The pains of bleeding and cracked nipples compromise the beautiful and intimate experience of breastfeeding, and for most women, these pains they feel make them stop breastfeeding.
There are some ways you can overcome this breastfeeding problem, which will be explored in this post. In addition, this post will also talk about the causes of cracked nipples.
Although despite significant progress in scientific and technical knowledge, the incidence of cracked nipples situation is still very high. In the latest study, more than 30 % of the moms presented cracked nipples pain symptoms in their first month breastfeeding（References）.
Cracked nipples are a breast disorder that occurs as a result of some factors. In your early postpartum days, your chances of experiencing cracked nipples are high due to the fact that your body is just getting used to the breastfeeding process. The following are 8 common causes of cracked nipples.
1. Oral Thrush
This is a painful mouth infection that occurs as a result of candida fungus overgrowth. Moms and as well as babies can both contract this painful mouth infection for quite a number of reasons such as:
- Certain medication
- Poor hygiene
Thrush(source) can be passed to you from your baby if the baby has it while breastfeeding and one of its symptoms is bleeding and cracked nipples.
2. Improper Latch-on
The word latching is used to describe the way the mouth of your baby connects to your breast while feeding. Poor latching simply means that the mouth of your baby is not correctly placed on your breast. During a latching process, the sensitive part of your nipple will be in the front of your baby’s mouth. The hard sucking and the hard gums make the nipples become irritated, which leads to bleeding and cracking.
- You may also need to know: How to Hold Baby When Breastfeeding?
3. Breast Pumping
Breast pumping are ways breast milk is pumped into a container through some mechanical suctions. If your pump is incorrectly used or you use pump shields that are too small, breast pumping will likely lead to cracked nipples.
4. Breast Engorgement
If you have swollen or engorged breasts, your baby will find it hard to get the right latch. Your areola and nipple will become very flat when your breasts are engorged and the struggle to latch may likely cause friction, harm to the sensitive skin of your breasts or biting.
5. Skin Conditions
The condition of your skin also matters here. If you have some serious skin problems like psoriasis or eczema, you will likely have cracked nipples.
6. Tight Clothing
You will likely experience cracked nipples if your breastfeeding pads and bras are too tight on you. Clothes rub against your skin consistently if they are too tight, which leads to redness and irritation. In addition, your bra fabric also plays a vital role here. It may likely affect your nipples’ skin if they are made with low-quality or rough materials.
7. Bottle Feeding
Your baby will likely learn a feeding method that will affect your nipples if you use a bottle to supplement or replace the feeding of your baby. A different method is required to suck milk out of a bottle, and if your baby gets used to sucking from a bottle, such method can be applied when sucking your breasts which may cause cracked nipples.
8. Tongue Tied
Some babies experience a medical condition called tongue-tie also known as ankyloglossia. What this implies is that the tongue of your baby and the bottom of the mouth is connected by tissues. The implication of this is that it does not allow your baby to properly nurse because they find it hard to stretch their tongue past their gums. Mothers who have babies with ankyloglossia experience increased nipple difficulty breastfeeding and nipple trauma most of the times.
Symptoms of cracked nipples
Below is how you can identify cracked nipples:
- Redness and soreness in the entire breast
- Crusting and scabbing
- Bleeding of the nipples
- Any oozing of discolored fluids
- Open cracks on the nipple and areola
Some women can easily diagnose themselves at home without the help of a healthcare provider. However, if you are experiencing a pain you are not sure of in your nipples, do well to make an appointment with your specialist to find out the problem.
How to Treat Cracked Nipples?
The cause of cracked nipples has to be thoroughly considered before a treatment can be administered. Fortunately, these remedies are cost-effective, self-administered, and are also simple. The following are some home remedies to bring relief to your baby and even you.
1. Use Nipple Creams
There are some creams specifically designed for nipples, using these creams will bring a great relieve to you. Most of these creams have lanolin as one of its ingredients, a type of wax that’s secreted by sheep.
