Sore nipples are the number one reason most women quit breastfeeding. It is normal to experience some measure of nipple soreness during the first two to four days of breastfeeding. However, beyond those first days, nipple soreness should not be a problem you experience. The most common cause of sore nipples is improper positioning.
When you get ready to breastfeed your baby, the first thing you want to do is make sure you are comfortable. You can do this by providing some type of support for your back, arms and feet. Most women find that a recliner or a glider with a footrest is the ideal place to nurse. You will need pillows to support the baby and your arms. Consider investing in a nursing pillow, as they have been specially designed to meet your needs during this trying time. Once you get comfortable, have someone bring you the baby, at least for your first several nursing sessions.
You want to ensure that your baby is close to you from the start. This will keep you from bending or reaching so you and your baby can connect. Remember that the baby should not have to turn his head to reach you. His nose and mouth should face your breast, no matter what position you choose. Support your breast by forming your hand into a “U” or a “C” shape and cupping it around your breast. Guide your baby’s mouth to your breast. Your baby should take in at least a half an inch of the dark area around your breast during each nursing session. You can tell if your baby is properly latched and getting the milk he needs if he is swallowing with each suck. Breastfeeding should not be a source of pain, and if it is, it might be best to visit with a lactation consultant to ensure proper positioning. When you get ready to detach your baby, be sure to do it carefully, as that can also be a source of sore nipples. Gently take your pinky and sweep your breast out of your baby’s mouth to break the suction.
Once your nipples are sore, though, even the best positioning cannot help you. One of the best ways to deal with sore nipples is to choose short feeding sessions over long ones. Because your baby’s stomach is tiny and breast milk is easy to digest, feeding frequently in short sessions may mean your baby will not be sucking as hard. This can lessen nipple pain as the sore area heals. Another good way to deal with your sore nipples is by choosing to nurse of the least sore side first. However, be sure that you nurse of both sides equally to make sure your milk comes in appropriately. If no infection is present in your sore nipples, consider applying a warm, moist compress. It might soothe the area between feedings.
Many women also find that expressing a drop or two of breast milk after a feeding and rubbing it on your nipples (be sure to allow it to air dry) is a good soother. This can also reduce your chance of infection if you notice your nipples are cracked. However, if infection is present, do not try this tactic. Applying one hundred percent lanolin can also help your nipples to heal quickly without any type of scabbing. You will probably find it to be completely soothing, as well. You can find brand names like Lansinoh in the baby section of most stores. Finally, do not try applying a moist tea bag. Many relatives and friends may recommend this folk remedy to you, but it will only promote cracking and drying, causing you more pain.