How To Soothe Sore Nipples From Breastfeeding

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Sore or cracked nipples are common when breastfeeding; some even consider this a side-effect that every mother naturally experiences. Despite the normality of this phenomenon, it proves to be discomforting and can lead to an infection if left unattended.

To understand the best ways of soothing sore nipples, you need to identify the cause.

There are many reasons why sore nipples occur during breastfeeding. Here are some of the most common causes listed below:

Causes of Sore Nipples & Solutions

Sore Nipples From Breastfeeding

It is important to ensure some factors are in order during a breastfeeding session, like your baby’s positioning and latch. 

Alongside these external factors, there can be internal irritations, too, such as clogging of milk ducts or a blocked nipple pore.

To most efficiently treat sore nipples when breastfeeding, it is important to identify which issue is causing soreness.


A common issue is not positioning your baby correctly and attaching them to the breast properly. This can cause problems when the baby latches to the nipple during feeding.

Do not fret the process of breastfeeding. You just need to address any potential problems early on so that you can feed your baby pain and irritation free.

Poor Latch

Second to positioning, poor latch is a key cause of sore nipples, mainly experienced in the early days of breastfeeding. If your baby does not latch on to the nipple properly, their mouth or tongue can chafe against the nipple’s skin, thus causing soreness.

Getting your baby’s latch comfortable and consistent will take a few tries initially. Once the correct breastfeeding position is in place, it is advised to compress the areola between your fingers. Your baby’s mouth should cover the nipple and the areola, and their chin and nose should touch your breast with lips flayed outwards.

Milk Blister

A milk blister is a white spot that forms around the nipple. It consists of thickened milk granules, which can cause the blockage of a milk duct. Milk-filled blisters tend to clear up on their own with feeding.

If not, it is crucial to remove these as they can potentially move down the milk duct and cause mastitis, a more severe form of nipple soreness that is touched upon below.

The good news is that these blisters can be cleared at home with a rough flannel or clean fingernail. If milk blisters raise uncertainties, it is best to consult a health advisor on removing the blister and determining its severity.


Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue that could develop into an infection. The inflammation causes breast pain, nipple soreness, swelling, and redness.

It is vital you see a doctor to be diagnosed straight away, as oral antibiotics are the best course of action to clear the infection and alleviate symptoms.

It is said to continue with nursing, as this also assists in clearing the infection.

Clogged Milk Ducts

A common cause of breast pain and sore nipples is when milk ducts get clogged. To prevent nipple pain, it is best to treat these milk ducts, as a plugged duct can lead to a breast infection without doing so.

To ensure pain-free breastfeeding, eliminate the possibility of clogged ducts by placing a warm compress on the affected nipple to assist the milk flow going.

For best results, this remedy can be carried out before each feeding. It is essential to empty the breast thoroughly at each feeding and consistently regulate changes between different breastfeeding positions, as changing positions will stimulate all milk ducts.

It’s also helpful to gently rub the affected breast with a mini massage, where gentle pressure is applied to the clogged duct. This can be done before and during a feeding session.

Despite being uncomfortable, it is advised not to stop breastfeeding as this can worsen the clog due to more milk backing up and compounding it.

Inverted Nipples

Upon finishing breastfeeding, nipples tend to turn inward. Flat or inverted nipples usually occur if the milk ducts are scarred during breastfeeding. Some mothers already have naturally inverted nipples, so soreness upon breastfeeding is experienced.

A helpful way to distinguish if nipples are inverted or not is to gently pinch the areola or even the darker area surrounding the nipple. If the nipple retracts and becomes concave, it is an inverted one.

There are different tools to assist with breastfeeding to alleviate pain from sore nipples such as breast shells, breast pumps, and nipple shields.

Breast Engorgement

Sore Nipples From Breastfeeding

This is when your breasts become overly full. They may feel hard, tight, and painful.

Engorgement can occur due to milk coming in and the baby not feeding so much in the early stages.

To relieve breast engorgement, apply warm washcloths to the areolas at the start of each nursing session, stimulating letdown. After nursing, ice packs can be placed to soothe the painful nipple and soreness.

The more frequently breastfeeding is carried out, the less chance of encountering engorgement.


A yeast infection that lives off the lactose in milk. It can affect your breastfeeding nipple as well as the baby.

Signs of thrush are evident if nipples appear to be pink in color, are itchy, tend to burn, and are crusty.

Additionally, if the inside of a baby’s cheeks or tongue has a curd-like coating, this also signals that the baby has thrush.

As this is an infection, the remedy would be prescribed anti-fungal creams. Good hygiene and maintaining a clean nipple are essential.

There is no need to halt breastfeeding during anti-fungal treatment, as positive results are showcased within a week.

Rapid Pain Relief for Soreness

To summarize this article, some more rapid forms of pain relief to assist with soreness are listed below.

  • Applying a cold washcloth to sore nipples for 10 minutes before breastfeeding assists in alleviating breastfeeding pain.
  • Breast shells allow air to circulate and protect nipples from brushing against clothing in between nursing or pumping sessions.
  • After a feeding, sore nipples can be soothed by gently rubbing nipple creams such as lanolin. Some traditional forms of soothing even include rubbing some of the mother’s breast milk on the soreness. For nursing breasts, sore nipples tend to dehydrate skin further, so it is essential to pack in all moisture and hydration.
Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream for Breastfeeding, 1.41 Ounces
  • Hydrogel pads are great for immediate relief as their cooling effect soothes cracked nipples, and using them will relieve discomfort, especially if there is a break in the skin. These gel pads also help heal tissue.
Medela Soothing Gel Pads for Breastfeeding, 4 Count Pack, Tender Care HydroGel Reusable Pads, Cooling Relief for Sore Nipples from Pumping or Nursing
  • Regulating general hygiene practices such as washing nipples with a warm washcloth and a small pea-sized portion of mild soap prevents a build-up of infections. A pro-tip is to let nipples air dry rather than rubbing with harsh towels.
  • Gentle massages help alleviate pressure from blood vessels that can be irritated due to swelling and soreness.
  • If you are pumping, it is to be noted that this process shouldn’t be a painful one! Breast shields are comfortable and efficient in pumping. If pumping does become painful, breast shield sizing needs to be considered.
  • If sore nipples are followed by bleeding, crustiness, and cracking, please seek immediate healthcare advice and a Lactation Consultant for further information and guidance.

To prevent sore nipples, avoid bacterial infection and breast pump correctly definitely seems like a handful, but nursing mothers will be pain-free with these useful tips!


To prevent sore nipples, avoid bacterial infection and breast pump correctly definitely seems like a handful, but nursing mothers will be pain-free with these useful tips!

It is evident that there are a variety of ways to alleviate pain from sore nipples when breastfeeding. From using breast shells and nipple shields to applying warm washcloths and cold ice packs.

Following these tips can help make the experience more comfortable for both you and your baby. It is important to maintain good hygiene practices in order to prevent infection. By being proactive in terms of preventing pain and taking care of your nipples, you can continue nursing without any issues.


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