What to Do if Your Nipples are Bleeding
Bloody Nipples While Breastfeeding?
You may have read or heard that bleeding nipples is just something that happens to some nursing mothers and that it will go away eventually on its own, or that it’s just a “normal” part of the process. While it’s true that some of us may be a little more sensitive and experience some pain in the early weeks of breastfeeding, it’s not true that pain to the extent of blisters and bleeding nipples is normal. Breastfeeding is a beautiful, wonderful, magical time for you to bond with your sweet baby! How can you relax and enjoy this moment if you’re squirming in pain?
So what now? Why is this happening? Breastfeeding, as natural and primitive as it is, takes some time and effort to figure out. Don’t beat yourself up: you haven’t failed. There are a few reasons why this may be happening. The most common reason for pain during breastfeeding beyond the first couple of weeks is a poor latch. The cause of this can be an underlying issue in the anatomy of your little one’s mouth (tongue tie, lip tie, unusual palate shape), flat or inverted nipples, or it can simply be poor positioning or attachment.
Help for Bleeding Nipples
The first thing you should do is call a local Lactation Consultant to help you discover the cause. If you had the opportunity to attend a BIRTHFIT Prenatal Series, you’ve designed your “postpartum plan.” Use the support system you created to help get you through this! If you don’t already have a professional in mind, you can call your BIRTHFIT Regional Director, Doula, Midwife or OB, or even your Chiropractor for local referrals. We are your tribe, don’t do this alone. It truly takes a village.
Here are a few suggestions while waiting for a professional assessment:
- Nurse more frequently to avoid a ferociously hungry baby.
- Be sure to break the seal of the latch when feeding is finished by inserting your finger into the corner of baby’s mouth.
- Use breathable cotton breast pads and change them frequently.
- Do not use soap to wash your nipples. If you need to use anything, you can make your own saline solution.
- Apply a warm compress or tea bags after nursing.
- A little breast milk dabbed around the nipple after feeding may also help the healing process.
Pumping with Bleeding Nipples
If it’s entirely too painful to nurse you may need to take the baby off for 12-48 hours to allow yourself to heal. Be sure to continue to pump frequently with a quality breast pump. It’s important that you use the proper size flange.
You also want to make sure that the suction isn’t too high. If you choose to take this break, and your baby is still brand new and not latching properly, it’s ideal that you don’t offer a bottle, which can lead to nipple confusion. Check out alternative feeding options, such as an eye or medicine dropper, feeding syringe, a soft flexible medicine cup, spoon, or a nursing supplementer.
There are varying opinions on creams, ointments, and other natural remedies. Research doesn’t necessarily support one remedy over another. We are all different. What we do know is that the most important factor of healing nipples is to correct the source of the problem. So my ultimate advice is to hire some help instead of using Dr. Google to figure it all out on your own. You and your baby (and your boobies, too) are worth it!
Brooke TompkinsBIRTHFIT South Tampa @birthfit_southtampa
- Mohrbacher, Nancy and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers. Second Edition, New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 2010.
- Buchanan P, Hands A, Jones W. Assessing the evidence: Cracked Nipples and Moist Wound Healing. Paisley, Scotland: The Breastfeeding Network, March 2002.