Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

In general breastfeeding should be a pleasant and pain-free experience however there are a few times when things can awry and it may get a bit uncomfortable. Sore nipples from breastfeeding is one of the most common issues that mothers face, sometimes causing them to wean far too early. While sore nipples from breastfeeding is no picnic, it’s actually a warning sign that something isn’t right. Finding the cause can relieve your nipple pain and ensure your baby is getting enough milk to reap the amazing benefits of breastfeeding.

Causes of Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

Even tiny newborns have a fierce sucking reflex. While a vigorous suck is typical and downright helpful to your baby’s mission to suckle breast milk, your sensitive nipples are probably not used to being pulled in this manner. For this reason, it is normal for new moms to experience sore nipples from breastfeeding for up to the first two weeks. After that, your nipples should get used to breastfeeding and the tenderness should subside. If that isn’t the case for you, something else is at play.

The leading cause of sore nipples from breastfeeding is not establishing a proper latch. Often babies don’t take enough of their mother’s nipple and areola into their mouths resulting in a shallow latch that isn’t going to feel good or be productive for your baby. A deep latch is the goal. You can assist your baby in achieving proper latch by helping her open her mouth wide and supporting your breast so she can self-latch appropriately. Also, hold your baby in a position that puts her entire body level to your breast.

Other causes of nipple soreness from breastfeeding include: thrush (a yeast infection in your baby’s mouth that can be passed back and forth from you to your baby unless treated); mastitis (a breast infection caused by bacteria that enters through the nipple or a plugged milk duct); the immersion of teeth (in  which case your baby may unintentionally nip you with her teeth without realizing or to soothe her pain); and as your baby starts solids (when food residue may irritate your nipples).

How to Soothe Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding

The first step to soothe sore nipples from breastfeeding is understanding why it is happening in the first place. Since latch is the most common issue, a visit to a lactation consultant is a good idea. She can help ensure your baby is latching properly, you are poisoning your baby appropriately, and offer temporary suggestions such as a nipple shield until your nipples heal. Lactation consultants can also diagnose a tongue or lip tie, conditions where there is extra skin connecting the tongue or lip to the mouth which may impede proper latch. Often tongue and lip ties must be cut by a specialist to allow babies to latch properly.

Once you have the underlying issue under control, try some of these methods to soothe sore nipples:

  • After each feeding, hand express a little breast milk and rub it on your nipples. Breast milk contains amazing healing properties that work on your skin too.
  • Alternate breasts per feeding to give your nipples more time to heal.
  • If you can’t alternate breasts, feed on the least painful side first, when your baby will be hungriest and her suck will be stronger.
  • Feed your baby more frequently to avoid overly vigorous sucking from extreme hunger.
  • Change nursing positions throughout your feedings so your baby isn’t pulling too hard on any one area.
  • Break the suction with your finger before unlatching your baby from your breast.
  • Apply 100% pure lanolin cream to your sore or cracked nipples after feedings.
  • Use a warm compress several times daily to reduce the pain.
  • Air out your nipples whenever possible. Sore nipples brushing against your nursing bras or nursing tank tops all day and all night won’t be comfortable. When necessary, use nipple shells to create space between your clothes and your breasts.
  • Wear soft, breathable nursing bras that won’t further irritate your sore nipples.
  • If your baby has thrush, visit your pediatrician immediately to get a prescription to relieve the fungal infection.
  • If you have mastitis, continue to breastfeed or pump as much as possible, use warm compresses and massage your breasts to work through the issue. You can also take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.

Sources: La Leche League, Today’s Parent and Breastfeeding Basics


Loving Moments believes moms should have the knowledge, resources and power to make the healthiest choices for their babies, starting with breastfeeding. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in August, we are sharing Breastfeeding Basics, our educational blog series that we hope will empower you with information, encouragement and inspiration to meet your breastfeeding goals.