Sore, painful, cracked, and bleeding nipples during breastfeeding might be some of frequently-heard problems. Many breastfeeding women experience painful nipples after breastfeeding, which is signed by variety of symptoms. Among those problems, cracked and bleeding nipples are a couple of the most common injuries. These nipple wounds may cause unpleasant breastfeeding time and severe pain and thus, need to be healed as soon as possible to prevent further harmful infection.
Risk factors of cracked nipple
A variety of risk factors contribute to cracked nipples which happen during breastfeeding. Knowing these risk factors will be helpful in minimizing its effects in the future. Some of the most well-known causes of cracked nipples in breastfeeding moms are:
- Irritation can occur through garment materials your skin cannot tolerate, such as polyester or spandex, washing detergent which is not thoroughly rinsed and thus, left on your outfits and undergarments, and skin care products with harsh chemicals, such as perfumes and creams.
- Irritation is signed by severe itching and burning sensation, blisters, and skin rashes. The problem might be light in the beginning, but will escalate eventually, causing the nipple to crack and its surrounding to be blistered and itchy.
- Severely dry skin—caused by weather and skin abnormalities, such as eczema.
- Dry climate may also contribute to cracked nipple problem, as in some people, dry weather trigger over drying skin, including the skin around the nipple. As a result, when not given moisturizer, the nipple will easily crack and bleed.
- Skin abnormality, such as eczema also causes scaly, red patches of skin occurring around the nipple. As the result, the nipple is covered with itchy scales, while the areola might be red and swollen.
- Yeast infection.
- Yeast infection commonly occurs in baby’s mouth and can be easily passed to the mother during breastfeeding. The symptoms of yeast infection—other than cracked or bleeding nipple, are similar to eczema—itchy, painful, red, shiny nipples accompanied by shooting pain during breastfeeding.
- Improper latching position during breastfeeding.
- In many cases, cracked nipple is caused by improper latch during breastfeeding. If the baby does not latch properly during breastfeeding, the nipple is likely scratched by the teeth or get twisted, which will end in painful crack. Besides, improper latch also inhibit the baby from getting sufficient amount of breast milk, which can be troublesome.
Treating cracked nipple during breastfeeding
Cracked nipples—despite how painful it can be, should not stop you from breastfeeding the baby, as breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs for his growth. Some ways of treating cracked nipple during breastfeeding might be helpful in creating a more enjoyable moment with the baby.
- Before breastfeeding, apply a cold pack or ice cubes covered in a clean towel to numb the injured area. This is extremely beneficial if you are new to breastfeeding and still notice some small amount of blood on the nipple.
- While breastfeeding, always check the position of your baby’s latch. A proper latch can be gained with some steps, such as:
- Let the baby latch by himself. Do not rush him to put the nipple into the mouth. Wait for him to open the mouth and once it opens, hug him on quickly.
- Make sure the nipple is far back in the baby’s mouth and that the areola below the nipple is also in his mouth.
- After breastfeeding, clean the nipple thoroughly, but gently. Washing injured nipple with saline solution after breast-feeding will reduce the chance of infection.
- If your nipple crack severely, antibiotic ointment which is advised by your pediatrician might be helpful. This will not only kill existing bacteria, but also moisten the cracked area, so that it won’t get more severe.
- To prevent scabs, apply a thin layer of food-grade lanolin oil after breastfeeding. This will moisture the area and inhibit scab formation during healing process.
- If the crack is accompanied by shooting pain, put on cold compress to reduce the pain. Avoid touching your cracked nipple to prevent bacteria from your fingers to infest the wound site. Before applying any treatments for cracked nipples, wash the hand thoroughly.
- Before a night sleep, dab a small amount of breast milk onto the cracked area. Substances in breast milk will aid healing and fight infection.