Sore Nipples

A very common breastfeeding problem that many new mums have is sore nipples.

You may get nipple pain in the early days of breastfeeding but you should not have to suffer long term with it or be made to think that sore nipples are just all part of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a great thing to do for you and your baby and should be a happy time you look back on.

If you have sore nipples or are concerned about  nipple pain then I hope this page helps you work out what is the cause of your sore nipples so that you can change it and have many months of pain free breastfeeding.

sore nipples

The causes of sore nipples.

Poor latch This is a very common sore nipples problem that many new breastfeeding mums get for a few days once they start breastfeeding. It often happens due to both you and baby learning how to latch on to the breast properly.

Once you begin to get a good latch then any sore nipples pain should ease over a few days.

To get a good latch at the breast you need to make sure that baby is:

  1. Close to your breast with the shoulder close to the breast.
  2. Make sure your baby is in line with your breast and mouth to nipple.
  3. Baby is turned towards you tummy to tummy.
  4. When baby is rooting make sure they have a wide open mouth with the tongue down.
  5. Guide baby’s mouth onto your breast with your hand gently holding the back of their head and neck.
  6. Shape your breast if this helps baby to latch. Hold your breast from below with your thumb and middle finger and gently squeeze each side about 2 cm from the nipple. This helps make the breast tissue smaller for baby to latch on to.
  7. When baby has a nice wide mouth gently but firmly push them straight forward onto your breast and allow them to take as much of your breast and nipple into their mouth as they can.
  8. Once baby has begun feeding you can remove your hand that is shaping your breast and move it around to cradle baby.
  9. A good quote to remember is: breastfeeding is breastfeeding NOT nipple feeding.

Cracked or bleeding sore nipples 

A poor latch by baby is often the cause of cracked or bleeding nipples. Many new breastfeeding mums do suffer with this problem and just like sore nipples, you should not put up with them for very long while breastfeeding.

If you latch your baby to the breast and you can still feel pain after a minute or so then it’s best to gently take baby off the breast by putting your little finger into the corner of baby’s mouth to gently release the suction and start again. Doing this will help to lessen nipple trauma while taking baby off your breast.

Please take a look at my Breastfeeding problems remedies page for more information on what you can do to heal cracked or bleeding nipples.

Tongue tie A tongue tie in your baby happens when the tissue under baby’s tongue grows too short. This tissue (frenulum) attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. If this tissue is too short it will stop baby’s tongue from moving forward and may make latching on to a breast or bottle hard for baby and cause sore nipples and feeding issues.

Tongue ties can vary from a mild form where there is still enough movement for baby to feed well, to a severe tongue tie where the tip of the tongue is unable to move beyond the lower gum line or can be almost glued to the bottom of baby’s mouth, this then makes it hard for baby to feed properly and may cause speech problems later on.

Tongue tie may cause breastfeeding issues in mom and baby such as:

  1. Poor latch Baby may find it hard to latch on correctly as they are unable to move the tongue forward enough to get a good latch and suck well at the breast.
  2. Sore nipples If baby is unable to move their tongue in the correct ways for good feeding then the breastfeeding mother may develop sore nipples.
  3. Nipple looks squashed You may notice that at the end of a feed your nipple looks squashed and may also look bruised.
  4. Low weight gain If baby has a poor suck due to tongue tie then they are not going to be able to feed well. This may then lower breast milk production and cause baby slow weight gain.
  5. Painful breasts You may suffer from painful breasts after feeding.
  6. Clicking sound from baby If your baby is making a clicking sound while feeding then this can be a sign that baby is not latching correctly at the breast.
  7. Strong suck Baby may develop a very strong suck to get milk from the breast.
  8. Sleepy feeding Baby may be a sleepy feeder, feed for just a few minutes at a time and struggle to stay on the breast and slide off easily.

Many Mild forms of tongue tie can be easily resolved by showing the mother different ways to attach her baby to the breast so baby can feed easily and effectively.

If baby has 3 or more of the issues listed above then its advisable to get help from a breastfeeding or lactation consultant as too what is the best cause of action to take so that you can continue to feed for many weeks to come.

In more severe cases a simple surgical procedure can be carried out that frees the frenulum and allows the tongue to move more easily.

