Breastfeeding is supposed to be a beautiful time in which you can gaze lovingly on your baby and bond. However, many other mothers will start to warn you about the damage breastfeeding can do to your nipples and all of the pain you might endure. You will hear this so much that you might believe that sore nipples from breastfeeding is normal. This doesn’t have to be true! Most lactation experts agree that nipple pain does not need to be commonplace, nor should it be. There are several ways to help prevent sore nipples and to sooth them if any soreness does occur.
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Preventing Sore Nipples
According to many lactation experts, the most common cause of nipple soreness is an improper latch by your baby. If a latch is completed properly, the entire nipple and a portion of the breast tissue should be in the baby’s mouth, so that the nipple is pointed towards the back of the child’s palate.
Babies have an innate ability to find the nipple and latch, so you should allow your child to follow their natural instincts with only minimal help. You should try to position your body into a relaxed semi-reclining pose and place the child stomach down on your chest. Your child should then naturally seek out your nipple, which should result in a more natural and thus a pain-free latch.
Oftentimes when your child latches and it is painful, your first reaction will be to forcibly unlatch them and have them try again. Most people will suggest this as well, specifically encouraging you to stick your finger into the child’s mouth and break the vacuum seal formed by breastfeeding in order to readjust.
However, doing this can become incredibly frustrating for the child. Imagine if every time that you tried to eat, someone knocked your fork out of your hand! Because of this frustration, it is common for babies to begin to suck harder or to clamp down on the nipple. Doing this repeatedly can increase nipple damage. If at all possible, you should attempt to gently and slowly adjust the baby’s position into a more natural pose. Try gently pushing their shoulders, shifting their hips, or other adjustments until the baby is in a natural position.
You should make sure you are keeping an eye out for early signs of hunger in your baby. If you are experiencing sore nipples, you may have the desire to push back feedings as long as possible. This is the opposite of what you should be doing in order to prevent sore nipples. A hungry baby will often be rougher than a baby who is only beginning to be hungry. Hungry babies latch hard, and will attempt to suckle with force in order to quickly satiate their hunger.
Check for Other Issues
If you have followed these steps and positioning tips and you are still experiencing painful breastfeeding, you should consider having the child checked for tongue-tie, in which the child’s tongue is tied to the floor of their mouths. This can cause difficulty in latching, which can result in the child chewing on the nipple.
Soothing Sore Nipples
If you have tried everything to relieve your nipple pain to no avail, there are several ways for you to treat and soothe the pain and accompanying nipple damage done during breastfeeding.
One of the simplest ways to help soothe your pain and heal any cracks in your nipples is to use your own milk. After you have finished feeding your baby, express a few drops of breastmilk and allow them to rest on your breasts. Your breastmilk has antibiotic qualities and so it is great to help prevent infection. If you need other pain relief as well, you can mix your breastmilk in with some lanolin to help soften your breast tissue.
Air Them Out
Once you have softened the cracks in your nipples or used breast milk to soothe them, you can also try to air them out. If you have the time to rest with your nipples being exposed, it is a great help. However, if you must wear a shirt, you can try using breast shells. These shells create the space between your clothing and your breasts to help prevent chafing.
Keep Them Moist
Research has shown that moist treatment for healing wounded breasts is highly effective. This can be accomplished in a few ways. You can use warm, wet compresses as a way to soothe the irritated tissue, or use hydrogel to coat your nipples and keep them from scabbing. Some people might tell you to use tea bags on your nipples, but these have been shown to actually dry out the breast tissue and make them crack more.
You can use certain oils to massage your breasts and help promote healing. Simply heat up the oil of your choice, such as coconut oil or almond oil, and massage it into your nipples. These oils will keep the tissue soft and moisturized. This also works with Aloe Vera; the fresh gel from an Aloe Vera leaf can be applied to the nipples and will help quickly soothe the pain.
Often the best way to promote healing is to make sure your body is healthy to begin with. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring that you are eating the proper food. Vitamin C is an important vitamin to consume as it helps promote the healing of tissue damage. Vitamin C can also help fight infections. You should consider eating foods such as kiwi, broccoli, parsley, oranges, limes, kale and other vitamin rich foods.
Sore nipples do not have to be a part of your breastfeeding experience! Using these tips, you can help prevent and treat the issue, creating a wonderful feeding experience for both yourself and your child.