Congratulations on your new baby! Whether you are still awaiting the arrival of your bundle of joy, or have already welcomed your baby earth side, if you are planning to breastfeed there is no doubt you are wondering how to make sure it doesn’t hurt! When I started breastfeeding my son, for some reason I found it much more painful for him to feed on my right-hand side. Curiously, 11 months later, my right side has always been my son’s preferred breast to feed from! Thankfully it is no longer uncomfortable.
Nipples typically get a little battered and bruised as your baby is learning to feed and it is extremely important to ensure your baby’s attachment to the breast (commonly known as their ‘latch’) is correct. Just a few seconds of sucking with a bad latch can result in cracked and bleeding nipples…Ouch! But even with the best latch, it is normal to experience a period (days or weeks) of discomfort when starting your feeding journey as your nipples ‘toughen up’ a little and get used to the frequent and usually quite vigorous sucking.
At my baby shower I was kindly gifted several different nipple creams from my well-meaning mama friends. I also went out and bought my own different creams to pack in my hospital bag to try as I had no idea what would work best for me and wanted to be prepared as I could before baby arrived (oh to have so much time again!).
In my opinion, I have found Motherlove Certified Organic Nipple Cream to be the best nipple cream for breastfeeding. This product, as with most nipple creams, will work best if you can begin using it as soon as you start breastfeeding, before dryness and cracks have even appeared. Prevention is better than cure and hopefully means you will experience much less discomfort in those early weeks feeding a newborn.
Different creams will suit different people, depending on your skin-type and preference for ingredients, fragrances and texture. You may also find that your baby has a preference for which cream you do or do not use based on fragrance or taste. Below you will find reviews of four popular nipple cream products which will help guide you in working out the best nipple cream for your breastfeeding journey. Note that all of these nipple creams below are advertised as being safe for both mother and baby, without need to wipe away before feeding. As they are oil-based creams, we do suggest you use a breast pad to avoid marking your clothing.
Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream
This is perhaps the most widely known nipple cream out there and is tried and trusted by countless breastfeeding mothers. The midwives actually gave this stuff out freely in the maternity ward where my son was born to all new mothers. Lanolin is an oil derived from sheep’s wool, meaning that vegans may not be comfortable using this product. While many mothers would agree this product is effective in treating dry, cracked nipples, there is the possibility that it may contain pesticides that could then be exposed to yourself and your baby. Lansinoh also tends to be a thicker, sticker cream which is tricky to apply to sore, sensitive nipples.
Motherlove Certified Organic Nipple Cream
All ingredients in this nipple cream are certified organic, non-toxic, cruelty-free and suitable for vegans. Users have found this cream to heal up cracked nipples within as little as one week. Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream includes the two skin-softening herbs calendula and marshmallow root for quick and gentle relief to nipple pain when breastfeeding. This cream is unscented which means your baby can focus on the comfort of your scent, rather than the distraction of a fragrant nipple cream. It is also a jelly-like consistency which makes it easy and gentle to apply on super sensitive nipples, as opposed to thicker, more solid creams.
Medela Tender Care Lanolin Nipple Cream
This cream is also lanolin-based. It contains all natural ingredients and is hypoallergenic, making it a more gentle lanolin solution for those with sensitive skin. Medela Tender Care Nipple Cream is not as thick and gluey as Lansinoh and spreads onto the nipple easily and conveniently from the squeezy-tube packaging, without the need for prior warming or softening.
Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter
This nipple cream is made using organic beeswax and botanical herbs such as calendula to soothe and moisturize cracked nipples. It contains no petroleums, parabens or artificial fragrances that might irritate your baby’s highly sensitive sense of smell. You do not need to wash this nipple butter off between feeds and it is also dermatologist-tested for irritation. Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter is a Lanolin-free and organic alternative for your nipples, though it does contain animal products and is therefore not suitable for vegans. The butter is certainly less messy than lanolin to apply. However, when cold, there is a slight grainy texture to the butter from the shea, though this disappears as the cream softens with the warmth of your skin, so be sure to let the butter melt in your hands before applying to nipples to avoid it feeling too abrasive.
Can I Use Nipple Cream While Breastfeeding?
Yes! The use of nipple cream is hugely beneficial in the early stages of breastfeeding when your nipples are at their most sensitive. Check to make sure the product you are using is safe for your baby to ingest. As with any skin product it is always wise to patch test first to check for any allergies or reactions. Discontinue use if you notice any increased redness, swelling, itching/pain or rashes on your own breasts or anywhere on your baby.
How Can I Moisturize My Nipples While Breastfeeding?
There are so many benefits to breastfeeding and breastmilk, I could spend all day sharing a list with you! But one of the great benefits of producing breastmilk is that you are essentially producing your very own nipple moisturiser on tap and absolutely free! That’s right, breastmilk itself is an excellent lotion to keep your nipples from getting too dry (we are used to goats milk in other moisturizers, so makes sense right?!). After a feed, simply use your clean hand to gently squeeze a few drops of breastmilk onto a finger or cotton pad and dab the milk on the nipple. Leave to air dry and then apply your preferred nipple cream.
