, Buy Buy Baby, or Babies ‘R Us.

6) If you’re wearing a bra with breast-pads, change them frequently-at every feeding or as soon as they become wet. If you are using cloth breast-pads, you may want to consider using disposable pads, just for the time being. Bacteria tend to fester in warm and moist environments.

7) Nurse your baby beginning with your ‘better’ breast, or the side that is not causing you as much pain. When babies are very hungry, they will suckle much more vigorously. By the time baby goes on the ‘worse’ breast, he has a gentler tug because his little belly has been filled, mostly, from the other side.

8) If the trauma to your nipples is causing you a great deal of pain you may need to stop breastfeeding, just for 24-48hrs or so, until your nipples heal. You will need to pump 10-12x in each 24hr period to keep your supply up. If there is trauma on one nipple only, continue breastfeeding on the unaffected side while pumping on the other. Taking your baby off the breast is a last resort; you must be working closely with an IBCLC.

9) Ask yourself every 12-24hrs, “Is this getting better, worse, or staying the same?” If things are becoming worse, you many need to call your physician for a prescription cream or alter your nipple healing regime. Be sure to give your lactation consultant a call before making any drastic changes to your plan.

Remember that the root of the problem needs to be addressed, but in the meantime- heal those nipples!

Be kind to yourself, mama. You’re doing a great job.


Lindsey Murphy, BS, IBCLC


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