Ask the Lactation Consultant: What can I do about sore nipples?

How much nipple soreness should I expect when I breastfeed?

Many women think nipple soreness is just a normal part of breastfeeding, but it is actually the sign of a problem.

When you first begin breastfeeding, you may experience a very small amount of nipple tenderness for the first few seconds of each feeding, and just for the first few days after the birth, lasting no longer than a week or so. This early tenderness is very slight and should resolve easily.

If your nipples are moderately to severely sore, that indicates a problem. If they're blistered, cracked, bleeding or raw, it's a sign of a serious problem. Nipple pain that causes you to wince, cry, hold your breath, curl your toes or grit your teeth all indicate a condition that need to be addressed with professional help.

If nipple soreness isn't normal, what causes it?

Many mothers are tempted to ignore nipple soreness and just "grin and bear it" because they think it's a normal part of breastfeeding. But the most common problem that causes sore nipples '- a poor or shallow latch '- can also make it hard for the baby to get enough milk.

The latch problem may be related to how your baby's mouth goes onto your breast initially. Some mothers allow their baby to latch when the baby's mouth is only partially open. Even though the baby may eventually take in enough of the breast, the nipple can be damaged with each latch during the first few sucks.

Another common latch problem is a shallow latch, which means your baby has too little of your breast in her mouth. One easy way to check your baby's latch is to check what your nipple looks like as it comes out of your baby's mouth after a feeding. If your nipple is flattened or pointy like a new lipstick, that's often the sign of a poor latch.

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