Breastfeeding isn't always a walk in the park. Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it hurts. New mothers, especially those who are still trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, may find themselves in a sore nipple situation. Nipples of nursing or pumping mothers can become dry, cracked, and tender. Many women turn to nipple cream in hopes that it will alleviate their pain, but they may wonder, can I use nipple cream if I'm breastfeeding?
According to La Leche League International (LLLI) sore nipples are totally normal in those first days after having a baby. But if the soreness continues, that might be a sign of a problem. Possible problems could be poor latch, improper nursing position, too high of suction (if using a breast pump) and tongue-tie. These are all breastfeeding issues and challenges that can be dealt with and adjusted so as to prevent pain and ensure efficient breastfeeding sessions. It's recommended that anyone with sore, cracked, or even oozing nipples seek help from a medical professional or certified lactation consultant immediately. But what do you do in the meantime? You try to give your boobs some relief.
Nipple creams have been around for several years. In fact, it was one of the first items on my baby registry at the urging of my older family members. I'm not sure I knew exactly what it was used for as a first time pregnant mama, but I heard horror stories of pained, cracked, and even infected nipples so I figured I absolutely needed it just in case. About four days into my breastfeeding journey I figured out exactly what the cream is used for. It's boob soothing heaven in a bottle. In many ways it's the only thing that kept me breastfeeding through the pain.
There are several different kinds of nipple creams on the market now: lanolin, lanolin-free, organic, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic are the main categories of nipple creams. According to available research there isn't exactly one nipple cream that is better, or safer, than another. None of them have been studied or compared for effectiveness or safety. Choosing a nipple cream seems to be based entirely on preference. It's worth noting that there has been some debate on the safety of lanolin-based nipple creams recently. A report back in 1989 by The Los Angeles Times claimed that trace amounts of cancer-causing pesticides had been found in lanolin. The waxy substance is derived from sheep's wool and is used in several beauty products and ointments, including nipple cream. Researchers with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed that any amount of ingestion of pesticide-laced lanolin by a newborn was unacceptable, and that standards and limits of pesticides shouldn't be arbitrarily set based on regulations used for food. Basically, we're talking about an infant here. No amount of harmful anything is OK.
Understandably the information stated above is extremely dated and not current, but in checking the EPA's website, lanolin is currently an approved substance as of 2016. Whether or not a permissible level of pesticide residue was set or not is unclear, as well as, what that number actually is.
There are some safeguards if you are considering lanolin based nipple cream which is you can look for products that are pure, medical grade ointment as recommended by LLLI. If you want to use lanolin based nipple cream, but are worried about your baby ingesting it, consider applying the ointment to your nipples and washing it off before you nurse or pump. You can also choose to use a coconut oil or olive oil based cream. You could even grab either one of those straight from your pantry and use them as home remedies.
One of the easiest "nipple creams" is simply your breast milk. LLLI explained that breast milk has antibacterial properties and applying freshly expressed breast milk to your wounded nipples might be the best remedy. The site suggested that you wash your nipples gently and let them air out a bit before apply the breast milk (or cream).
Using nipple creams is totally a personal choice for nursing mothers. You do whatever you feel comfortable with considering all of the information. Observing your baby and how they react to certain creams or remedies might help you figure out what's best for you and your baby.