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How do I heal sore nipples?

Ouch! Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. However, for any number of reasons, mothers may develop sore nipples.

Nipple tenderness at the beginning of a feeding may be normal in the first two to four days of breastfeeding. Soreness that is more intense or continues for a longer time indicates that some adjustment needs to be made.

To begin healing sore nipples see our FAQ, How Do I Prevent Sore Nipples to determine the cause of your soreness. Being able to correct the situation causing the soreness will ultimately lead to nipple healing. The comfort measures below will allow you to continue breastfeeding your baby until the problem is resolved.

Note: If thrush or a yeast infection is the cause of your sore nipples, please see our Thrush FAQ for further information. In general, thrush thrives on milk and moisture so your nipples should be kept dry. Try rinsing them with water and letting them air dry after each feeding.

  • Check positioning and encourage your baby to open wide when latching on. See our FAQ on Positioning.
  • Offer your baby short, frequent feedings to encourage a less vigorous suck.
  • Nurse on the least sore side first, if possible.
  • When removing your baby from your breast, break the suction gently by pulling on baby's chin or corner of mouth.
  • Warm, moist compresses applied to your nipples (if a yeast infection is not present) may be soothing.
  • Freshly expressed breastmilk applied to your nipples will not only soothe your nipples but also reduce the chances of infection, as human milk has antibacterial properties. (Again, do not use if thrush is present.)
  • Moist wound healing has been shown to be very effective for healing sore nipples. Keeping your nipples covered with a medical grade (100% pure) modified lanolin ointment or hydrogel dressing will encourage any cracks to heal without scabbing or crusting.
  • Moist tea bags applied to the nipples are a folk remedy that recent research has shown to have an astringent effect that may promote drying and cracking, and is therefore not advised.
  • At one time, it was recommended that a hair dryer or sunlamp be used on sore nipples. Research has now shown that this promotes drying and further cracking and is not advised.

Resources for Additional Information

The LEAVEN article "Nipple Pain: Causes, Treatment and Remedies" will provide you with additional information, as will the many resources on our nipple pain Web resource page.

Contact a local La Leche League Leader for more information and support during this challenging time.

These pamphlets may be ordered from the LLLI Online Store or a Leader may have a copy you can purchase.

Positioning Your Baby at the Breast is a step-by-step guide to positioning the baby correctly to ensure that baby sucks well and gets plenty of milk, and mother avoids nipple soreness and pain.

Sore Nipples includes step-by-step illustrations of latch-on and emphasizes the importance of correct positioning; also features recommendations about treatment of sore and cracked nipples reflecting current research on moist wound healing.

Breastfeeding Resources:

THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, NEW 8th Edition, published by La Leche League International, is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother.

LLLI Breastfeeding Tips and Products includes helpful answers to frequently asked breastfeeding questions plus a section that features books and products.
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