Many new mothers who are into breastfeeding experience a painful condition whereby their nipples become sore and cracked. Some women also complain of bleeding nipples. The way your baby latches on to your nipples during breastfeeding can be a major contributing factor, adversely affecting your nipples. In some women, the nipples and the adjacent area may appear red with severe itching and dryness, eventually resulting in soreness and bleeding. Here, the trigger could be a probable yeast infection (Thrush) that is passed on to your nipples from the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding.
Breast shields and breast pumps can also affect the nipples resulting in soreness and bleeding. Sore nipples can also be an outcome of a dermatological condition such as eczema (skin turns dry, itchy, and scaly with red patches). Women with sore, cracked or bleeding nipples should immediately seek medical assistance and get themselves treated to avoid further damage (in extreme cases, a woman might have to stop breastfeeding the baby).
Ways to deal with bleeding and sore nipples effectively:
Ensure a better latch
Placing the baby in an uncomfortable position can interfere with the latching. Position the baby in such a way that he or she can latch on to the nipples and the breasts with ease. You can place the baby on your lap. You can also place the baby on a pillow to make it more comfortable. Next, gently direct the nipples towards the baby's mouth. While doing so, ensure that you do not cover the nipples with your hands. Also, take care that more of the areola and the nipples are into your baby's mouth.
Do try out different nursing positions that can make the latching and the breastfeeding easier for the baby.
Breastfeed the baby at regular intervals
Make sure you breastfeed the baby when he/she is hungry. Keeping the baby hungry for long can make them irritated. As a result, when you breastfeed them, they might suck the nipples hard, resulting in soreness or bleeding.
Tongue-tie in the baby
Babies with Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie, a condition triggered by shortened frenulum) may not be able to move out their tongue freely past the front teeth in the lower half. As a result, the baby may not be able to latch on to the breast and the nipples well during breastfeeding. Prolonged and untreated, the condition can make your nipples sore and painful, often resulting in bleeding. Early treatment may prove to be beneficial both for the mother and the baby.
In the case of soreness or bleeding from only one nipple, you can use the other nipple to feed the baby. Give the affected nipple some rest. Repeated use of the bleeding nipple can further aggravate the condition.
In the case of yeast infection or eczema, waste no time and consult a doctor as early as you can. Always keep your nipples clean and moisturized (Make sure the cream or lotion is antibacterial and non-allergenic). Avoid the use of perfumes, chemicals or any substance that can worsen the situation. In some women, eczema can be triggered by a food allergen. Identify the allergen and eliminate it from your diet completely.
Hydrogel pads come as a great relief for women with sore, cracked or bleeding nipples. It provides an instant cooling, thereby ensuring a quick healing and improvement in the condition.
In the case of severe nipple pain, the doctor may recommend some mild painkillers. Take the painkiller half an hour before breastfeeding the baby. Maintain a good personal hygiene. Keep the nipples clean. Wipe them with a clean tissue after breastfeeding.