Lanolin contains nourishing and as well as soothing properties capable of healing your damaged skin. According to a study, mothers who experience nipple problem found lanolin therapeutic. However, do not try to use it on healthy or intact skin to avoid having an allergy.
2. Create a breastfeeding plan
You need to create a breastfeeding plan because doing so will help you discover if you will need to stop breastfeeding and replace it with the bottle until you are completely healed. However, there are some things you should consider when creating this plan:
- If you or your baby are affected
- The duration of the pain
- The level of pain when breastfeeding
3. Apply warm and cool compresses
If you want relief, alternate cool and warm compresses in between feedings. A recommended option for you as a nursing mom is to place a warm tea bag on your nipple. However, if you plan to continue breastfeeding, ensure the compresses do not leave any residue because I’m sure you wouldn’t want a situation where your baby will ingest some chemicals or materials from heating and cooling gels these compresses have.
4. Evaluate your breast pump
One of the most common causes of cracked nipples is improper size or use of breast bump. In addition, you should ensure you have the right breast shield size also known as flanges.
Flanges can be seen as a little cooking funnel. The circular cup of flanges fit over your nipple and as well as the areola. The flanges act like a vacuum as your breast milk channeled into the provided container when the breast pump is turned on. You will experience irritation around your nipples if the flange you are using is not big enough because the size of the flange determines how much of the nipple and areola is in the funnel’s end.
5. Go without a bra
It’s ideal that you take your bra off and move around the house wearing a soft t-shirt if you still feel pain after nursing. This will allow air flowing in provide comfort which will prevent irritation.
6. Avoid plastic nursing pads
With the help of nursing pads, your breast milk will be shielded from leaking through your shirt although you might feel irritated when the plastic liners used to catch breast milk rub against your body.
When you want to get a nursing pad, make sure you get a pad made with absorbent and soft materials. In addition, ensure you change your nursing pads regularly when they are soaked.
7. Take mild pain relievers
A lot of new nursing mothers find it hard taking medications when breastfeeding. There are many OTC (over-the-counter) that have been considered safe for nursing mothers and some of them include Advil, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc.
Take these drugs to reduce the inflammation and pain in your breasts, and you can take the medicine one or two hours earlier before breastfeeding if you are worried.
8. Apply breast milk
Mothers who applied their breast milk on the nipples improved rapidly and didn’t experience any side effects according to a study comparing the effects of lanolin and breast milk.
Rub some breast milk on your nipples after feeding your baby and let it dry. If you can’t breastfeed, use a pump to get some and then apply it on the nipples.
9. Find a lactation consultant
It’s time to book an appointment with your lactation consultant if your baby always has trouble latching.
Who Is A Lactation Consultant?
This is an individual who is professionally trained and also certified to teach women about breastfeeding. A professional lactation consultant will ensure you and your baby are rightly examined and as well as recommend the right treatment.
Do I Have to Visit A Doctor?
Cracked nipples may likely cause serious infections like mastitis if left untreated. What is mastitis? This is an infection of the breast, a situation where your breast milk and tissue ducts turn get clogged or inflamed.
You should ensure to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience one or more of the symptoms below:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Spreading rash
You need to engage your mother’s intuition, if you have a feeling that something is off or your cracked nipples might be a sign of something very complicated or serious, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get to the root of the problem once and for all.
Breast and Nipple Hygiene Tips
Maintaining a good hygiene as you breastfeed helps to keeps your nipples and breast health. Use a gentle soap and water to clean your nipples and breast. Some mothers believe massaging the breast makes break milk flow more easily and can also reduce tension around the breasts.
Products with heavy chemicals and perfumes should be avoided by all means because they are capable of making your skin dry which may lead to cracked nipples.
Have You Had Cracked Nipples?
Have you experienced cracked nipples? How did you overcome it? Kindly share in the comment box below. Your contribution might save a mom from weeks of pain and stress. I believe this article has helped and empowered you one way or the other, kindly share this article to empower other mamas out there, too.