How to prevent painful, itchy nipples when breastfeeding as well as the best nipple creams

Cracked nipples, engorged breasts, mastitis – the list of painful conditions that go with breastfeeding never seems to end.

Sore, cracked nipples as well itchy nipples is a common complaint from most breastfeeding mothers.

Wincing at the thought of feeding your baby is normal and yes, painful. For some mums, it happens when they first feed their brand new baby, for others it’s later as baby starts to get bigger and the suck gets stronger.

See here for tips on how to soothe painful nipples…

Mother-feeding-her-baby

Why can breastfeeding be so painful?

For some of us, it’s when that lovely bundle of joy, decides he or she wants to try out newly erupting teeth on our already very tender nipples.

“Ouch it hurts,” can be a complete understatement. It can be “ouch” enough to bring tears to even the most committed breastfeeding-focused mum’s eyes.

Remain positive and be encouraged that whatever the reason you are facing the “ouch” in your breastfeeding relationship with your baby, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop feeding.

Armed with a few suggestions, you and your baby can move beyond the “ouch” and back into the wonderful bliss that breastfeeding should be for you both.

11 not-so-glamorous things about breastfeeding

Tender nipples are common when you first start breastfeeding

Whilst it is normal to have tender nipples in the first week or two of feeding.

Very sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are not normal in breastfeeding and are generally the result of the baby poorly attaching to the breast and sucking on the nipple rather than the areola (the soft brown or pink-ringed area behind the nipple).

Some newborn babies forget to open their mouth wide enough and being hungry, eagerly begin to suck as soon as the nipple is placed in their mouths.

Encouraging that little mouth to take more of the breast tissue inside so that the milk ducts are milked effectively, not only reduces the chance of sore nipples.

But it also ensures that  the breast ducts are stimulated to produce sufficient milk for your baby’s needs. This also helps to prevent the development of breast lumps and mastitis due to inadequate emptying of the breasts during a feed.

Tips to help reduce painful nipples

painful breasts

During nursing

  • Breastfeed from the uninjured (or less injured) side first. Baby will tend to nurse more gently on the second side offered.
  • The initial latch-on tends to hurt the worst – a brief application of ice right before latching can help to numb the area.
  • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to determine which is most comfortable.
  • If breastfeeding is too painful, it is very important to express milk from the injured side to reduce the risk of mastitis and to maintain supply. If pumping is too painful, try hand expression.

After nursing

  • Try a salt water rinse. A weak salt water rinse, called normal saline, has the same salt concentration as tears and should not be painful to use.
  • Apply expressed breastmilk to the nipples to promote healing–this can be done in addition to other treatments.
  • To promote “moist wound healing” (this refers to maintaining the internal moisture of the skin, not keeping the exterior of the skin wet) apply a medical grade lanolin ointment.

Between nursing

  • Keep nipples exposed to air when possible. When wearing a bra, use fresh disposable pads (change when damp). Some mothers use breast shells to protect the nipple from the dampness and friction of the bra.
  • If there is a specific injury–like a bite–cold compresses (ice packs over a layer of cloth) may help: 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off; repeat as needed.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) is compatible with breastfeeding. Consult your GP before doing this.

Breastfeeding is not always easy and if you’re struggle, here are some very common difficulties that mums have with breastfeeding.

What is thrush?

And, if you’re extra unlucky, you may also experience thrush during your breastfeeding journey

What is thrush? And how do you know if you or your baby has it?

The healthy mummy breastfeeding category slider - breastfeeding baby facing forward

 

Breastfeeding provides the perfect environment to feed and comfort your new bub. It also provides the perfect environment for thrush to grow. Yikes!

Thrush, also known as candida albicans, is a fungal infection that can develop during breastfeeding. It can impact both mum and bub and, although not dangerous, it is something worth knowing about.

Signs you may have thrush

1. Cracked nipples

There are a number of reasons why you could be experiencing cracked nipples, especially in the first few weeks. Thrush could be the problem, but poor latch is also a common reason for cracked nipples.

2. Pink, red or shiny nipples

Are your nipples sprouting the perfect shade of rouge? The glossy nipple look could also indicate an infection.

3. Itchy nipples

Your nipples may also be increasingly sore and itchy and very sensitive to touch.

