Preventing Your Nipples From Needing Band-Aids
In the olden days, mothers were told to toughen their nipples to avoid pain when the baby started breastfeeding. Rubbing with a wash cloth, pumping and even alcohol was once used to toughen the nipples.
The number one reason a new mother has sore nipples is poor positioning and latching, not the lack of preparation. Possibly, the baby is not turned toward the mother or the baby’s mouth is not over the nipple but on the tip. Some babies go onto the breast with a wide mouth, yet slide down to the tip of the nipple.
Another reason for sore nipples may be that the mom is feeling exhausted and doesn’t think she can deal with one more demand, including sore nipples. Some women are so happy that the baby is sucking, and accept the pain. Pain with latching is not normal and needs to be addressed. The sooner the mother fixes the problem, the sooner she will have pain-free breastfeeding.
Preventing Sore Nipples:
- First of all, the baby’s body needs to be completely turned in facing Mom. The baby’s ear, shoulder and hip needs to be in a straight line. Occasionally, when observing a latch, I notice the baby’s body facing away from Mom, yet the head is turned in toward the nipple sucking on the tip. Ouch! Make sure the baby’s bottom is also tucked in close to help prevent this.�
- You want to have a good breastfeeding pillow to help bring baby’s nose level to the nipple. The baby can not latch properly if the baby is sliding down. If you don’t have a breastfeeding pillow, use about 3-4 pillows.
- When an infant is skin-to-skin with its mother, the baby knows what to do instinctively. Not only will the baby wake up sooner, she will breastfeed more efficiently.
- The baby’s mouth needs to be as wide as if eating a large sandwich. With one hand hold the baby’s neck and with the other hand, hold your breast in the “C” position. This position is called the cross cradle and the best position to use if you are experiencing sore nipples. With your nipple, tease the baby. Move the nipple from the baby’s nose to chin in a straight line. When the baby opens wide, as if eating a large sandwich, bring her into the breast quickly. This will not hurt the baby. It is like falling into a pillow. If the baby does not open wide, then you are to repeat this until she does.
- Make sure that you are holding your breast properly. Hold your breast in the “C” hold. Bring your four fingers completely underneath your breast and lift up. With your thumb, lay it on the top line of your areola. Remember to have your fingers stay on the edge of the areola.
- Sometimes, mothers feel discomfort during the first 10 seconds of an initial feed. This may or may not be normal. However, if pain continues throughout the feed and/or the nipple looks like a ski slope after the feed, then perhaps the latch and positioning need evaluating.
- You can also fix the latch while the baby is latched onto the breast. Get the baby to open wide first, bring her in and then check the lips. You want the top and bottom lips to be flanged, over the nipple, not tucked in. Depending on which breastfeeding position you are using, use your thumb or pointer finger to help flip the top lip out. To bring the bottom lip out, use your pointer finger and pull down in front of the baby’s chin. You may need to do this several times during the feeding to teach the baby to keep her mouth open.
Healing Your Nipples:
- With an improved latch, the soreness will improve immediately. If there is damage, it can take several days.
- Moist healing is preferred.
- Express your colostrum for its antibiotic factors.
- Small amounts of nipple ointments dapped into the nipple and surrounding areas
- Silicone comfort gel pads that go over the nipples
- Alternate between ointments and gel pads for soothing relief
- Air Dry
Have patience during this time. If you need more support, seek out your nurse, a Doula, Le Leche League, or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
About the Author:
Julie L. Johnson is a wife and mother of three who has experienced every pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and breastfeeding situation there is and has lived to tell about. She is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Certified Doula and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant practicing in Southern California. Her website http://www.mybirthangel.com provides services and products to help ease the transition into motherhood.
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