Breastfeeding can make you pay more attention to your breasts than you ever have before. Your breasts become their own separate entities, each with their own secrets and issues. A common, and painful, truth that breastfeeding moms often go through is dealing with cracked or bleeding nipples. If you are nursing, and suffering this pain, you may want to know, why are my nipples bleeding while breastfeeding?
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), the leading cause of sore or bleeding nipples is a bad latch or unusual nursing position that stretches the nipple, causing it to bleed. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Registered Nurse (RN) Jennifer Passwaters tells Romper that feeling a tugging or pulling sensation is normal, especially in the first weeks of breastfeeding, but feeling a pinching sensation, pain, or bleeding is not. If improper latch is the cause, then LLLI suggested adjusting your baby's position, or working with your baby to develop proper sucking.
If it's not a bad latch, it could be a sign of infection. Baby Center noted that bleeding nipples can also be caused by thrush or other infections, and can include symptoms like itchiness and redness in the nipple area, along with intense pains throughout the entire breast during or after a breastfeeding session.
According to Tongue Tie, oral ties can cause your baby to chew the nipple, which can damage the skin, causing it to bleed. Passwaters says that these situations require the help of a knowledgeable IBCLC who can refer mom and baby to a doctor that can perform a clip procedure for the oral tie. She says that while some nursing positions can help in these situations, more often than not, the ties will need to be clipped.
It could also just be dry skin. Nursing Nurture explained that eczema can contribute to sore, red, or bleeding nipples, and will start with small red blisters that swell and crust, causing your nipples to feel itchy and painful, especially while breastfeeding. Keeping your skin moisturized and allowing it to air out can help reduce the inflammation, suggested Nursing Nurture, and avoiding allergens like perfumes and dyes can help as well.
So what should you do if your nipples are bleeding? IBCLC Rachel O'Brien tells Romper that it's safe to keep breastfeeding, but you can let your nipples heal by not nursing for 24 to 48 hours, and continuing to pump or hand express milk to protect your supply. And since bleeding nipples are never normal, IBCLC Lindsay Greenfield suggests to Romper that it's important to get support from a lactation consultant if this happens to you.
Breastfeeding may come with some painful moments, but you don't have to suffer alone. Feel free to reach out for help if you need it — bleeding nipples aren't a necessary part of breastfeeding.