Breastfeeding: Treating Damaged Nipples
A fear for many breastfeeders is damaged nipples and pain while breastfeeding. For many years, it was recommended to ‘toughen up’ the nipples with a rough towel to prepare them for breastfeeding. It is now well known that this causes more harm than good and is completely unnecessary. If anyone tells you to do this, that advice is outdated and no longer best practice.
Treat the cause, not the symptom. It is essential to uncover the cause for the damaged nipples and treat it at the source, otherwise it will keep occuring. Understanding the reason for the damaged nipples will also allow for proper treatment. Potential causes could be poor latch, infection, maternal or infant anatomy, or various skin or nerve conditions.
One third of breastfeeders to wean before 6 weeks postpartum do so because of nipple pain.
If the nipples are cracked and damaged, applying warm water compresses can help relieve pain and applying breastmilk to the area can help speed healing. Breastmilk contains many anti-infective properties that can help prevent infections and heal damage, even if you continue feeding on the affected breast. How amazing is your milk! Lanolins, ointments, coconut oil, sprays and more can also help heal damaged nipples, but remember, a healthy breast does not need anything at all. If you are finding that you need to apply something with every feeding, make sure to discover the cause so you can treat it appropriately.