Anyone that's dealt with sore nipples knows it is no picnic. It's really quite wretched and can present a challenge when trying to take care of a new baby. First, the pain can just drain you and really impact your mental state and mood. Secondly, the pain can strain your nursing and pumping sessions. If you're not a fan of using commercial products on your nipples or simply can't get to the store, thankfully there are items in your pantry that will soothe your nipples.
Before getting into some of the home remedies, it's important to identify what is causing your sore nipples. Le Leche League International (LLLI) explained that cracked, throbbing, aching, peeling, itching, or simply sore nipples are usually the result of incorrect positioning while nursing or poor suction (when breastfeeding or pumping). The site noted that it's normal to feel tenderness in those first few days after a baby is born, but if it doesn't go away it could be a sign that the baby isn't latching properly. LLLI recommended that nursing mothers with persistent sore nipples reach out to a lactation consultant or medical professional that can help observe their latch and determine any possible issues.
While you wait for an appointment or go on the journey of trying to figure out the source of your sore nipples, there are things you can do in the interim to soothe them. Here are seven remedies you can try with things in your pantry or simply at home without having to go anywhere.
1. Coconut Oil (And Other Cooking Oils)
I swear I want to rub coconut oil all over my life. It's so smooth and treats every problem or ailment (and it smells like cookies). Coconut oil can be used for cooking, moisturizing your hair, and healing your cracked nipples. According to Prevention, coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and extremely moisturizing which makes it an all around great pick for soothing any cracks, dryness, or peeling on your nipples. Parenting also suggested another cooking oil like olive oil to rub on hurting nipples. You should just double check to see which cooking oils can be used while nursing, because something like peanut oil would be considered a possible allergen to your baby. When in doubt, just wash off the oil before nursing or pumping.
There is some scientific proof that honey can be used topically. A study done in 2009 by the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that using honey for small burn wounds effectively reduced healing time. Whether or not the type of honey used matters is anyone's guess, but it's certainly worth a shot. It's important to point out that, while many naturalists and some scientists tout honey has healing, LLLI claims honey is inappropriate for sore nipples because it is considered an allergen. If you try honey to heal your cracked nipples, the best thing you could do is wash it off before nursing your baby directly or pumping.
3. Basil Leaves
According to Web MD, basil has medicinal antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when ingested. Many interested in basil's natural health benefits claim that it also can help be an anti-inflammatory when applied topically to skin. You could try mixing some basil leaves with cooking oil and rubbing it on your nipples.
4. Tea Bags
LLLI claimed that warm tea bags placed on your breasts could help soothe the nipples because of the moist warmth. The same site also noted that tea bags may not help with peeling or cracked nipples, but the relief they may offer from soreness may be still reason enough to give them a try. Brew yourself a cup while you're at it too.
5. Hot Dish Towel Compress
This might not necessarily be located in your pantry (maybe in the drawer next to it, I don't know how you organize your kitchen), but it's still an item in your kitchen that's easy to use for sore nipples. The same LLLI post above claimed that warm, moist compresses can help soothe sore nipples. It's not hard to see why hot compresses are suggested for a breastfeeding mother's boobs, as they are commonly used for just about any soreness as a way to facilitate temporary relief.
6. Ice Cubes
Time to get out those plastic snack bags in your pantry. You can directly ice your nipples if you want, but if you don't want water all over you just grab a plastic bag from the pantry, place the ice inside and let it sit on your nipples. The Dr. Sears website even suggested numbing your nipples with ice right before a feeding or pumping session if they are really sore.
7. Breast Milk
You probably don't have breast milk stored in your pantry, but it's on your body so it's worth noting. LLLI explained that breast milk has antibacterial properties, and applying freshly expressed breast milk to your wounded nipples, after washing the area thoroughly. The site also suggested leaving the breasts exposed to fresh air after doing this.
No matter what you try, either an at home remedy or commercial, it won't get better until you identify the problem. These are all quick and easy fixes for if you need relief immediately, but as the Dr. Sears and LLLI website pointed out, figuring out why your nipples are getting sore in the first place should be a priority because doing that will stop the cycle of pain and help you feed your baby.