Though breastfeeding looks easy, new moms are often confused by how awkward and uncomfortable they find it when they start breastfeeding their newborn. Just like any other skill, breastfeeding your little one can take some time to learn. While there is no “right” way to breastfeed, the “wrong” way can quickly lead to sore and cracked nipples. When your baby begins to nurse, they take some time and effort to latch on to the breast.
Cracked nipples are one of the most painful things for a nursing mom. The red, irritated, or scabbed skin on and around your nipple feels sore and can be extremely uncomfortable. It dries your nipple, causing cracked skin and even occasional bleeding. Sore or cracked nipples make future breastfeeding sessions uncomfortable for mom.
Causes of cracked nipples
Moms are more likely to experience cracked nipples during the first month postpartum. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Poor latch: It will take time for your baby to learn to latch on properly. A baby’s poor latch often leads to sore nipples. Using a bottle for supplemental feeding can increase the chances of cracked nipples. This is because babies use a different technique to suck on the bottle as compared to the breast. Increased bottle-feeding can increase the chances of nipple trauma in moms because when you try breastfeeding after that, the baby’s latch will be different.
- Wrong breastfeeding positions: The incorrect technique and position used during breastfeeding can lead to cracked nipples. Uncomfortable breastfeeding positions can cause the baby to squash your nipple while feeding. The squashed nipples become painful and can restrict the flow of milk.
- Breast pump: Using a breast pump with a small pump flange can cause cracked nipples. Take your time to find the right flange size to express milk comfortably and efficiently.
How to prevent cracked nipples
You can prevent cracked nipples in several ways:
- Baby-led attachment: Babies instinctively know how to position themselves for a comfortable feeding session. Let your baby lead the way if breastfeeding feels awkward to you. Baby-led attachment is painless and makes nursing comfortable.
- Different breastfeeding positions: Moms who are self-attaching can look for breastfeeding positions that feel comfortable for their nursing technique. Consult a midwife or a lactation consultant to find a nursing position that’s right for you and your baby.
- Supplemental milk: Avoid using bottles to feed babies who need supplemental milk at the beginning of their lives. Instead, use a spoon, cup, or syringe to avoid interfering with the baby’s natural latch.
- Recognizing early feeding cues: A distressed baby is more likely to latch onto your breast painfully. Offer a feed to the baby before they start crying. Understand the early feeding cues that babies give to have successful breastfeeding sessions.
How to treat cracked nipples
Treating cracked nipples takes some time and care.
- Emollient creams: Lanolin-based or coconut creams help soften the skin. Apply these creams onto your nipples after breastfeeding to prevent soreness and cracks.
- Breast milk: Several moms apply breast milk onto their nipples and let it dry. It helps prevent the nipples from cracking and has excellent antibacterial properties.
- Corticosteroid creams: After getting approval from a healthcare professional, apply a corticosteroid cream onto your nipples to treat the cracks. Do not use such creams for more than two weeks at a time, as it can cause the skin near the nipples to thin out.
- Comfortable bras: Wear comfortable and well-fitting bras that support the new shape of your breasts. Avoid wearing tight bras that rub against the nipples and cause friction.
- Avoid drying substances: Do not use harsh and drying substances on your nipples. Avoid using soaps, body powders, deodorants, and other substances that increase the cracking in and around your nipples.