In Part One, we discussed common reasons for sore nipples during the early days of breastfeeding.
In the second part of the series we will focus on some suggestions and useful products to help your nipples heal up and feel better quickly.
Warm Soaks or Compresses
Two or three times each day, apply a warm wet washcloth to your sore nipples, or lean forward and lower your nipples into two bowls of warm water placed on the kitchen table. After your warm soak, then apply a thin layer of lanolin cream or a few drops of expressed milk onto the nipples. This process of rehydrating the skin of the nipples speeds healing and reduces scabs. Applying breastmilk also helps prevent infection if there are any cracks or open areas on the nipple.
These soothing pads are placed against the nipple and held in place by a bra, in between feedings. Hydrogel pads feel a bit like a cool sheet of gelatin and provide a healthy environment for the skin of the nipple to heal more quickly. They feel fantastic against sore nipples, and since many moms like using them when chilled, you may want to keep gel pads in the refrigerator between uses. Alternate using hydrogel pads with breast shells for best results.
One of the most helpful products for new nursing moms, these are comfortable dome-shaped small plastic cups worn over your nipples and held in place by your bra. Breast shells help the skin of the nipple heal (and provide great comfort) by preventing anything from pressing or rubbing against the nipples between feedings. They are especially helpful for women with nipple damage, since a bra or nursing pads tends to flatten or fold the nipple back into the breast tissue, interfering with healing. Breast shells should have air holes to allow for circulating air around the nipple.
Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) can be useful to reduce swelling and provide pain relief. Ibuprofen works best when taken every 6 hours as needed. Ibuprofen is considered safe for use by breastfeeding women and is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use with nursing mothers and infants. As with any medication, check with your health care provider for recommendations for your specific situation.
Experiment with different pillows and chairs
You may find that a bed pillow or couch cushion works better than a traditional nursing pillow, or, you may decide you don’t need to use a pillow at all. Try different chairs, couches, and positions until you find a combination that lets you nurse without having to hunch over to feed, and make sure your body, arms, and hands are comfortably supported. A folded cloth diaper or rolled baby blanket is the perfect size to tuck under your hand for additional support.
These thin plastic “nipple protectors” are worn during feeding, and may be useful in certain situations, such as when a young or small baby needs help staying latched to the breast. Nipple shields are also used to help coax a non-nursing baby to the breast, or when a nipple is too sore or damaged for “direct” breastfeeding. However, nipple shields are often purchased and used without professional advice and in some situations can lead to milk production issues or poor infant weight gain. A nipple shield should never be used without guidance and requires follow up and support to gradually transition away from using the shield. Pumping after breastfeeding several times each day may be recommended to ensure stimulating a strong milk supply when a nipple shield is being used.
Some initial nipple pain or tenderness can be normal, but should improve within a few days. Severe nipple pain that makes you dread the next feeding, or nipple damage like cracks, scabs and blisters can be improved! Ask your provider for help or for a referral to an experienced lactation consultant.
At Baby+Company we offer Breastfeeding Basics classes as well as lactation services for after your baby is born. Contact us to learn more!