No new mother wants to deal with the discomforts of cracked or bleeding nipples during their first experience breastfeeding. The first week of motherhood is extremely overwhelming, with a new baby to nurse and feed, baby cries and cues to understand, and mom’s physical state constantly changing, the last thing you want are cracked and bleeding nipples.
Learn more about how to find the problem, solve it, and prevent it from happening again.
Common Questions and Answers
What causes nipples to crack or bleed?
Some of the main causes of cracked nipples, or nipple fissures, are from breastfeeding, friction, or allergic reaction. Breastfeeding causes usually relate to shallow latch, tongue tie or lip tie, or thrush.
What are the symptoms of cracked nipples?
The main symptoms involve dry, cracked skin, possibly bleeding and scabbing, around the nipple or areola.
How do you heal cracked or bleeding nipples and prevent it from happening again?
Finding and correcting the source of the problem is the main method of healing and prevention. While correcting the issue, the nipples still need time and healing treatments to speed up the process and discomfort.
How long does it take to heal cracked nipples?
Depending on the severity of it and the healing treatments used, it can take anywhere between days and weeks to fully heal.
Should I stop breastfeeding if I experience bleeding or cracked nipples?
Yes. If you are still producing milk, they will be receiving it. The blood is not harmful to the baby but if you are too uncomfortable you can supplement and skip a feeding to heal.
Finding and Correcting the Problem
The first thing nursing moms need to resolve is finding what is causing breast soreness for them to crack and bleed. In most, but not all, cases the cause is poor or shallow latch while nursing. Other common causes include tongue tie, lip tie, or thrush.
A lot of women think the discomfort is normal and give up on breastfeeding without asking for help. Although there are a lot of cases in which nursing isn’t ideal for mom and baby, some situations can be helped with the right methods and patience. Speak to a lactation consultant about correcting the latch or a pediatrician about any other concerns.
But don’t feel guilty for if you feel breastfeeding is not for you. The common phrase, “breast is best,” isn’t always true. The best method is what’s best for you and your baby, not what other people tell you.
Easing and Treating Sore or Cracked Nipples
After finding the problem and working to resolve it, the pain and discomfort may persist from the existing wound. While healing takes a bit of time and patience, there are several methods for easing discomfort and speeding up the healing process as well as things to avoid.
Easing and Treatment Methods
- Breastmilk: Freshly expressed breastmilk has soothing and antibacterial properties for healing cracked nipples. Spread a few drops around the affected areas and let air dry.
- Lanolin Cream: Lanolin Cream is a topical medication used for preventing dry, rough, and scaly skin irritations. It is most commonly used by nursing mothers because it is safe when ingested during breastfeeding. Apply right after nursing, with no need to remove.
- Warm Water or Compress: Warm water is one of the best and most accessible ways to ease breast and nipple pain for engorgement and cracked nipples. A warm shower or compress proves very useful and can be done multiple times, make sure to pat dry after.
- Salt Water Rinse: Applying a salt water rinse is another accessible and effective method. Baby may not like the salt water taste so you may want to rinse it off prior to nursing. Apply rinse as often as needed and make sure to pat dry after.
- Airing It Out: With sore and cracked nipples, having anything touch them can be an extra discomfort. Airing them out not only prevents that extra discomfort but allows them to heal naturally.
- Breast Shells: Not to be confused with nipple shields, breast shells are “hollow, lightweight plastic disks” worn within a bra and clothing. They’re intended for correcting flat or inverted nipples but are great for healing cracked nipples by letting you air out while wearing clothing.
Things to Avoid
- Ignoring the problem: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nothing gets resolved without a little help, there’s no shame in that. We can’t know everything.
- Tight, non-breathable fabrics: Fabrics will stick to the healing and regrowing skin and painfully peel off when the fabric is removed. Loose and breathable fabrics are best, second to airing it out.
- Wet tea bags: Acids in tea dry out the skin and can cause more cracking.
- Non-lanolin creams: Topical ointments are great for skin healing and renewal but cannot be ingested while nursing. If you choose to use these, make sure to properly clean them off before each feeding.
My Personal Experience
To express to you how real these situations are and how they can often be resolved, I want to share my personal experience and struggles with sore nipples from breastfeeding for the first time.
With my first-born, I suffered from cracked and bleeding nipples as well as engorgement while my milk was coming in during our first week. I was lucky that the hospital nurses noticed and approached to help me because I was in denial. The pain was increasing and I was freaking out when I saw blood from my breast in my baby’s mouth.
The nurses and lactation consultants helped me realize that we had a shallow latch. They also helped me adjust to a better nursing position for me and encouraged a few healing methods for me to try. These methods helped me heal between feedings and the latch correction with the new nursing position helped us nurse better. We were finally able to enjoy nursing and within a few weeks, I had healed completely.