What Can I Do for Sore Nipples While Breastfeeding?

Medically Reviewed on 7/6/2022
sore nipples while breastfeeding
Here are 10 ways to prevent and manage sore nipples while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can bring you a deep sense of satisfaction and help you bond with your bundle of joy. But for many women, this happiness comes at a cost. Sore nipples are a common complaint among breastfeeding women, and many experience stinging, itching, and even bleeding during the initial days of breastfeeding.

Sore nipples can limit your ability to breastfeed your baby. Here are a few useful tips to prevent and manage sore nipples while breastfeeding.

When to see a doctor for sore nipples due to breastfeeding

Breast and nipple soreness usually goes away when you use the remedies listed above. But you should talk to your doctor if you develop the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Nipple discharge
  • Cracks in your nipple
  • Nipple soreness that worsens over time
  • Increasing pain or redness in one area of the breast
  • Streaks that appear in one area of the breast
  • Any other unusual symptoms, such as a hard area of the breast

How to prevent and manage sore nipples while breastfeeding

1. Apply cool compresses.

Cool compresses can help relieve pain and swelling around your nipples after breastfeeding. You can keep hydrogel packs in the refrigerator, or wrap a towel around some ice to use as a cold compress. Apply to the affected area for about 5-7 minutes every 3-4 hours.

2. Use the less sore breast first.

Use the breast that’s less sore to start, then switch to the other breast if needed. Because the baby’s first few minutes of sucking are more vigorous, this strategy can help minimize your discomfort.

3. Try to get a proper latch.

Check if your baby latches around the areola and not only on the nipple. If your baby sucks only on the nipple, this puts too much pressure on it and can cause bruising and pain. 

4. Assist your baby in unlatching.

While your baby is unlatching, break the suction first and then pull your breast away from your baby’s mouth. Pulling without breaking the contact between your nipple and the baby’s teeth can irritate your nipples.

5. Consult your doctor about tongue-tie.

If your baby has tongue-tie, this can increase the frequency of sore nipples. Tongue-tie occurs when the baby’s frenulum (the thin band of tissue that connects the tongue to the lower palate) is absent or too short. Consult a doctor or certified lactation consultant who can help you learn techniques to help you latch your baby properly. Moreover, your baby might need surgery to correct the tongue-tie if it is severe.

6. Sit in an ideal position.

You can ask a lactation consultant for recommendations on the best position to assume while breastfeeding. Try multiple positions to find what works for you and allows you to hold your baby properly and make sure they are able to latch comfortably.

7. Release milk from engorged breasts.

If you go without breastfeeding for long periods of time, your breasts can become engorged and lead to pain and discomfort when you try to breastfeed again. Try massaging one breast at a time to release milk.

8. Clean and dry your nipples.

Wipe your breast with a dry towel after every feed to avoid getting an infection due to the moisture. Fungal infections can also pass on to your baby during breastfeeding.

9. Moisturize your nipples.

Excessive dryness can cause your nipples to crack and bleed since the skin around them is so delicate. Apply an over-the-counter moisturizer that is safe for babies. You can try lanolin-based cream that keeps your nipples soft and targets nipple inflammation. Ask your doctor about which one they recommend.

10. Use a good nursing bra.

Look for supportive bras that can stretch according to your breast size when you breastfeed. Ask your doctor about the best type of bra for you. For extremely sore breasts, you can try placing breast shields/pads inside your bra to prevent contact between your clothes and nipples.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/6/2022
"Patient education: Common breastfeeding problems (Beyond the Basics)." <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/common-breastfeeding-problems-beyond-the-basics>.