Cracks in your skin are no fun, especially when they’re all angry and sore. The skin is dry and sometimes can be very sensitive. Wherever cracks in the skin appear it can be painful. One place they show up can be on the breast nipple. It is one of the most sensitive parts of our body and so it’s one of the last places where you want a crack in the skin.
For some reason, they usually turn up when they’re especially hard to deal with: when you’re already dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy or when you’re breastfeeding your little one.
Taking care of this pressing problem can require quite a bit of patience and a lot of trying to find things to see what works for you. To help you out, here’s a run-down of the whys of nipple cracks during and after pregnancy, as well as a few handy tips to make sure that they don’t end up ruining your day!
10 During Pregnancy: What’s Up?
Nipple cracks are usually associated with women who are breastfeeding. You don’t have a child at your breast yet, so what’s the deal?
Well, being pregnant does involve tons of hormonal changes. Your blood levels of estrogen and progesterone rise dramatically, causing a number of changes to your body. During this time, your nipples might begin to feel quite sore. In addition, they may also start leaking colostrum. Colostrum, as well as the moisture from your sweat, make for a fertile breeding ground for microorganisms, not to mention irritate your nipples.
9 Salt and Water
It’s therefore important to keep your nips nice and clean to prevent and treat cracks. However, frequent use of soap may dry and irritate them further. One thing that can help is to use a solution of salt and water, which mimics the natural salt concentrations in the body. This is called normal saline and you can prepare this by mixing half a teaspoon of salt in warm water.
You can use this solution to wash your nipples or, alternatively, you can soak them for a few minutes. Make sure that you pat or air them dry before putting any clothes on.
8 Air Exposure
In order to keep moisture from building up over your nipples, which could result in cracking, you will need to keep them nice and dry by exposing them to air. Don’t put your bra or clothes on unless they’re fully dry! It may even help to just ditch the bra and wear clothes that allow air to circulate around your nipples. Just make sure that the clothes aren’t made of rough, uncomfortable fabric that could worsen the discomfort. If you can, just go topless at home whenever possible.
Getting yourself special nipple shells that create a bit of distance between your nipple and your bra may also help.
7 Good Bras and Pads
Even though you haven’t given birth yet, you might want to get a good maternity bra. Maternity bras can provide your breasts with adequate support and can ensure your comfort throughout pregnancy and even when you’re breastfeeding.
Another thing that may help is by purchasing cotton nursing pads that you can place in your bra. Change these frequently so you don’t get any moisture against your nipples for too long.
6 See the Doctor
If no matter what you do the nipple cracks don’t seem to go away, it may be best to see your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe certain creams or an antifungal ointment that should help your nipples heal faster. This is especially if you plan to breastfeed, since having them when you start may be painful.
With painful breastfeeding, you may be less likely to continue. It’s therefore best to seek treatment as soon as you can so that your breasts are nice and ready when the baby arrives!
5 After Pregnancy: Coping with Breastfeeding
Whenever nipple cracks appear after pregnancy, they can pose another awful challenge: you will have to breastfeed right through them! What’s worse, even if you decide not to breastfeed because your nipples hurt, milk can accumulate in your breast causing clogged ducts and engorgement. None of this is all too pleasant.
Nevertheless, nipple cracks after pregnancy are still very manageable and, with consistent care and a bit of luck, should resolve pretty soon.
4 Baby-Safe Creams
Prior to childbirth, you may have applied all sorts of creams and oils to ease your sore nipples. When you’re breastfeeding, however, you really have to make sure that everything you put on there is baby safe. After all, your baby’s mouth will be all over it during mealtime!
If your doctor has prescribed anything, double check with her to ensure that it’s safe for baby. Most antifungals usually are. If you’re putting anything else on, do a little bit of research to ensure that it’s not harmful for your little one.
3 Start Where it’s Least Sore
With painful breastfeeding, it may help if you start on the side that’s not painful, or at least the one that’s less painful. This is because your baby is more likely to be gentle on the sucking once he’s filled himself up a little bit.
In addition, you might want to try out different positions to see which ones cause the least amount of pain on your sore and cracked nipples. If you really can’t handle the pain, give your nipples a break and pump out milk instead. You can also opt to express milk by hand, which puts the least amount of stress on the nipple.
2 Early-ish Feedings
Another thing you can do to make sure your baby isn’t too hard on your nipples is to feed him early. Look out for early hunger cues such as thumb sucking and restlessness. Don’t wait until your little one is super hungry as he’s more likely to be greedy during feeding.
It may be hard to do this at first, considering that the last thing you want to do when your nipples are sore is to have a baby suck on them. However, many moms do find that this results in much gentler feedings overall, facilitating nipple healing.
1 Use Breastmilk
There are many things that breastmilk can do, and one of them is heal sore nipples. Breastmilk has antifungal and healing properties that come from the very same nutrients and antibodies that nourish and protect your baby. The trick when using breastmilk is to make sure to air dry after application.
Moisture will, after all, promote the growth of crack-causing fungus. But with just the right application, your very own breastmilk can help your nipples heal fully in no time!