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Sore Nipples

Is it normal for my nipples to hurt?

Sore nipples are common with breastfeeding.

However, breastfeeding should not hurt. Also, the skin on your nipple should not break down any more than the skin anywhere on your body should break down. Mild tenderness or sensitivity is fairly common for the first week or two of breastfeeding. Then it should go away.

What are some possible causes of sore nipples?

If your nipples feel painfully sore or the nipples or areola feel bruised, it is likely that it is related to an improper latch-on process or ineffective sucking. Suspect a difficulty with baby's latch or sucking if your nipples become very red, raw, blistered, or cracked. A latch or sucking difficulty or a structural variation in the baby's mouth might result in nipples that look creased or blanched (turn white) at the end of feedings.

When nipples become red and burn, or feel extremely sore after weeks or months of pain-free breastfeeding, it may be due to a yeast infection, such as thrush. Yeast may appear as white patches in the baby's mouth or it may show up as a bright red diaper rash. Specific medicines are needed to treat yeast infections. Contact your baby's healthcare provider for more information and treatment.

What should I do to treat my sore nipples?

Recommendations include the following:

  • Lanolin cream, or your own breastmilk, can keep your nipples hydrated

  • Wear a loose-fitting bra and clothes

  • Change nursing pads often to keep them clean and dry

  • Use only a mild soap and water to clean your breasts and nipples

  • Change positions each time you nurse

Certain creams or dressings may promote healing. Others can actually cause more damage. These should be used carefully under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Also, avoid any treatment (harsh soaps or chemicals) that might result in drying the nipples. This may lead to cracking of the skin.

Finding the cause of sore nipples can be difficult. Talk with your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for an evaluation and suggestions on how to resolve the problem. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
  • Rosen-Carole, Casey, MD, MPH