by: Adrienne Koznek, IBCLC
Breastfeeding should not hurt, but the reality is that it?s not uncommon for new mothers to have some issues in the beginning. ?Sometimes mothers experience sore nipples or even damage such as abrasions, cracks, or blisters. ?This can happen for a number of reasons, including tongue tie, high palate (the ?roof? of the mouth), and poor positioning, among others. It is incredibly important to seek professional help from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to resolve the breastfeeding issues and prevent further damage, but in the meantime, some triage must happen.
When your nipples are sore or damaged, breastfeeding may be incredibly painful. ?While you are healing, if you are unable to bring your baby to the breast, you will need to hand express or pump to protect your milk supply (and feed the baby, which is the most important part!).
Nipple soaks are very healing for damage. ?Saline (salt water) helps injuries heal quickly, which is the primary goal for a mom?s damaged nipples. ?If you?re experiencing any of the following, seek help from an IBCLC and consider using nipple soaks:
-Abrasions, redness, skin erosion
-Blisters, fissures (cracks)
-Signs of infection (yellow crust, pus)
-To heal skin after a bleb (clogged nipple pore) or a baby bite
Making nipple soak is simple. ?To make a solution, you need:
-1 tsp of salt (any kind will do)
-1 cup of warm water
-Mixing cup or bowl
-Small cups (such as shot glasses)
Dissolve salt in warm water. ?The temperature should be tolerable to your sensitive skin. ?The solution should not burn; if it does, dilute the salt a bit more. ?Most moms find it?s easiest to use shot glasses for soaking because they can create a seal around the nipples and minimize spillage while sitting a little more comfortably (rather than hunching over a bowl). ?Soak nipples for no more than 5 minutes at a time. ?Repeat minimum 2 times per day; ideally aim for 4 times.
You can make a batch of saline all at once but be sure to never reuse the solution on your nipples. ?Pat your nipples dry before putting your clothes on. ?It?s also vital to promote moist wound healing by using coconut oil, expressed breast milk, or nipple balm on your nipples.
Nipple pain is often cited as a reason for ending breastfeeding. ?With guidance from an IBCLC and proper care techniques, nipple soreness can be but a mere bump in the road of a long breastfeeding journey. ?Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby!