While you likely know all the benefits of nursing your baby, breastfeeding sometimes also comes with some unpleasant side effects, including chapped nipples. A poor latch is a common cause of chapped, cracked and sore nipples. Because engorgement can lead to a poor latch, you need to keep the milk moving out of your breasts. Having dry or sensitive skin can also make you susceptible to chapped nipples. Once chapped, each nursing session is painful, especially when your baby initially latches on to the nipple. While you can help your chapped nipples heal and relieve the pain with home care, as well as help prevent future chapping by ensuring that your baby has a good latch, if chapping and cracking persist and make breastfeeding difficult, you should consult your doctor and/or a lactation expert.
Time your breastfeeding sessions closer together so your baby doesn't get overly hungry. When she is ravenous, she is likely to suck vigorously at the beginning of the session. That harsh sucking is painful and can irritate cracked, chapped nipples.
Offer the breast that isn't as chapped at the beginning of the feeding. Even if you feed your baby more frequently than normal, her initial suction is usually stronger and more painful for you. Try a different position to find a comfortable way to nurse. For example, try propping your baby up higher with a pillow as this might help her latch on easier.
Guide your nipple into your baby's mouth to help her gain a solid latch. Wait until she opens her mouth wide so you can get enough of the nipple into the mouth to make nursing comfortable. You want most of your areola in your baby's mouth. If she only has the nipple inside, your breasts are likely to feel sore. Check her lips to make sure they are turned outward on the breast instead of tucked under.
Break your baby's suction before you remove your nipple from her mouth. Pulling your breast from her mouth while she is sucking often causes increased pain and irritation to the nipple. If she is still sucking when you want to stop, slide a finger in her mouth to encourage her to open or pull down gently on her chin.
Wash your nipples after each nursing session. Use a saline solution made by mixing 8 ounces of warm water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, advises the KellyMom website. Soak the nipples or squirt the solution onto the nipple area. Dry your nipples by gently patting them.
Cover the nipples with moisture to promote healing. Lanolin ointment, hydrogel dressing or expressed breast milk are all options, according to La Leche League International.
Apply warm compresses to your nipples if they hurt after a breastfeeding session. Avoid heat that might dry out your nipples, such as sunlamps, as the drying could cause more cracking. La Leche League International also warns against using moist tea bags, which could also cause more cracking.
Pump if your nipples are too sore for nursing. If you don't express the milk in some way, your breasts become engorged, your supply may decrease and you risk mastitis.
Call a doctor if your nipples show signs of infection along with the sore, chapped feeling. Signs include swelling, redness, warmth, fever and oozing.