In North America, women’s breasts live a life of comfort and luxury. We buy soft, cushy bras that support and protect our breast. We love our breasts and keep them safe from the environment and abuse. Until… it is time to breastfeed.
The most basic problem associated with breastfeeding is having sore nipples. First time moms will get sore nipples and even experienced moms will get sore nipples too. What causes it? There are probably many reasons why a person can get sore nipples, but for a new breastfeeding mom, there are two major causes:
- Improper latch-on. If your baby is not latched on properly, he may gnaw your nipples or try to clamp down on your nipples because he is trying to get some milk. In order to avoid sore nipples, you should pay special attention in getting Baby latched-on properly. Even if it takes you 4 or 5 tries, you must try to get a good latch-on in order to save yourself misery later on. If you cannot get a good latch-on, talk to a lactation specialist or contact your local La Leche League.
- Even if you have a perfect latch-on, you will likely still get sore nipples simply because you’re not used to having a baby at your breast for so long. A newborn can nurse 10 to 12 times a day. Later, your baby can be on the breast 6 to 8 times a day for 20 to 40 minutes (each breast). That adds up to approximately 120 minutes per breast per day! This is compounded by the fact that your breasts may feel like they will explode because they are engorged. Needless to say, most women will experience some level of sore nipples.
For the most part, the only way to resolve sore nipples is time. As time goes on, your breasts will “toughen up” and they will get used to their new role as provider of food. Other thing that might help is:
- Feed your baby using different holds. This will allow different parts of your breasts to be used so that the particularly sore areas can rest.
- Keep your nipples dry in between feedings. You can air dry them by walking around with no clothes (in the privacy of your home, of course). Do not use a hair drier – it is too harsh and will over dry.
- If your shirt or bra chafes your nipples, wear a breast shield (also called breast shells).
- Some women let the sun shine on their breasts to toughen up the nipples. You can do this by standing by a window where the sun is shining in. You don’t want a sun burn so don’t over do it: a few minutes per day is enough.
- During breastfeeding, hand express a little bit of milk and save it. When your baby is finished nursing, rinse your breasts with water, allow to dry, and then dab on some of the saved breast milk. Breast milk has amazing healing properties and is a natural moisturizer.
- If none of these actions help and you are suffering greatly from sore nipples, applying a cream with lanolin may give you some relief. Be sure that it is purified because some forms of lanolin are contaminated. Read about lanolin here.
Other Breastfeeding problems which you might encounter:
»» Sore Nipples