Sore Nipples and Blisters

Sore nipples are usually a sign of nipple feeding or improper latch. When babies feed only on the nipple, nipples can crack and blister. Blisters also occur as a result of rubbing against the roof of baby's mouth or along her gums. The pain associated with a blistered nipple can make nursing very uncomfortable, but it's important to continue breastfeeding.

The best way to treat sore nipples is to prevent them before any damage is done. Healing may be more difficult if the tissue has had repeated trauma.

Sometimes cracked nipples bleed, but that doesn't have to interfere with nursing. A little bit of your blood, mixed with your milk, will not harm your baby.

Sore nipples generally heal within two or three days, but here are some suggestions for the meantime:

  • Ensure that your baby has a good latch. Wait until she opens wide, then grasp her to the breast, pointing your nipple to the roof of her mouth. She needs to take in an inch of the areola as well.

  • Use different nursing positions to vary the way your baby latches onto your nipple.

  • Offer the least tender breast first so that your milk will let down in the other breast without your baby creating suction.

  • Express your milk using a pump to help your milk let down before offering your breast to your baby.

  • Break suction evenly by inserting your finger into your baby's mouth. Don't allow your baby to slide off your nipple.

  • Apply your own breastmilk or lanolin to a sore nipple. Like chapped lips, nipples heal more quickly with moisture. You don't need to remove modified lanolin before your baby nurses.

  • Use breast shells to keep your nipples from rubbing against fabric.

The best remedy for sore or cracked nipples is your own breastmilk. Express enough to rub over the nipple and areola, and allow it to air dry. Remember, also, to avoid using soap on your nipples. The Montgomery glands produce natural oils to clean and protect your nipples; soap may aggravate the situation by drying them out further.

Peppermint Water

Peppermint water has been used in Middle-Eastern cultures to help soothe sore and cracked nipples. Its primary ingredient, menthol, has been used to treat burns, wounds, itching, and inflammation. Peppermint water is also used as an antibacterial agent.

Keep in mind that it is important to distinguish between water and oil. Peppermint oil is concentrated and can burn and damage the skin and mucous membranes. Excessive doses can be toxic, so make sure you're using the correct product. Studies have shown a significant reduction in nipple pain and the frequency of cracks and bleeding with the use of peppermint water.

To make peppermint water, steep a peppermint teabag in eight ounces of hot water for several minutes. Remove the teabag, add tea to one liter of distilled water to dilute, and cover and keep in the refrigerator for daily use.

To use peppermint water, saturate a cotton ball and apply it to your cracked or sore nipples after each feeding. Allow your nipples to air dry. Then wash your nipples with clean water prior to the next feeding.

Herbal Remedies

Other herbal remedies have been used to treat nipple pain, but herbs should be used with caution because of their side effects and their potential for passing through breastmilk. Several herbs are considered dangerous—even toxic—to infants. Some of these include: yarrow, sorrel, lemon balm, chickweed, periwinkle, buckthorn, chaparral, Indian snakeroot, Kava-Kava, Phen-fen, star anise, wormwood, peppermint, spearmint, parsley, and sage. Fenugreek, which is often used to increase milk supply, can have negative effects on some women (especially those with pre-existing asthma or gastro-intestinal problems). It should not be used during pregnancy because it may stimulate uterine contractions. In any case, never apply any herbal substances directly to your nipple without your doctor's approval. Whatever goes onto your nipple goes into your baby's mouth.

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