Skip to Content

Breastfeeding And Nipple Soreness


You may have sore nipples during the first 1 to 2 weeks of breastfeeding. Your nipple and areola (the dark area around your nipple) may look red and feel sore. After the first week of breastfeeding, this discomfort should decrease. It should not hurt to breastfeed. It is never normal for your nipples to bruise or get blisters. Your nipples should not crack, scab, or bleed.



  • Ibuprofen may be needed to decrease pain and swelling. Ibuprofen is available without a doctor's order. Ask your primary healthcare provider (PHP) how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your PHP if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your PHP as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits. Your PHP may suggest that you see a lactation consultant. This is a caregiver who can help you with breastfeeding.

Causes of nipple soreness:

  • Incorrect latch-on can cause nipple soreness. When your baby latches on, his chin and lower lip should touch your areola first. Then your baby's upper lip takes most of the areola into his mouth. If it hurts when your baby latches on, break his suction and try again. When you have a good latch, you will soon hear your baby sucking slowly and deeply. Your nipples should have the same shape before and after each feeding.
  • Incorrect positioning of your baby may prevent him from latching on to your breast correctly. Hold your baby so his ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line while he feeds.
  • Engorgement can also prevent your baby from latching on correctly. Engorgement means your breasts are too full of milk for your baby to empty them easily. When your milk comes in, or if you wait too long between feedings, engorgement can occur. Your breasts will look shiny and feel hard and painful. Your areolas and nipples may be so swollen that your baby cannot latch on correctly. Express some milk before feeding to help your baby latch on. Feed your baby or express your milk often to help prevent engorgement, reduced milk supply, and breast infections.

Conditions that may lead to nipple soreness:

  • Flat or inverted nipples: You may need extra help with latching your baby on your breast if you have flat or inverted nipples. Pull or roll your nipples before a feeding to help your baby latch on. Ask your caregiver for help with latching on your baby, if needed.
  • Medical conditions that affect your baby's tongue or neck: Your baby needs to open his mouth wide and stick out his tongue to breastfeed well. If he was born with a condition called tongue-tie, it is hard for him to stick out his tongue. He may take long pauses between sucks, choke, cry, or fall asleep while feeding. A condition called torticollis can prevent your baby from moving his head and neck away from one shoulder. This condition can also cause feeding problems.
  • Skin conditions and infections: Your nipples may look red and feel itchy and sore if you have dermatitis or psoriasis. A fungal infection called thrush can spread to your breast from your baby's mouth. Thrush causes nipples to look red, shiny, and flaky. You may feel a burning or stabbing pain in your breasts. Blocked milk ducts and engorgement can lead to a breast infection called mastitis. Mastitis causes soreness, pain, and flu-like symptoms.

Effects of nipple soreness on breastfeeding:

You may feel tense if it hurts to breastfeed. This tense feeling may prevent milk from traveling to your nipple (milk let-down). If your baby needs to suck harder to get milk, this can make your nipple pain worse. Do not wait to get help if your nipples are cracked, sore, and painful. You may want to stop breastfeeding when you have sore nipples. Caregivers recommend breastfeeding for at least 6 months.

Manage nipple soreness:

  • Relieve pain. Warm water compresses or expressed breast milk placed on your nipples may offer relief.
  • Ask about ointments. Ointments, such as lanolin, may help to prevent nipple dryness and scabbing. Ask about ointments or dressings that can be used for damaged nipples.
  • Try holding your baby in different positions during feedings. This may help to keep pressure off of sore areas. Caregivers can help you guide your baby to a correct latch. They can also show you ways to support and position your baby during breastfeeding.
  • Offer your baby the nipple that is less sore first. Your baby's suction is usually harder when he first starts breastfeeding.
  • Use a breast pump. A breast pump can be used to express your milk until your nipples heal if it is too painful for you to breastfeed.

Prevent nipple soreness:

  • Wash your nipples with warm water only. Do not use soaps that contain alcohol, because the alcohol can dry and irritate your nipples. Do not use nursing pads that are lined with plastic.
  • Break your baby's suction gently. This will help protect your nipple and areola. Try placing your finger in the corner of your baby's mouth between his gums to break his suction.
  • Breastfeed your baby often to help prevent engorgement and sore nipples. Watch and listen to your baby to learn when he wants to breastfeed. You may hear sucking, cooing, or sighing sounds. He may seem restless, and may suck on his hands and fingers. Breastfed infants feed 8 to 12 times each day.
  • Talk with a caregiver about your breast pump. A breast pump may cause nipple swelling and pain. Ask how to use your breast pump properly.

If you have a pierced nipple:

Remove your jewelry before breastfeeding. Nipple jewelry is dangerous for a breastfeeding baby. Your baby may swallow your jewelry or hurt his mouth or lips on it. Tell your PHP if your pierced nipple hurts while you breastfeed.

Contact your PHP if:

  • You have a fever.
  • One or both of your breasts is red, swollen or hard, painful, and feels warm or hot.
  • Your nipple has pus coming out of it.
  • Your nipples are red, dry, cracked, bleeding, or they have scabs on them.
  • You see or feel a tender lump in your breast.
  • You have nipple pain while breastfeeding or between feedings.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.