Thrush is a fungal infection which causes velvety white sores that may bleed when they are wiped. They appear on the tongue and in the mouth of the baby and also cause deep pink, sore, and cracked nipples in the mother. Antifungal remedies will help you tackle this.1
Cracked, painful nipples are an issue that’s often faced by breastfeeding mothers. In fact, it’s a common reason why many women give up on breastfeeding. Dry skin or thrush may also cause the skin on your nipple to break and crack.2 If you are distressed by the pain and discomfort caused by cracked nipples, we have some tips that can help heal and soothe them.
1. Make Sure Your Baby Latches On Properly
Improper attachment or latching is the most common reason behind cracked and sore nipples while breastfeeding.3 When the baby latches on properly, your nipple comfortably rests at the back of his or her mouth against the soft palate. On the other hand, if the baby attaches poorly, your nipple could be closer to the front of their mouth and can get squashed against the hard palate. Flat, white, or wedged nipples can be a sign that the baby is not attaching properly. It is important to correct this to tackle the root cause of sore or cracked nipples during breastfeeding. Speak to a breastfeeding specialist who can help you correctly position and attach your baby to the breast.4
2. Massage In A Little Breast Milk
Here’s the most natural and easy remedy for cracked nipples while you are breastfeeding. Apply a little breast milk to sore nipples, massage it in gently, and allow it to air dry. Breast milk can heal cracked nipples as it contains compounds which soften skin and antibodies that fight off infection.5
3. Air Dry Your Nipples After A Feed And Dress Comfortably
Let your nipples air dry after you feed your baby. This stops clothing from getting stuck to your skin and irritating your nipples. If your nipples are cracked and hurt, using a breast shield that stops them from coming in contact with clothing can help. Also use cotton bras which allow better air circulation. And in case you use breast pads, make sure you change them frequently and that they are kept dry.6 7
4. Apply A Warm Compress
Moist, warm heat can also soothe sore nipples. It can enhance blood flow to wounded areas and promote healing. Prepare a warm compress by soaking a clean washcloth in warm water and wringing out excess moisture. Apply this to your nipples to ease pain. You can also add 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt to the warm water to make a saline solution and use that to prepare the compress. This can clean blisters or cuts if any and boost healing.8 9
5. Apply Purified Lanolin
Lanolin, a waxy substance that’s secreted from the sebaceous glands of sheep, is similar to the oils secreted by your own skin. It forms a protective barrier over your skin and keeps it moisturized. And studies show that it can quicken the healing of cracked nipples and reduce pain.10 Purified lanolin can be applied to cracked nipples with a cotton bud to promote wound healing in nursing mothers.11
6. Dab On Some Ghee
According to ayurveda, ghee or clarified butter has cleansing and detoxifying properties and is thought to promote healing. It has been used to treat wounds, soothe inflammation, and deal with blisters for ages. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend this mild remedy to nursing mothers for treating cracked and dry nipples.12 13
id="7-apply-medical-grade-honey">7. Apply Medical-Grade Honey
Honey has traditionally been used for its moisturizing and wound-healing properties. Scientific studies validate this. Research shows that not only does honey have potent antibacterial properties which can prevent infection but it also stimulates the growth of new tissue and formation of blood cells thus promoting the healing of wounds.14 But don’t use the honey on your kitchen shelf. If your baby is less than a year old and ingests any of this, it may pose the risk of infant botulism. Be sure to apply medical-grade honey, which has been processed to eliminate botulism spores, to heal cracked and sore nipples. To be extra safe, make sure you clean all residue properly before a feed.
id="8-apply-coconut-oil">8. Apply Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil has been traditionally used for wound healing in tropical countries. And studies show that it contains bioactive compounds that can speed up healing. It has also been found to have microbial properties and can fight off infection. Apply a little food-grade coconut oil to soothe and heal cracked nipples. As a bonus, research indicates that this beneficial oil also acts against the fungus which causes thrush. In fact, research indicates that it might be as effective as some antifungal medicines.15 16
id="9-use-hydrogel-pads">9. Use Hydrogel Pads
Hydrogel pads can also be used to heal cracked nipples. These are thin sheets which go inside your bra and stop cloth from rubbing against and irritating your nipple. They also help keep your skin moist.17 18
However, watch out for symptoms such as fever, warm or reddened area on your breast that hurts, or pus draining from your nipple or another part of the breast. These can point to an infection which needs medical attention.19
|↑1||Thrush in newborns. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Cracked & Sore Nipples. ACT Government.|
|↑3||Common breastfeeding concerns. Queensland Health.|
|↑4||Sore or cracked nipples when breastfeeding.
|↑5||Breastfeeding: Sore Nipples.
|↑6||Sore or cracked nipples when breastfeeding. National Health Service.|
|↑7, ↑17, ↑19||Breastfeeding: Sore Nipples. HealthLink BC.|
|↑8||Nipple Pain Remedies.
|↑9, ↑15||Walker, Marsha. “Are There Any Cures for Sore Nipples?.” Clinical Lactation 4, no. 3 (2013): 106-115.|
|↑10||Abou-Dakn, M., J. W. Fluhr, M. Gensch, and A. Wöckel. “Positive effect of HPA lanolin versus expressed breastmilk on painful and damaged nipples during lactation.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 24, no. 1 (2011): 27-35.|
|↑11||Caring for your nipples when breastfeeding. Department of Health.|
|↑12||Datta, Hema Sharma, Shankar Kumar Mitra, and Bhushan Patwardhan. “Wound healing activity of topical application forms based on ayurveda.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011).|
|↑13||Sharma, Hari, and Christopher S. Clark. Ayurvedic Healing: Contemporary Maharishi Ayurveda Medicine and Science Second Edition. Singing Dragon, 2011.|
|↑14||Manuka honey. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑16||Shino, Beena, Faizal C. Peedikayil, Shyamala R. Jaiprakash, Gufran Ahmed Bijapur, Soni Kottayi, and Deepak Jose. “Comparison of antimicrobial activity of chlorhexidine, coconut oil, probiotics, and ketoconazole on Candida albicans isolated in children with early childhood caries: an in vitro study.” Scientifica 2016 (2016).|
|↑18||Nipple Pain Remedies. American Pregnancy Association.|