The joys of having a newborn are both amazing and exhausting. One of the most precious bonds mothers talk about is having the ability to breastfeed their babies and the bond it creates between them. However, breastfeeding is not always an easy or particularly enjoyable journey. There are definitely times where breastfeeding means nipple pain from incorrect latch or sore, cracked nipples. Unfortunately, there are a lot of "solutions" out there that don't actually help. In order to take away some of that discomfort, it helps to find some remedies for nipple pain that actually work.
When I began breastfeeding for the first time five years ago, I often wondered why no one told me that it can be painful and difficult. I thought my experience was abnormal because I hadn't heard others talking about it. However, after researching and reaching out to a lactation consultant, I quickly learned that most moms run into some sort of difficultly or pain while breastfeeding. I also learned that the majority of the time there's an easy fix or adjustment that will help moms move forward and continue breastfeeding pain-free. If you're worried about nipple pain or can't seem to find the right remedy for you, here are some remedies that actually work.
1. Check & Readjust Baby's Latch
According to Fit Pregnancy, when it comes to breastfeeding, the number one cause of nipple pain is incorrect latch. While breastfeeding, make sure your baby's mouth covers your nipple and the majority of your areola. You can also try keeping his head even with your breast to avoid pulling down on the nipple, using your arms to cradle him or a nursing pillow works well.
2. Use Nipple Shields
If you're so sore that breastfeeding seems unbearably painful, a nipple shield ($6) can be a buffer to alleviate some of that soreness until you find another solution. It's important that you aren't using them too often though. Using nipple shields should be done as infrequently as possible according to Today's Parent because many times the shields cause your baby to latch incorrectly and ultimately make latch and nipple pain more of a struggle in the long run.
3. Try A Little Breastmilk
Breastmilk has powerful healing remedies, antibacterial and otherwise, according to Kelly Mom. I know moms that use it for everything from a baby's rash to their own chapped nipples, In order to heal cracked or dried nipples, Today's Parent suggested expressing a little breast milk onto your nipple and letting it air dry.
4. Cover Yourself In Cabbage
My second time breastfeeding was substantially easier than my first, but I still had the occasional bout of engorgement that caused soreness in my nipples. When I sought out help from a local midwife, she suggested cabbage leaf compresses — or washing a cabbage leaf with warm water and placing it on my breast for up to 20 minutes. In addition to cabbage leaf compresses, Kelly Mom shared that cold compresses between feedings may help if engorgement is affecting your nipple or areola.
5. Air Your Nipples Out
If your nipples are sore, dry, or cracked, they're often sensitive to the touch or clothing. According to Today's Parent, one of the best ways to help your nipples heal is to let them air out. They also suggest using donut-shaped breast shells around your nipples to help protect from contact with clothing if it's too painful.
6. Apply Nipple Ointment
In an interview with Fit Pregnancy, breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman suggested using an all-purpose nipple cream that the pharmacy will compound with specific ingredients when given a prescription for it. I can personally attest to this, as I was in severe pain and crying each time I breastfed with no relief from over-the-counter nipple creams. My lactation consultant wrote a prescription for this type of nipple ointment, and within in an hour, the pain was gone for the first time in days.