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Caring for Damaged Nipples When You're Breastfeeding

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baby feeding at mother's breast

Sore nipples?  It’s natural when you first start breastfeeding.

One way to soothe them is to express colostrum, put it on your nipples and let them air dry.

If your nipples are damaged – cracked, bleeding, scabbed, or blistered – talk with your public health nurse, midwife, or lactation consultant about your baby’s latch. A poor latch can result in damaged nipples. It may help to nurse on the least sore side first.

When nipples are damaged, the first few sucks from your baby will be painful, even if the feeding is going well. If the nipple feels better after the first few sucks, your baby is likely latched on properly.

When Your Nipples are Damaged:

  • Help your baby latch better. If the pain persists, get help latching on. See breastfeeding support resources.
  • Express some colostrum or breast milk and rub it onto your nipples. Allow it to air dry.
  • Expose your nipples to the air.
  • Keep breastfeeding or express or pump your milk. If your nipples bleed, you may see blood in your milk or in your baby’s mouth. That's OK - the blood is not harmful and you can still give your milk to your baby.
  • Look at your baby’s tongue. Sometimes a poor latch and damaged nipples happen because the baby has a ‘tongue tie’ or tight frenulum - the piece of skin under the tongue. A tongue tie is only a problem if your baby cannot latch well or if it's causing damage to your nipples. Your doctor or a pediatrician can fix the tongue tie very easily. 

Sensitive Nipples

Nipple tissue is normally very sensitive to touch, but even women with very sensitive nipples can breastfeed. When babies are latched well and feed well, sensitivity isn’t a problem. 

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Last Updated: August 4, 2013