It is normal for your nipples to be tender for the first 3 to 4 days after the birth. If the symptoms continue for longer or if your nipples are painful and sore, cracked, encrusted or bleeding this is usually because the baby is not latching on properly. Perhaps the baby is only taking the nipple in her mouth and not enough of the areola, or is not opening her mouth wide enough, or has her lips drawn in, or perhaps you are leaning forward at the start of the feed, etc.
In rare cases sore nipples can be the result of sucking problems, thrush (a fungal infection producing white patches in the baby’s mouth) or tongue-tie (in which the band connecting the tongue with the floor of the mouth is too short).
Sore nipples are intensely painful. You should therefore seek advice from a breastfeeding specialist as quickly as possible.
The following can be helpful:
- Analyse the cause and correct it, e.g. ensure the baby latches on properly.
- Put the baby to the less painful breast first.
- Giving frequent short feeds is easier on you than taking long breaks.
- Breastfeed in different positions.
- Use a lanolin cream e.g. Gold Cream. Lanolin aids healing.
- Take a break from breastfeeding and use a breastpump. The Carum breastpump’s "Sensitive Programme" was developed for expressing with sore nipples. It begins with an initial vacuum that can hardly be felt and a low starting cycle that can be carefully adjusted according to the sensations experienced by the mum.