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Unfortunately, there’s a side to breastfeeding that isn’t often reflected on television or in your favorite celebs’ Instagram Stories: the grueling, day-to-day work moms put in to make it work, and the honest struggles you’ll face as a nursing mom. One of those struggles is cracked nipples, a condition that would be terrible under any circumstance, but which is particularly problematic when you have a little one desperate to eat every few hours ”“ or sometimes non-stop!
Did you imagine breastfeeding to be an effortless, beautiful experience that would come naturally to you and your baby? Are you finding it more challenging than you imaged? You’re not alone! Breastfeeding can be a truly special experience. After all, it allows you to bond with your little one in a way that no one else can, and you can use your body to nourish human life ”“ pretty amazing stuff. Unfortunately, chances are, if you commit to breastfeeding for any length of time, you’ll face this hardship (and possibly some serious nipple pain). All this means is that it is important to find ways to cope. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the common causes!
- 1 What Causes Cracked Nipples?
- 2 How to Survive Cracked Nipples ”“ Eight Healing Tips
What Causes Cracked Nipples?
There are a few culprits behind cracked or bleeding nipples.
Shallow Latch ”“
This is incredibly common, and it means the baby isn’t taking your nipple all the way to the back of his palate. Instead, it’s getting crushed against baby’s unforgiving gums or a hard part of the palate. This causes abrasions and breaks in the skin.
Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie ”“
A tongue-tie is when a difference in your baby’s anatomy takes away some range of motion for her tongue, while a lip-tie means a piece of tissue behind baby’s upper lip is too thick or stiff to allow for the full range of motion. Both conditions often lead to a shallow poor latch.
This fungal infection can happen anywhere in the body, but it commonly affects babies and nursing mothers. It can cause severe pain and inflammation in the nipple area before, during and after feeds.
Your baby loves to bite down on toys to lessen teething pain, and he may treat your nipple no differently! Though their teeth may be small, little ones can break the skin on your nipple fairly easily, leaving painful open wounds.
Milk Blister ”“
This common ailment is, essentially, a blocked nipple pore. It happens when a small piece of skin grows over the milk duct opening and milk flow becomes backed-up. It can cause pressure and pain, and it often makes breastfeeding more difficult. When these blisters “pop” they can leave a small, but painful injury.
How to Survive Cracked Nipples ”“ Eight Healing Tips
Cracked nipples can show up quickly, and you’ll want to take care of them with just as much haste. Pain from cracked nipples can jeopardize your breastfeeding success, but there are solutions that will allow you to continue nursing your baby.
1) Breast Milk
You may already be familiar with the healing properties breast milk can have on everything from baby’s diaper rash to her ear infection, but this “liquid gold” can help breastfeeding mothers, too! After a feeding, spread a little breast milk on your sore nipple and let it air dry.
Many moms recommend this salve for cracked nipples, and you’ll want to get the medical-grade strength. It will keep the nipple surface moistened and promote healing. You can buy the salve here!
(NOTE: Lanolin is made from sheep products, so avoid it if you’re allergic to wool or if you need a vegan option.)
3) Organic Nipple Butter
This ointment mimics the same healing properties as lanolin but is vegan-friendly. It’s also paraben-free. You can find some of our favorites here.
4) Hydrogel Pads
These cooling gel pads are great when paired with either Lanolin or Organic Nipple Butter. You can place these on top of the ointment and they will act as a barrier between your nipple and your bra. Check out these soothing hydrogel pads that you can find at your local Walmart!
5) Nipple Shields
This handy apparatus is typically used to help the baby develop a proper latch, but it can also be used during a nursing session to protect a painful, cracked nipple.
Check out our article about the pros and cons of nipple shields if you’d like more info!
6) Nipple Shells
These are similar to the nipple shield, but they aren’t used while nursing. Instead, place them inside your bra to give your injured nipples breathing room and space to properly heal. Here is a great nipple shell option.
7) Switch to Pumping for 24 Hours
If none of the above methods seem viable, your cracked nipples may simply need a break from the baby in order to heal. If your little one will take a bottle, consider pumping for 24 hours (or hand-expressing). This allows needed time for healing.
8) Long-Term Solutions for Cracked Nipples
While the above healing tips will help in the short-term, cracked nipples can easily reoccur. You’ll want to investigate the source of the problem, whether it be a shallow latch, thrush or something else, and determine a solution.
Cracked nipples don’t have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey. With the proper short-term healing tips for cracked nipples and smart long-term solutions, you can overcome this painful nursing hurdle. Talk to your lactation consultant about these methods or any other possible treatments.
Please reach out to our Facebook Group if you are having any struggles with breastfeeding! We are here to help and there is a whole tribe of mamas who have been where you are.
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