What To Do With Painful, Sore, Cracked or Bleeding Nipples

When your nipples are painful, sore, cracked or bleeding, try to apply the following tips.

  • After feeding, smear some of your milk on the nipples and ensure air access. When possible, air your raw nipples, leaving your breasts naked, without a bra and a blouse, at least for several minutes.

  • When you put on the bra, use breast pads to ensure constant access of air to raw nipples and to avoid direct contact between the wound and the bra textile which can stick to it. You can buy special silicone pads (ventilated breast shells) or make them out of small plastic kitchen sieves with their handles cut off.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes (bras, blouses, shirts) made of natural fibers.

  • When smearing your own milk and airing do not help, you can use an ointment from a pharmacy. There is a wide selection available, so ask a pharmacist for advice. Remember, the ointment may be sensitizing and limit air access to the wound, delaying the healing process. Before applying the ointment, check if it has to be washed away before giving the breast to the baby. Even when it does not have to be washed away, wipe the top layer with a clean tissue, so baby's lips do not slip on a greased surface, additionally hurting the nipple.

  • Rinse the breast with marigold infusion.

  • When the nipples are so painful that it makes breastfeeding impossible, take a painkiller containing paracetamol or ibuprofen about 20 minutes before feeding. Even when the nipples are bleeding, you can still breastfeed your baby. Blood from the wound will not harm him. When the baby grasps the breast deeply and the raw nipple is not bitten by the baby's gums, you should not feel any pain during feeding. However, the moment you give the breast to the baby may still be painful.

  • When you are not able to breastfeed the baby due to a very strong pain, extract milk regularly with a breast pump and give it to the baby in a way not interfering with breast suckling, until the nipples heal.

  • When the wounds do not heal and you feel increasingly worse, consult your doctor or a lactation consultant. Maybe a bacterial or fungal infection has developed in the wound. (See what to do in such cases in the chapters: Fungal infection, Bacterial infection). The raw nipples that are difficult to heal may also lead to milk stasis or mastitis.