Women with sensitive skin and a fair complexion are often more prone to hairline cracks in their nipples, once they start nursing their babies, and encouraging them to apply a nourishing, safe preparation in pregnancy will be a useful preventative strategies. Still, one of the main causes of cracked nipples is incorrect latching. First-time moms may need a bit of help getting this right – just be mindful of their self-confidence; always reinforce the message that they are built to breastfeed.
Remind moms that Baby latches onto the areola, not the nipple itself and suggest these ways to help with a good latch:
- Tickle Baby’s lips and the cheek by your breast to trigger her latching instinct
- Keep Baby’s chin and the tip of her nose in contact with your breast at all times
- When Baby’s bottom lip curls down and her mouth opens wide, cup your hand behind her head and securely hold her against your breast, gently preventing her from turning her head from side to side
- If Baby’s mouth isn’t open wide enough, gently pull downwards on her chin with your finger
- Get moms to watch for any pain or discomfort while nursing – if there is pain, it should ease quickly; if not,
- Baby needs to be re-latched . Baby’s cheeks should move actively all the way up to her temple and not be drawn inward if she is suckling correctly, and there should be audible swallowing sounds.
Treating cracked nipples
Recommend nourishing creams containing only baby-safe ingredients for healing cracked nipples or for keeping nipple tissue supple – these won’t need to be washed off before Baby feeds. To help Moms, you can also:
- Suggest that they expose their breasts to sun for 5–10 minutes every day and to leave them open to air for 10 minutes after each feed.
- Mention that if the nipple discomfort is because Baby has oral thrush, both she and Baby will need to be treated with calendula cream or an antifungal prescription.
- Advise against routine use of nipple shields, as they can make the problem worse – rather help her latch Baby correctly.
- Moisten a rooibos teabag with two teaspoons of boiling water, let cool, place on the nipples, cover with a breast pad, and leave in place until the next feed – and repeat if necessary.
Once cracked nipples have healed, bolster moms’ spirits about breastfeeding and go through the prevention steps mentioned to avoid a recurrence.
The best beginning
Here’s how to make sure breastfeeding gets off to a good start with no latching problems:
- Ensure a peaceful, private environment for the first attempts; pressure makes both Mom and Baby tense!
- Make sure Mom and Baby are comfortable; get Mom something to drink, and show her how to hold Baby tummy-to-tummy
- Encourage moms to wear front opening shirts for the first few days so that they can see what they’re doing
Advise moms of restless drinkers to walk around while Baby latches, and keep moving until Baby is relaxed