While we do want to keep your nipples moisturized while breastfeeding, it is important to note that we also want to avoid the emergence of any yeast or fungal infections on the nipple or breast like nipple thrush. These uncomfortable infections thrive in warm, wet, dark environments and are easily transferred between your breast and your baby’s mouth. To help avoid nipple thrush developing, ensure you change your breast pads and nursing bras regularly and wash them well between use.
How Do You Get Rid of Cracked Nipples From Breastfeeding?
If you notice your nipples are already looking bruised, tender or cracked, fear not! They will absolutely heal with a little tender loving care:
- Use a nipple cream – Start using a nipple cream right from the first breastfeed if you can, and then again after every feed in those early weeks. Consistency is key! If you suspect an infection may have developed in or around your nipples, please consult your doctor or pharmacist as you may need a specific antibacterial/anti-fungal cream prescribed.
- Breastmilk - Again, one of your best defenses against dry and cracked nipples is in fact breastmilk itself! As above, dab a few drops of fresh breastmilk on affected nipples between feeds and leave to airdry for a few minutes and you should notice an instant soothing feeling. Breastmilk has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and is literally a miracle treatment. (FYI, other great uses for breastmilk while you’re lactating – squirt a few drops in eyes affected by conjunctivitis/pink eye, dab a few drops of breastmilk on pimples and leave to dry for a great overnight treatment, pour some pumped milk into bathwater for your baby or yourself for a gentle and moisturizing soak!)
- Go topless - Let your nipples catch some fresh air between feeds to speed up the healing process. Pop the heater on if you need to so you don’t get too chilly and sit back and relax. This is also great to do during those early engorged days of your milk coming in when you suddenly go up 3 bra sizes and feel like your breasts may just pop right out of your bra. Just remember to put your shirt back on before you greet any visitors or they may get to see a little more than they bargained for!
- Cabbage leaves – the old wives tale is true – cold, clean cabbage leaves are extremely effective for soothing and treating sore, cracked nipples. If you can, buy an organic cabbage for this purpose. Strip the leaves, wash and leave to dry on paper towel before storing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Between feeds, simply slide a cold leaf down your bra over each breast and breathe out a sigh of sweet relief! Again, you may want to remember to remove leaves before greeting any guests!
- Correct latch - it is crucial that your baby is latched comfortably on the breast in order for your nipples to heal and avoid further pain. Apart from the initial 10-15 seconds of a feed, if the latch is correct and you are holding your baby comfortably, breastfeeding should not be painful. If you are feeling continued pain and discomfort, unlatch your baby by sliding your clean pinky finger into the corner of their mouth to release the seal, reposition and try again. If you feel you need to, chat with your doctor or midwife/lactation consultant to get further assistance and rule out any other issues.
Should I Keep Breastfeeding with Cracked Nipples?
If you hope to continue your breastfeeding journey, you will need to continue feeding while your nipples heal in order to build and maintain your milk supply (and keep nourishing your hungry baby). This will mean feeding will probably be uncomfortable and a bit extra painful until the cracks heal. If your nipples are cracked, there may be some drops of blood in your breastmilk. This is not harmful to your baby.
Remember those breathing techniques you were taught in preparation for birth? They can come in handy now! As your baby latches on to sore nipples there is a tendency to tense up and wince in pain. Before you begin feeding, make yourself comfortable (use feeding pillow and adequate back support if helpful) and have a precious little snuggle with your baby for a moment. This will also help to calm and comfort your baby, who will then find it much easier to latch properly in this state. Take some controlled deep breaths and try to relax your neck, back and shoulder muscles as you bring your baby to the breast. Make sure you are bringing your baby to you rather than straining and hunching over which will pull and cramp your muscles over time.
If feeding is simply too painful at the moment, you may like to give your nipples a rest and try pumping on the affected breast and offering your baby breastmilk using a sterile syringe, feeding cup or bottle. Pumping tends to be less painful than breastfeeding when experiencing sore and cracked nipples. You could try just pumping on alternate feeds if that is helpful.
There is so much to learn ‘on the job’ with a newborn and it can be overwhelming trying to navigate all the newness of keeping a tiny human alive, while also struggling with nipple pain from breastfeeding. It will take some time for your nipples to toughen a little and get used to the sensation of your baby’s sucking. This is normal. Personally, it took at least 8 weeks before I could breastfeed my son without any pain or discomfort and it definitely got easier when I started consistently using a nipple cream – in my case, coconut oil – to treat my cracked nipples. Hang in there mama! You are doing an amazing job of nurturing and nourishing your baby. Follow our steps to assist in treating cracked nipples and we trust you will soon be breastfeeding pain-free!