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Breastfeeding and Nipple Soreness


You may have sore or tender nipples when you start to breastfeed. Nipple soreness is usually caused by incorrect latch and positioning. After you have found a position that works and your baby has a good latch, breastfeeding should be comfortable. You should not have pain, blisters, or bruises when you breastfeed. Your nipples should not crack, scab, or bleed. Engorgement may also cause nipple soreness.


Seek care immediately if:

  • 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.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your nipple is red, dry, cracked, bleeding, or they have scabs on them.
  • You see or feel a tender lump in your breast.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Manage nipple soreness:

  • Apply a few drops of breast milk to your nipples. Breast milk is naturally soothing. Do not wear bras or clothes that are tight and put pressure on your nipples.
  • Wash your nipples with warm water only. Do not use soaps that contain alcohol or other chemicals. These can dry and irritate your nipples. Do not use nursing pads that are lined with plastic. Let your nipples air dry after you bathe or breastfeed. Wear loose, soft cotton shirts.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about the best cream or ointment for you. Change nursing pads often to keep moisture away from your nipples. Ask about medicines to help decrease pain and swelling.

Prevent nipple soreness:

  • Help your baby get a good latch. Gently break suction and reposition if your baby is only sucking on the nipple. Talk to a lactation consultant if you need help with your baby's latch. Offer your baby the nipple that is less sore first. Your baby's suction is usually harder when he or she first starts breastfeeding. Breastfeed 8 to 12 times each day. Frequent breastfeeding can help decrease nipple soreness and prevent engorgement.
    Correct Latch-on Breastfeeding
  • Breastfeed or pump every 2 or 3 hours. Frequent breastfeeding helps decrease nipple soreness from engorgement. Express or pump milk from your breasts before you breastfeed. This will help soften your breast and your nipple, and allow your baby to latch on better.
  • Change positions each time you breastfeed. This may help to keep pressure off of sore areas.
  • Use a breast pump if it is too painful to breastfeed until your nipples heal.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For more information:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    345 Park Boulevard
    Itasca , IL 60143
    Phone: 1- 800 - 433-9016
    Web Address:
  • La Leche League International
    957 North Plum Grove Road
    Schaumburg , IL 60173
    Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
    Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
    Web Address:

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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.

Learn more about Breastfeeding and Nipple Soreness (Aftercare Instructions)

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