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How do I Care for Nipples While Breastfeeding?

By L.R. Ferguson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Caring for nipples while breastfeeding is essential to prevent nursing discomfort. The best way to care for nipples while breastfeeding is to make sure that the baby properly attaches to and detaches from the nipple, to clean and protect the skin on the nipples and to prevent engorgement of the breasts. Theses steps well help to avoid common problems in the nipples that come from breastfeeding.

First, learning how to properly attach and detach the baby from your nipples while breastfeeding will help avoid injury of the nipples. You should never force the baby’s mouth to attach to the nipple, because this can be painful. Similarly, you also should be careful when detaching the baby’s mouth from the nipple. Rushing both actions can cause injury to the nipples from the suction of the baby’s mouth, which is very strong. Patiently and carefully attaching or detaching the baby will help ensure that the nipple does not suffer any damage.

Second, maintaining proper hygiene is essential in caring for your nipples while breastfeeding. One important tip is to frequently wash your bras and to always wear a clean bra while nursing. This can be difficult if your breasts leak frequently, but wearing nursing pads — protective bra inserts — can shield your bra from milk leakage, keeping them cleaner for longer. Furthermore, when cleansing the actual breasts, avoid using harsh waters and soaps, because this can cause the nipples and breasts to become dry, cracked and itchy. Keeping the nipples supple and less prone to cracking by applying avocado or olive oils will not only help to soothe dryness but also can prevent infections — such as a yeast infection or thrush — from occurring in the broken skin and causing pain.

Third, avoiding engorgement of the breasts will also help maintain the comfort of your nipples while breastfeeding. Engorgement occurs when the breast tissues swell from excess milk. Generally, engorgement is the result of waiting too long in between feedings or not expressing or pumping enough milk. Swelling of the nipples is not only painful, it can prevent your baby from latching on properly, thus causing even more discomfort, so it is important to feed your baby or to express your milk frequently. To ease the pain associated with engorgement, alternate between breasts when nursing, use hot compresses to minimize pain, and use cold compresses to further reduce swelling in the nipples.

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