Breastfeeding: Are redheads prone to sore nipples?

We have a four-day-old baby boy. My wife is having tremendous pain during breastfeeding. She is a redhead and we have been told that redheads are very sensitive. She couldn't breastfeed our other son because of this pain. She wants to do it now, but it is really very painful. Any suggestions?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I'm sorry to hear that your wife is having such difficulty nursing! Passing nipple tenderness in the first week of breastfeeding is fairly common, but you should see it beginning to improve by the end of the week. It is very important to work along with an IBCLC in your area so that your wife can do what's necessary to begin breastfeeding comfortably.

Redheads are typically no more affected by nipple soreness than women with darker complexions. Women with particularly sensitive skin, in general, may experience more soreness in this first week of breastfeeding.

Proper positioning and attachment is very important. Correcting this alone will take care of the majority of cases of sore nipples. When the baby is correctly positioned, even nursing with very abraded nipples should not be too painful. When the baby takes in a good mouthful of breast tissue, the nipple is drawn far into the baby's mouth and is well protected from further damage.

To help the nipples heal, I would recommend that your wife apply Lansinoh to her sore nipples following each feed. Gently pat the nipples dry, and using a pea-sized amount for each nipple, dab on to form a protective moisture barrier. Your wife may feel some pain relief upon application. She should see much improvement over the next two days while correcting the cause of her sore nipples. It is not necessary to remove Lansinoh prior to the next feed.

While working on proper positioning, and getting to the root of this breastfeeding difficulty, your wife might want to use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. Taken 30 minutes prior to a feed, it may help her to nurse more comfortably. Check with her Health Care Provider. Best wishes for comfortable nursing!

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