Causes and Medication for Nipple Pain during Breastfeed

A sore nipple is a common phenomenon in the initial days of breastfeeding and usually happens because your baby isn’t latched properly and attached effectively at the breast.

If your baby is in the correct position and latched properly, breastfeeding shouldn’t be all that painful. There are plenty of different breastfeeding positions to try, so keep moving your baby until you find the right one for you.

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On-the-Feed Tips:

  • Breastfeed from the uninjured (or less injured) side first. Baby will tend to nurse more gently on the second side offered.
  • The initial latch-on tends to hurt the worst – a brief application of ice right before latching can help to numb the area.
  • Experiment with different breastfeeding positions to determine which is most comfortable.
  • If breastfeeding is too painful, it is very important to express milk from the injured side to reduce the risk of mastitis and to maintain supply. If pumping is too painful, try hand expressing and feeding the baby.


Post Feed Tips:

  • Salt water rinse

Use the salt water or more precisely known as normal saline, clean the nipple area. You can prepare this by mixing 1 cup water with ½ tablespoon water. This solution doesn’t sting and so you can use it very often or after every feed.

  • Smear expressed breastmilk to the nipples to promote healing.
  • Apply a medical grade lanolin ointment such as Nip Care ointment, Vaseline or a hydrogel dressing such as Cool nipple compress.
  • If you have thrush, follow the saline rinse with an antifungal ointment or other thrush treatment.
  • If needed, apply an antibiotic ointment or All Purpose Nipple Ointment sparingly after each feeding.


Other than the latching positions,

  • Find the cause — poor positioning or attachment, medical problems such as infection or dermatitis on your nipples, or anatomical problems such as tongue-tie in your baby, Teething, or damage from incorrect use of breast pumps.
  • You may need to take your baby off the sore breast for 12–24 hours to rest the nipple and allow healing to begin. In such a situation, you can express to maintain your supply, keep your breasts feeling comfortable and feed your baby your expressed breastmilk.
  • Start breastfeeding on the sore nipple again gradually, with short feeds. Feed your baby from the less-sore side first. Take special care with positioning and attachment.
  • See your medical adviser if you need pain relief or you suspect a medical cause.
  • Use a nipple shield only after seeking face-to-face expert help.
  • Contact your child health nurse, and midwife or lactation consultant for further help.

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