Nursing your baby is an incredible experience that allows you to bond on such a deep level, you can feel it down to your very soul. Unfortunately, sometimes human bodies have to put a damper on our spiritual bliss with aches and pains. Cracked, sore, and even bleeding nipples definitely fall into that category. Many breastfeeding mothers experience these issues, which can be either a symptom or a forewarning of serious health problems. It’s essential to understand what can cause painful, cracked, and bleeding nipples and get treatment right away.
Sore, Cracked & Sensitive Nipples: Causes
Here’s the good news first. In the vast majority of cases, pain in the nipples of breastfeeding mothers is caused by incorrect positioning or attachment of the baby. The issue is easily fixed by learning how to place and hold your baby correctly. You can get detailed instructions on proper latching technique here and here.
Now onto the more serious matters of pain, cracking, and bleeding. These can be caused by:
- Yeast infection (thrush)
The infection can also affect your baby’s mouth. The symptoms are sharp pain, itching, burning, and redness.
- Tongue-tie in the baby
If your baby has a tongue or lip tie, they won’t be able to move the tongue properly. Thus follows incorrect latching that will cause trauma to the nipple.
Mastitis is a type of inflammation and will have excruciating pain, fever, chills, and other symptoms reminiscent of flu.
This condition has symptoms similar to a yeast infection and can occur as a result of allergies.
- Milk blister
This literally is a tiny blister on the nipple or areola. You can relieve and even prevent those with simple warm compresses after feeding.
- Raynaud’s syndrome
The condition is also known as vasospasm and occurs as a result of irregular blood flow in the breast. It’s usually a more severe side effect of incorrect positioning.
- Engorged breasts
The condition occurs when breasts are too full of milk and become big, so the baby won’t latch properly. This can be relieved with a massage or using a breast pump.
- Physical trauma
This is an inevitable part of breastfeeding and might occur when the baby is teething or due to the use of breast pump.
Sore, Cracked & Sensitive Nipples: Treatments
If your problems are caused by physical trauma and incorrect latching, the treatment is simple. First, prevent further trauma by learning how to position the baby. Next, use topical treatments to heal the tissue, like:
- Light moisturizing nipple care cream.
- Warm compress (apply moistened washcloth onto the breast for 2 minutes before removing and patting the breast dry gently).
- Cooling gel packs can offer relief from soreness and breast engorgement.
NOTE: use with caution as temperature shifts might cause a vasospasm.
Remember that it’s essential to clean your breasts and nipples after every feeding. Be very careful and gentle so as not to damage the sensitive skin. A warm compress or a quick rinse with a saline solution can help you prevent infection and dermatitis.
Many nursing mothers also develop nipple soreness as a side-effect of breast soreness caused by a bad choice of bra or lack of breast support during sleep. You can find specialized sleep bras for maternity and breastfeeding. These come in many types, so look for one that will fit you personally.
If the soreness of your nipples is caused by infection or mastitis, you have to consult a doctor so they can prescribe proper treatment. It might be necessary to stop nursing during your recovery as your baby will get assaulted by bacteria as well.
It’s imperative to consult a doctor if your nipples are bleeding or discharging any strange ooze. You should also get a consultation if the soreness persists after proper positioning of the baby. Remember that nursing is a natural process. And it’s NOT normal to experience pain during or after it.