Q: Do I need to do anything to prepare my nipples for breastfeeding so they won’t get sore?
A: Not too many years ago, the answer to that question would include a variety of suggestions, all designed to decrease the risk of sore nipples. Pregnant women were told to “toughen” their nipples with towel rubbing and nipple pulling. Some women were actually told to use a toothbrush to scrub their nipples! OUCH!
Thankfully, we know more about preventing sore nipples, and that the very things that were being suggested to toughen the nipples only made them more likely to get sore. The major cause for sore nipples is poor positioning of your baby at your breast. When the positioning is corrected, the pain goes away. It is not supposed to hurt to breastfeed!
Thanks to a special oil secreted by the Montgomery glands, those “bumps” around the areola, your nipples stay clean. There’s no need to use soap to wash them, and, in fact, soap can dry the skin. Clear water is enough. If you find your nipples seem to be dry, it is okay to use a mild skin cream during pregnancy.
After your baby is born, you’ll want to only use something that won’t have to be washed off before the baby nurses, such as an ultrapure lanolin (like Lansinoh for Breastfeeding Mothers).
Many women experience sore nipples, but most do so unnecessarily. Pain is a sign that something is NOT right—either positioning, or poor latch-on, or rarely, more complicated problems. If your nipples hurt, seek help immediately from either a lactation consultant (preferably an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant—IBCLC) or contact a local La Leche League Leader (call 1-800-LA-LECHE for the Leader nearest you).
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Moms & Babies Huntingdon, Tenn.