4. Burning breasts

Feel like your breasts and nipples are on fire? This burning sensation is another indication that you may have thrush.

Mother feeding her baby

Signs your infant may have thrush

White patches in the mouth – The main way to check if bub has thrush is by looking in his mouth. Thrush looks like milk curds or cottage cheese and will usually appear on his tongue, gums or on the inside of the mouth.

Pain in his mouth – While not always the case, in some instances the white patches can also cause rawness of the mouth. You may find that if you wipe away the white curds, the base is red and possibly bleeding.

Unsettled feeding time – With pain comes discontent. You may find that bub is having a hard time feeding and is unsettled due to the soreness.

Nappy rash – While there are a number of reasons why your baby may be experiencing nappy rash, thrush can indicate that the infection has spread through the digestive system.

breastfeeding thrush

I think I have thrush. Now what?

The fungus or yeast that causes thrush lives in our bodies naturally and is called Candida albicans.

But when the fungus gets a chance to grow, it can get out of hand quite quickly and lead to a thrush infection. As thrush is a yeast or fungal infection, you will need an antifungal cream prescribed by a doctor to treat it.

You can continue to breastfeed while being treated for thrush but many mums prefer to express as it can be painful to feed with thrush.

If you are expressing, you can feed bub the freshly expressed milk but don’t freeze it as the milk may contain thrush bacteria.

There are a few precautionary methods you can take to help reduce your risk of transmitting thrush between you and bub including sterilising pumps, bottles, teats and dummies.

Probiotics to help beat thrush

Adding a probiotic to your diet is also a great way to help the friendly bacteria that suppress the candida to grow again in your digestive tract.

THM super greens

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With a slight cranberry flavour, it tastes DELICIOUS and it is breastfeeding-friendly!  You will LOVE our super greens! You can add it to your smoothies or mix it into a glass of water each day to drink

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Four reasons why breastfeeding mums may have itchy nipples

1. Infection

Whether it’s bacterial or fungal, an infection is the most common reason for itchiness.

If you notice a pink colour around the nipple area and experience pain after feeding, this can be an indication of thrush which can also impact your little one.

Mastitis, which is inflammation of the breast, is also something to be wary of as it is commonly linked with having an infection or when a milk duct is blocked.

2. Cracked or dry skin

Towards the beginning of breastfeeding, new mums tend to experience this when bub can’t latch or is doing so in the wrong way.

However if there is bleeding or intense pain, this is not normal.

Four Reasons Why You May Have Itchy Nipples When Breastfeeding

3. Eczema

If you have a history of eczema or sensitive skin, this can sometimes occur on the nipple when breastfeeding. Low potency steroid creams can be prescribed to help so if you are experiencing pain or discomfort, see your doctor.

4. Paget’s Disease

Far less common, though important to note, is Paget’s Disease.

This is a very rare type of breast cancer and according to Cancer Australiaaround two out of every 100 cases of breast cancer involve Paget’s disease of the nipple.

The symptoms tend to resemble those of eczema but others include the appearance of an ulcer, inverted nipple or bleeding/discharge from the nipple.

DISCLAIMER

We at The Healthy Mummy always suggest visiting your doctor or a lactation specialist if you have any questions regarding these conditions.

This article is not intended to diagnose or treat such conditions; rather inform and empower mums to seek medical attention if they have such symptoms or concerned by them. It is also important to note that there may be other reasons for your itchy nipples.

Best ways to soothe cracked nipples

1. Use expressed breast milk

So many benefits to using breastmilk and one of them is using expressed breast milk to smooth onto cracked nipples, as may offers antibacterial protection and soothes them.

2. Warm compress

Dip a towel in warm water and let it cool so it’s still warm then apply to the engorged boob or cracked nipple.

3. Lanolin cream

You can get this from your local pharmacist.

4. Hydrogel breastfeeding pads

Try the hydrogel breastfeeding pads to help soothe your nipples and stop them catching on your bra or clothes.

Did you know our Healthy Mummy Smoothies are breastfeeding friendly!

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The smoothie range has been formulated by leading nutritionists, dieticians and with input from Monash University.

It offers an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients and important antioxidants.

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