How to Heal Chapped Nipples While Nursing

By Kathryn Walsh
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Breastfeeding nourishes your baby and strengthens your bond, but it takes a toll on some moms. A newborn may nurse as frequently as every two hours -- so if breastfeeding is painful, you'll be in constant agony. It's normal for nipples to become occasionally sore during this time, but chapped nipples are not a necessary part of the process. Eliminating future pain is a must, but while you sort out the issue, nurture your nipples just as carefully as you do your baby.

Step 1

Moisten your nipples after each feeding. The Ask Dr. Sears website suggests rubbing a bit of breast milk over the nipples, but according to the University of Michigan Health System Lactation Department, tap water or saline solution will also do. Allow the area to air dry for a few minutes.

Step 2

Apply a thin layer of lanolin, which moisturizes and protects the skin, to your dry nipples. Use a product that's safe for babies to ingest, found in the baby care aisle of the grocery store or pharmacy. It's not necessary to clean your breasts before the next feeding, but if you choose to do so, use water only.

Step 3

Stick hydrogel nursing pads to your nipples to provide cooling relief and protect them from tugging and friction. Wear a bra that doesn't compress your nipples, preferably one made from natural fibers. Avoid a bra or shirt altogether when at home, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Step 4

Rinse your breasts in the shower only. Avoid using soap, body wash or lotion, all of which can irritate the chapped skin. Your doctor may, however, advise you use antibacterial soap and other products if your nipples are so chapped the skin is broken, in order to prevent infection. Reapply lanolin when you step out of the shower.

Step 5

Work on adjusting your baby's latch. According to the New York State Department of Health website, red or cracked nipples are generally a sign of a latch problem. Try different nursing positions and take some tips from the American Pregnancy Association -- tilt your baby's head back slightly, grasp your breast to guide it to his mouth and try to get as much of the bottom of the areola into his mouth as possible.

Step 6

Consult a lactation specialist if you experience more than a few days of chapped nipples. She can work with you to improve your baby's latch. Call your doctor if your nipples have open cuts or bleed, as any infections that develop in your breasts will affect your breast milk. Your doctor can also prescribe a strong nipple cream for persistent chapping.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.