Breastfeeding with two cracked nipples is a whole new level of agony. What if I told you that you didn’t have to grit your teeth and cry through every nursing session, trying to outlast the pain?
Here’s the main problem with your sore and cracked nipples. If you stop breastfeeding in order to heal, your milk supply will stop. (No stimulation = No milk) On the other hand, if you keep breastfeeding “as normal”, your nipples are going to fall off. Okay, they won’t really fall off. It just feels like they will.
The Secret to Healing your Cracked Nipples Is…
Get those cracked nipples healed super-fast by following this two-step therapy plan.
- Attack Plan #1: Double check your positioning and your latch to prevent any nipple re-traumatization.
- Attack Plan #2: Switch to pumping for a day or two and use these quick-healing remedies to jump back into the nursing fray.
Level One Healing:
For Sore and Cracked Nipples
So the goal of our Level One intervention for cracked nipples is to lower the pain and promote healing during the breastfeeding session itself.
There’s a few tools we can use to do this.
Healing Cracked Nipples with Shields
Nipple shields are these little decorated iron shields decorated with your family emblem and placed on the tip of each breast.
There’s no emblem. Okay, seriously…they look a little different than that.
Functionally, though, they act like little iron shields. These plastic shields provide a comfort zone-buffer between your sore or cracked nipples and your baby’s hungry mouth. The shields are SUPER thin, which tricks your baby into thinking your breast is made of silicone. (Which, actually, it could be…)
Not only is it a huge help to moms who are trying to perfect their breastfeeding latch, it’s essential for moms with inverted nipples. (That’s where the nipple looks dimpled, like it’s going in instead of poking out.)
The shield should be placed over the nipple, with the cut-out side over the part of the breast where his little nose will be. A little sterile water will help the shield stick to your skin and prevent any shifting around while breastfeeding.
One more thing. Measure the diameter of your areola (that’s the darkened-skin area around the nipple) before you pick up a pair of nipple shields. Nipples come in all
shapes and sizes.
Purchasing the wrong size will do nothing for your cracked nipples, and could actually make them worse. (In case you’re wondering, worse-than-cracked means bleeding.)
Release Your Inner FemBot: The Nipple Shell
Another great weapon in the war against cracked nipples is the nipple shell. These clever devices give your sore nipples some space. Literally.
When placed on the breast, it prevents your raw nipples from rubbing against your bra. This may seem like a minor thing, but is actually HUGE when you’re waiting for hurt tissue to heal. It’s hard to do that when they’re rubbing back and forth on cotton (or worse, WOOL) all afternoon.
Even better, these shells will collect any milk that leaks. This may not be a big deal for you mega-producers out there, but for me, every drop was liquid gold, considering how hard it was to produce!
My only semi-complaint about shells is that they pretty much turn your buxom bosom into a pointy office hazard. Unless you’re prepared to get stares/snickers/gasps, wear a heavy cover-up sweater or use them on the weekend. 🙂
Magic Healing Potions
Besides those contraptions, creams and salves can make a huge healing difference in a short period of time.
When you’re finished breastfeeding, spread a little breastmilk on your nipple and let them air dry. (Yes, this will require you walk around topless for a while. He’ll think he died and went to heaven!)
Lanolin is the typical recommended healing cream for sore or cracked nipples. Lanolin is made from the secretions from sheep. (Sorry that sounds gross, there’s just no flowery-way of explaining it.) If you’re allergic to wool, almond oil, or shea butter you may want to avoid it. (Vegans beware.)
Honestly, though, lanolin didn’t do much for my aching cracked nipples. This nipple butter, however, was a MIRACLE of relief. (Ego bonus: It’s all natural!)
Level Two Healing:
For Bleeding Nipples
So, you’ve completed the Level One Cracked Nipple Healing Course and things haven’t improved much.
You’ve used shields and shells, you’ve practiced your topless cooking techniques, and there’s a whole tub of cream smeared on your upper half.
Yet, your cracked nipples are still sore. So sore, in fact, they are actually bleeding.
In this level of of our healing journey, we’re going to have to “pause” the actual form of breastfeeding, and yet still maintain the same level of stimulation. It’s a delicate balance. You need to keep your breastmilk supply high, so you can’t just stop, but you also need a little space the tender tissue to heal enough to stop bleeding. Here’s what we’re going to do.
Step 1: Get a Free Breast Pump
Trust me, you’re going to want a good electric pump. (Hand pumps are generally a pain in the pa-tootie.)
When I first started writing about babies and breastfeeding, your only choice was to either shell out a couple hundred dollars or rent a sub-par model (with duct tape!) from the hospital.
NO MORE! Insurance companies are now required by law to provide you with a high-quality breast pump for Freeeeee! Free…free…free…
Aeroflow will not only do all the crappy paperwork free of charge, they will set you up with a consultant to make sure the pump you are receiving is the perfect fit for your unique situation. Click here to fill out their short form and get that process started!
Step #2: Pump and Bottle Feed
For two days pump every 2 hours, even if you get only drips, and feed that milk to your newborn in a bottle. (Choosing a good bottle can help prevent nipple confusion.)Not only will the every-two-hour schedule increase your milk supply, the design of the pump will give your nipples a much needed rest.
Again, areolas come in all different sizes so make sure the plastic that goes around your breast is the right size, otherwise you’ll be back on agony street. It needs to be large enough that you feel the tug around the areola area not just the nipple.
Having experienced cracked nipples with my second-born, I can tell you that if you are using the right pump shield size, it won’t hurt. Even if your nipples are bleeding. If it does, you need to go a size larger.
Seems to Be Working…
Have your baby checked for tongue-tie. There may be a physical reason for all this pain. Click here to learn more about tongue-tie.
Another clever and helpful reader pointed out in the comments that if you’re nipples are sore and these methods aren’t working, you should also head back to your doctor to be checked for Thrush.
Once your cracked nipples have healed (just a day or two should do it), try try again. It’s time to leave the cracked dry desert of hopelessness and skip through a fertile garden of bonding.
Having struggled in that desert and danced in that garden, let me assure you: it’s so worth it.
You can totally do this. You can get yourself healed up and actually meet your breastfeeding goals. It will just take a plan (which hopefully now you have), a few good tools, and a pound of stubbornness (that’s the easy part!).
Time to heal up!
Have You Read These Yet?
Hate Pumping? 10 “Me Time” Ideas That Will Change Your Mind
Pumping breast milk sucks. Here’s how to milk it for all it’s worth. (I’ll stop now…)
15 Things You Should Expect When Maternity Leave Ends
I know it’s hard to think about. Trust me, knowing these things AHEAD of time makes it easier!
20 Nursing Dresses That Will Make You Feel Gorgeous
Who said breastfeeding clothes look frumpy? Obviously, they haven’t seen THESE.
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Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at MightyMoms.club and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She’s a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, has been a featured parenting expert writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, Cafe Mom, and others. If it’s 2am and you’re desperate to read SOMETHING, check out her deepest darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn’t be allowed to blog.