Postpartum Recovery: How to Handle Sore Nipples While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding... the beautiful and challenging journey of feeding your baby yourself...

Breastfeeding is natural, but let's be honest "natural" does not mean walk in the park all of the time. Breastfeeding comes with challenges physically, such as exhaustion form energy output, sore or cracked/bleeding nipples, inverted nipples, trying to navigate the breastfeeding football hold or a tongue tie in your newborn. Breastfeeding also comes with beautiful joys such as bonding and closeness with your baby. As newly pregnant women one of the needs on your check list is to take a breastfeeding class, which is a fabulous place to start! It is still hard to learn about the emotions and physical challenges you may encounter when you begin your breastfeeding journey. Take your class, learn what you can and then be sure you have support lined up for you once you begin your breastfeeding journey!

The first latch with your newborn 

It is important to remember you do not have to rush that first latch with your brand new baby. Babies live in a warm, comfortable, safe environment and then they begin the journey of birthing and while they are excited to meet their family, they too need to adjust to life outside the womb. Allow yourself to be relaxed, in a comfortable position and when you and baby are ready, let them do their work of latching. Let them open their mouth wide and latch for the first time at their pace. Once baby is latched for the first time you may feel a "pinch" of sorts, this is the first time you have felt a baby latch. Pain is not okay though, if you're experiencing pain, detach your baby and try again.

Navigating sore or agitated nipples 

As you've navigated those first few hours of breastfeeding you may notice you have sore nipples from breastfeeding. At this point you may have started to feel soreness in your nipples from breastfeeding, you've never had a newborn latched for 20-30 min a day every 2-3 hours. When you're nipples are sore, you can begin using a nipple cream from Medela. This will help give your nipples a rest and a break so that they can heal while you continue to breastfeed. The same concept can be applied using a nipple shield while breastfeeding for a short time to give your nipples a break if your nipples are cracked or extremely sore.

Sore or agitated nipples are no fun, but there is an end in sight if it is just your nipples adjusting to breastfeeding. In some cases, sore or cracked nipples may be from a tongue or lip tie in your newborn that should be evaluated by an expert. As postpartum and infant care doulas we can take a look and see if something looks abnormal and refer you out to an expert for a consultation, either an IBCLC or a Pediatric Dentist for a revision consultation. Sometimes sore nipples take a week or two before they go away, sometimes there is a issue that your Postpartum Doula can help with or refer you to an IBCLC for, sometimes there is an anatomy issue that a revision can correct. What is important to remember is that this is your first time and your baby's first time nursing together. There may be challenges, but you can overcome them with the amazing support you have in your community.