Cracked nipples and breastfeeding is a common topic that I get messaged about. It also happens to be one of the leading causes of moms ending their breastfeeding journey.
It can be extremely painful and discouraging to deal with cracked nipples while breastfeeding.
So what can be done? What causes it?
Today’s guest post gives a firsthand account of dealing with this very topic and how she was able to heal her nipples and continue her breastfeeding journey!
Cracked Nipples and Breastfeeding
Guest Post by Cindy Hemming
Hi Everyone! My name is Cindy and I blog at Living for the Sunshine. I’m a mom of two little girls, a four-year-old and a ten-month-old. I’m a strong advocate for breastfeeding, but I know firsthand that breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily.
Today, I want to share my story about nursing with cracked nipples with you.
Breastfeeding My First Baby: Easy Peasy
My breastfeeding experience with my first daughter was ideal.
Aside from using a nipple shield for the first few months, everything went as smoothly as I could imagine. My daughter gained lots of weight, was healthy as could be and the calming effect of breastfeeding got us through fussy times, teething and more!
We continued to happily breastfeed for 18 months.
After such a positive breastfeeding experience, I was completely confident about nursing my second child.
I knew firsthand how convenient and beneficial breastfeeding is. I was 100% confident about my ability to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Second Baby: Not What I Expected
My confidence continued after my second daughter’s birth. We breastfed easily while still in the delivery room. Her latch was perfect and I knew it was the start of a beautiful breastfeeding relationship.
Fast forward to the week after we left the hospital.
It turned out this baby was a little more tricky to get latched than our initial experience.
I later figured out that unlike my firstborn, who wanted to feed anytime anywhere, my second had no interest in nursing unless she was hungry and had no interest to comfort nurse (she took five minutes to nurse, even as a newborn!).
There were lots of times she wouldn’t latch, even though she had no problem latching when she was interested in feeding.
As a mom who was used to having a cooperative baby who latched whenever a breast was offered, this was so strange to me!
I was desperate to get her to latch, and when she did, I let her stay on, even if the latch wasn’t perfect.
This ended up being a disaster.
Painful Breastfeeding with No End in Sight
I knew to expect a small amount of pain in the first few weeks of nursing (something I was able to skip with my first, thanks to the nipple shield we used). But this pain seemed to be getting worse and worse as the weeks went on.
I started dreading feeding time and was completely stressed every time we nursed.
It took a huge toll on my mental health anticipating so much pain every two hours. Even my beloved nipple shield was no help; the baby refused to latch at all when it was on! (Girlfriend has a mind of her own: ten months later she still won’t take a bottle!).
The low point in my nursing journey was when I was examining my nipples and realized there was not just a crack, but a CREVICE in my nipple.
It was so large that I worried if we continued, she would ‘chew’ my nipple off.
Working Through Cracked Nipples and Breastfeeding
Totally bewildered, I googled ‘gash in nipple while breastfeeding’ and discovered I had a severely cracked nipple.
I considered my options.
The nipple shield was not working and pumping was causing wayyyy too much pain.
Still, I didn’t consider giving up breastfeeding. I knew from my first just how easy breastfeeding would become after a few months, not to mention how many benefits it was giving my baby.
The Plan: First, Perfect Latch
After a lot of research, I had a game plan: First, I would nurse, starting on the side that was least sore, then moving to the sore side to ensure the baby was not ravenously sucking on my cracked nipple.
When latching, I would need to be 100% sure we had a solid latch. Otherwise, I would have to make sure her lips were fully flared, or re-latch until we got it perfect.
This was really hard because latching was the most painful part!
Second, Heal my Nipples
Second, came my ‘healing regimen’ after the baby was done nursing.
First, I expressed milk and let it dry on my nipple. Next, I gave my nipples a ‘bath’ in a saline solution of warm water and salt (poured it in a shot glass and held it against my breasts so my nipples were submerged).
After that, I applied prescription nipple cream (if you haven’t heard of Dr. Jack Newman’s All-Purpose Nipple Ointment, look it up and get a prescription! It is a million times better than lanolin or other creams).
Finally, I applied a hydrogel pad to speed healing.
Rinse and Repeat
I carried out this regimen religiously every time I finished nursing.
It was a lot of work, especially while trying to care for a newborn and a toddler, but I made it a priority.
Finally, things started healing and my gash was shrinking. Nursing was so much less painful and I was starting not to dread feeding time.
Fast forward ten months and my daughter and I are still nursing happily with no plans to stop in the near future.
I want to share my top tips on caring for your nipples while breastfeeding, so you can avoid an experience like I had.
Every time you breastfeed:
- Make sure your latch is solid. If you’re unsure, see a lactation consultant.
- If your latch isn’t perfect, try to correct it, either by gently flaring your baby’s lips, or completely unlatching and trying again. Don’t continue breastfeeding with a bad latch (this can cause cracked nipples).
- After nursing, make sure your nipples are dry (air dry or use a hairdryer can feel soothing).
- Use reusable breast pads that are not lined with plastic (which can trap moisture).
If you have sore or cracked nipples:
- Talk to a lactation consultant to troubleshoot. She may check for several problems, including proper latch, tongue or lip tie, etc.
- Be extra sure your latch is spot on EVERY time.
- Start nursing on your least sore side.
- Try a nipple shield only if you’ve consulted a doctor or lactation consultant.
- After nursing, try heat or cool to soothe sore nipples.
- Ensure your breast pads stay dry and change them frequently.
- Use a saline rinse if your nipples are bleeding or become cracked.
- Use a nipple cream (ask your practitioner about a medicated cream)
- Use hydrogel pads for additional relief.
- Try pumping and feed with a bottle for a few days to give your nipples a chance to heal.
If you’re nursing through pain, recognize that you’ll probably experience some mental anguish.
This is normal and will fade as your nipples heal and breastfeeding becomes less painful (and it will).
Having a rough start does NOT mean you won’t have a long and successful breastfeeding relationship.
I hope that this post and my story will help you with your breastfeeding journey. Come and visit me at Living for the Sunshine, where we talk about breastfeeding, babies and how to make momming a little easier! Thanks for reading!
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