If you are struggling to breastfeed and think your baby has a tongue tie then get your midwife or doctor to take a look at baby. If there is a problem then the sooner it gets treated the easier it will be for you to get breastfeeding back on track and baby feeding well again.

sore nipple symptoms

Tongue tie may cause bottle feeding issues such as:

  1. Seal around bottle If you are bottle feeding your baby with tongue tie then baby may have problems keeping a good seal around the bottle and milk may leak out from baby’s mouth while feeding.
  2. Correct shaped teat Choosing the right shaped teat for your baby may help them to get a better latch to the teat and this will help reduce the amount of air they take in and will make them less windy.
  3. Digestive problems Baby may have digestive problem such as excess wind and colic due to taking in too much air while feeding.

It is estimated that between 4 and 11 per cent of infants are born with a tongue tie but many studies differ in numbers. There is no research to suggest that tongue tie can be inherited.

Thrush Thrush is a yeast infection that often lives in baby’s mouth. At normal levels this yeast causes no problems but if yeast levels rise they can cause thrush of the nipple which will make them very sore, pink looking, itchy and you may suffer from shooting pains in the breast.

Please take a look at my breastfeeding problems and breastfeeding remedies pages as to the best cause of action to cure thrush.

Uneven suck by baby If your baby has a medical or physical problem that effects the mouth or jaw area then he may develop an uneven suck. This type of issue needs to be corrected by proper medical help and support. You may be advised that a course of cranial osteopathy appointments would help to correct your baby’s problem.

White nipple (nipple blanching) and Vasospasm

There are two types of white nipple, the first is:

Blanching of the nipple or white nipple is often caused by the flow of blood to the nipple being cut off while baby feeds. Lack of blood flow to the nipple will turn it white and it may look squashed after baby has fed.

This type of nipple blanching is mainly caused by baby having latching problems as baby tends to squash or compress the nipple while they feed .This condition may cause sore nipples.

If your nipple is turning white at each feed it may be:

  1. Baby has a shallow latch
  2. Baby is not sucking effectively at the breast.
  3. Your baby may have tongue tie
  4. You may have a very fast milk flow which may make baby clamp down on your nipple to try and slow the flow of breast milk

If you have any forms of sore nipples pain while the blood flow is returning then a warm compress can be helpful. This pain may start as soon as baby has come away from the breast or it may not start for a few minutes.

It is helpful if you are getting sore nipples pain to get the advice of a breastfeeding consultant to get any of the above breastfeeding issues sorted and this in turn should then help with white nipple pain.

If once your baby has fed colour returns to your nipple and there is no pain then you do not need to worry and can continue to happily feed for many weeks or months to come.

If your White nipple is also associated with severe sore nipples pain, a burning sensation in the breast, or shooting stabbing pains in the breast or nipple straight after feeding then you may have a condition called Vasospasm.

Vasospasm is a very severe form of white nipple or nipple blanching and will cause very severe sore nipples pain.

It is caused when the blood flow is restricted due to a narrowing of the blood vessels to the nipple.

This can happen before, during or after feeding and can cause intense pain in the nipple and breast.

Vasospasm is a circulatory problem in the mother and can occur in a breast fed baby who latches and feeds well at the breast.

You are more likely to suffer with Nipple Vasospasm if you are a slim person with little fatty tissue or if you suffer with very cold fingers and toes any time of year.

The symptoms of nipple vasospasm are:

  1. Severe sore nipples pain, before, during or after breastfeeding which can be burning, pounding, or shooting stabbing pains in the breast or nipple. These pains are often worse when you are cold or in a cold room.
  2. Whitening of the nipple, due to restricted blood flow
  3. The nipple may change colour from white to blue to purple or red before going back to pink.

Treatment for nipple Vasospasm

There are various treatments available to help with nipple vasospasm and to lessen the symptoms. These are:

  1. Stay warm Try and keep yourself and your nipples as warm as possible. Feed baby in a warmed room and add extra layers of clothing to yourself if you begin to feel chilly.
  2. Avoid room temperature changes Try and keep all rooms at about the same temperature, especially your bathroom and feeding rooms.
  3. Do not air dry your sore nipples as this will cause them to get cold easily.
  4. Use warm pads Warm your sore nipples with dry heat such as a covered hot water bottle or make a warm compress by filling a sock with rice. That can then be heated in a microwave.
  5. Avoid nicotine and alcohol as these can make your sore nipples  symptoms worse.
  6. Take supplements Taking various supplements such as fish oils and magnesium tablets can help to relax and lessen the amount of narrowing of the blood vessels to relive sore nipples .

If nipple Vasospasm is diagnosed by your doctor or midwife then it is advisable to seek the help of a breastfeeding consultant who will have experience of dealing with this condition and offer you the best advice on coping and managing the condition of sore nipples .

I hope my sore nipples page has given you the information you needed.

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