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Breastfeeding: Cracked or Bleeding Nipples

breastfeeding and painful nipplesThere is no part of normal breastfeeding that results in cracked or bleeding nipples. This is a symptom of improper breastfeeding technique or yeast infection, in most cases. If your nipples are cracked or bleeding, talk with your physician or lactation consultant about possible causes, treatments and ways to prevent future nipple damage.

Why Are my Nipples Cracked or Bleeding?

There is likely an issue with breastfeeding that is causing cracked or bleeding nipples. Either the infant is not latching properly or there is a yeast infection of the nipples. The yeast infection, known as thrush when it infects your baby’s mouth, can cause nipples to crack or bleed. Other possible causes of cracked or bleeding nipples may include:

  • Using suction that is too hard on a breast pump
  • Improperly sized breast shields
  • Eczema of the breast/nipple
  • Skin irritation caused by soaps or laundry detergent

Treatment for Cracked or Bleeding Nipples
If your cracked or bleeding nipples are caused by improper latching while breastfeeding, you must work on correcting the patch to relieve pain and allow nipples to heal. Breastfeeding should be comfortable, not painful. Painful latches lead to nipple injury, including cracked and/or bleeding nipples. A lactation or breastfeeding consultant can often help correct your infant’s latch or your breastfeeding technique/position to relieve immediate pain. With proper latching taken care of, your nipples will heal naturally.

Treating cracked or bleeding nipples not associated with infant latch requires determining the cause of cracked or bleeding nipples and addressing that cause. Some common causes and treatments include:

  • Yeast Infection: Antifungal cream for nipples and treatment for infant if thrush is present in the mouth.
  • Skin Irritation: Change to “free” laundry detergent, soaps and skin lotions. Lanolin cream or creams designed for breastfeeding mothers are safe for use while breastfeeding and may help ease pain and speed the healing process. The cream helps prevent scabs from forming on the nipple.

Will My Nipples Crack or Bleed Again?
Depending on the cause of your cracked or bleeding nipples, you may experience issues in the future if old habits resume. For instance, if you switch back to the same laundry detergent that irritated your nipples there is a chance it will irritate your nipples again. However, if improper breast latching was the issue causing cracked or bleeding nipples once latch is corrected nipples should not crack or bleed again. You may also notice some irritation and slight bleeding as teeth breakthrough and change breastfeeding, but irritation is typically temporary.

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