Tea bags and sore nipples

I am expecting my third child and have successfully breastfed the first two, although both times I experienced pretty severe soreness for the first 7-10 days. The Vitamin E gel was almost no help. I resigned myself to dealing with the pain until a maternity nurse recommended soaking tea bags in very warm water and applying them to my nipples. Although I ruined a bra with tea stains, it helped. She said it had something to do with tannic acid but couldn't explain the exact reason it worked. I tried it again with my second child and had the same results. I plan packing tea bags when I go to the hospital this time also. Have you ever heard of this before, and if so do you know why it helps? I'm curious.

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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

Even with correct positioning and attachment, a nursing mom can experience some passing nipple tenderness during the first week, peaking around the third day following the birth. The key word here is passing. If your nipples are still feeling uncomfortable after the first week of breastfeeding, or if your nipples are cracked or bleeding at any time, it is time to look into what is causing the problem. The best thing you can do for you and your baby (and the nursing relationship), is to be seen by a Lactation Consultant. Getting breastfeeding off to the best possible start will be one of the best investments you will make.

Tea bags have been recommended for treatment of sore nipples for many years. They contain tannic acid (an astringent) which has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have not been consistent in showing their benefit, though I don't see them complicating the situation in any way, as long as you determine the cause of continued nipple soreness.

Warm (water) compresses, expressed breastmilk, application of modified lanolin, or even warm, moist tea bags if you prefer, may provide relief once you have corrected the cause of the sore nipples. Do not use Vitamin E on your nipples, as once recommended, to aid in healing. It may actually irritate your skin, along with possibly exposing your baby to high doses of this vitamin. Wishing you pain-free nursing!

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