Nipple injuries are very common with breastfeeding and can be manifested in various skin damages, such as soreness, cracked nipples, thrush, baby bite, or milk blister. These injuries may trigger a dilemma to a breastfeeding mother, as careless medication-based treatment may affect the breastfed baby. Similarly, improving a wounded breast while breastfeeding using topical medications should be done very cautiously.
The most common risk factor
There are various risk factors leading to wounded breast during breastfeeding. However, the most common cause of this injury lingers on improper latch of the baby. If the baby is not latched properly to the mother’s breast while breastfeeding, there is a part of the nipple that does not go into the baby’s mouth. This part may rest on either the back of baby’s teeth or the hard palate of the baby’s mouth. In fact, improper latch does not only cause wound on the breast, but may also trigger the baby to incidentally bite the nipple during breastfeeding.
How to treat a wound on breast while breastfeeding
In fact, the most effective method to treat wounds occurring during breastfeeding is by getting rid of the major cause itself. Making sure your baby is latched properly will minimize the risk of having some incidents while breastfeeding. However, if you have already had some wounds as a result of breastfeeding, these methods can be used as your primary reference of handling the injured area properly, which is important in minimizing pain and preventing breastfeeding trauma.
To treat a wounded breast before and during breastfeeding, do these things:
- Give the injured breast area a quick cold compress before every breastfeeding session.
To do this, prepare an ice cube wrapped in a clean towel. Put the compress onto your wounded breast for 2 to 3 minutes. Do this before breastfeeding the baby to minimize the pain caused by the wound.
- If breastfeeding is really painful, pump the milk into a bottle from the injured breast side. This is important to prevent mastitis, which is more painful, and to maintain breast milk supply. Pump as gentle as possible to prevent more inflammation of the skin.
- Find the most proper latching position during breastfeeding to minimize the risk of excessive contact between the wounded breast and the baby’s teeth.
After breastfeeding, you can start taking care of the wounded side. Performing proper treatment without the use of too much manufactured medications is essential, as topical ointment applied on the wounded breast might be toxic for the baby. These treatments may be helpful:
- Rinse, soak, or compress the wounded side with saline solution. This solution can be found over the counter or be made at home. Make sure the solution covers all part of the injured breast area. However, avoid exposing wounded skin with saline solution for too long—more than 5 to 10 minutes, as this tenderizes it, making it more prone to breakage and leaks.
- Pat the area dry with soft, clean towel.
- If the baby refuses to breastfeed due to the taste of saline solution, rinse the area with warm water before breastfeeding. However, saline solution is not harmful to the baby.
- If your wounded area is quite large and you think you may need a moist wound healing, avoid doing so using ordinary antibiotic ointment, as the residue may be toxic to the baby. Otherwise, use a thin dab of plain Vaseline and dress the wound area with breathable gauze. You can also use a simpler hydrogen dressing to perform this moist wound-healing.
- If you have thrush or blisters on the breast, soak the wounded area in anti-fungal solution, but remember to wash it off with warm water before feeding the baby.
- Wear breathable, comfortable, well-supporting bra that will not put any pressure to the wounded breast skin. It is important to wash the bra as frequent as possible to prevent accumulated bacteria or fungus from infesting the area.
- Specific injury, such as baby bite can be treated with cold compress. To do this, put the compress on for 20 minutes and stop for the next 20 minutes. Repeat whenever necessary.
Preventing wounds from breastfeeding
Irritated or wounded breast will be excruciating during breastfeeding. Thus, the most effective way to avoid this is preventing the injury from happening at all. There are some preventive methods you can do to breastfeed safely, such as:
- Try to experiment the most proper position for breastfeeding, as this may influence your baby’s latching position.
- Let your baby self-latch. To do this, get into a semi-reclining position and put the baby tummy-down on her body, with the head near the breast. The baby will move forwards to the breast to latch on naturally, which is important for preventing poor latching position.
- Feed your baby before he is extremely hungry. Hunger may cause breastfeeding painful, since he may grab at your nipple or breast, causing more pain. It is advised to give sufficient intervals for feeding a baby and make sure the baby is not left hungry.