Nipple soreness can be a painful and off-putting side-effect of breastfeeding, but there are ways of tackling the problem. The majority of new mums will experience some tenderness when they first start breastfeeding their new baby due to hormonal changes, but this should improve after a few days. If the soreness persists, it can be because of a number of reasons.
Ensure baby is in the right position and latching on
If the pain continues throughout the feed, the baby may be incorrectly positioned or not latching on to the breast properly, which has resulted in your baby not sucking correctly. Check the positioning of your baby, perhaps even asking someone else to watch you in the feeding position and help you make any necessary alterations.
Ensure that your baby’s mouth is open widely enough, as they need to have a mouthful of breast not just suck on the nipple. If your baby has latched onto just the nipple, break the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of their mouth, and gently remove them from your breast – just pulling the nipple straight out without breaking suction, will cause you pain.
When the baby is correctly positioned, you should feel a reduction in discomfort and maybe even immediate relief. However if the problem still persists after a few days, you should consult your doctor or a breastfeeding counsellor.
Sore nipples which develop weeks or months into breastfeeding may be a result of thrush. Very pink, flaky and itchy nipples can be symptoms of thrush. Make an appointment with your doctor for you and your baby, for a diagnosis and treatment. Avoid using coverings that prevent air circulation, such as breast pads with plastic backings, which may even lead to nipple thrush.
Breastfeeding if your baby's teething
During the later stages of breastfeeding, a teething baby has sore gums, which causes their sucking pattern to change and can cause soreness in mum too. You may want to try different feeding positions and pay extra attention to the way your baby is latching on.
Other tips to try
Try expressing a few drops of milk after the feed and gently rubbing it onto the sore area – this will help the healing process. Chemicals in deodorants and perfumes can cause irritation to sensitive areas, so take care to avoid any contact with your nipples.
Other organisations that may be useful:
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.