Last week we talked about typical nipple issues that many of our breastfeeding clients face, from compression lines on nipples due to shallow latch to infections, and everything in between. The most important part of nipple care though is always figuring out the problem prior to caring for your nipple. Our postpartum doulas can help you figure out the problem, but once you have done that, you are left wondering how do you actually care for your damaged nipples?
Only Nurse on One Side
Sometimes, there is unilateral damage to one nipple. That can be because of structure difference with your baby for right vs left, or it could just because that is how your nipples work. If only on nipple is having some discomfort, we recommend resting that side. However, make sure to still either hand express or pump from that side to both encourage that breast to be milk productive, while also providing some needed expression from that breast. Breast massage with hand expression is the best option as it does not cause any more discomfort to the nipple, but lining your flange with olive oil or coconut oil is also effective way to release milk while not causing further damage.
Expressed Milk on Nipple
Breast milk has so many great benefits for your baby, but it also can help heal cracked or sore nipples. Simply express a bit of milk and rub it on your nipple to help heal any damage. However, if you suspect you have a yeast imbalance (thrush, a yeast infection, or really any type of breast infection), avoid applying that expressed milk as it may help the yeast grow more!
Oil on Nipple
Coconut and olive oil, or really any other food based, non-nut oil is great to help lubricate sore nipples. No need to glob it on, but a light coat should be sufficient. The best time to apply this oil is immediately after your baby eats so it has time to moisture your nipples. Plus, since you did not glob it on nor is it a non-food based oil, there is no reason to wipe it off prior to feeding your baby!
Watch for Allergies
Be mindful of what ingredients you are applying to your nipples, for both you and your babies comfort. Many folks love to apply Lanolin to their nipples, and many of clients swear by it, but be aware that there may wool in there, so not recommended if you have a wool allergy.
Products that Have Been Recommended to Us
Hydrogel: Great for moist wound healing and it should be used for multiple days
Medical Honey: We love the gel, not the paste of this medical honey. Plus, since it is medical honey, there is no risk of introducing a possible allergen to new babies!
All Purpose Nipple Ointment (compounded): This is usually a prescription from your medical team, but it works wonderfully! Since it a steroid cream, there a few limitations with the product that you should discuss with your team and it must be wiped off prior to nursing.