Cracked nipples when breastfeeding

If the skin of your nipples becomes cracked, feeding your baby can feel like someone's attacking your breasts with broken glass.

If this happens to you, you need to work hard at two things: helping the skin to heal and maintaining the supply of milk in the affected breast(s).

What causes cracked and painful nipples?

You need to find out why your nipples are cracking so that once you're healing you don't have to go through it again. The number one cause of cracked nipples is an incorrect latch, so get yours checked (yes, again).

If that doesn't seem to be the cause, you should get an expert to check for other potential problems, such as poor positioning, tongue tie or thrush.

Cracked nipples could also be your skin's reaction to lotions, detergents or air-conditioning. They can also be caused by expressing milk incorrectly, so check your technique if you are using a breast pump.

How can I help my nipples heal?

To help your nipples heal, you need to stop them drying out (this sounds counterintuitive, but, it works). Do this by (gently) applying nipple cream or rubbing your own breastmilk into the nipple (Incidentally, breastmilk is great for any minor abrasions on your baby too, or even for gungy eyes... it's a bit of a cure-all.)

You can use a modified lanolin ointment or cream on your nipples and this will not interfere with feeds. In general though, try to avoid using perfume, soap or lotions on your breasts.

To maintain your supply, you need to keep feeding (or at least expressing) from the affected breast (sorry) while it heals. Ways to make this more bearable include:

  • Trying a different feeding position
  • Offering the other side first (so your baby's less likely to chow down in frantic hunger when she gets to it)
  • Applying ice to your nipple just before your baby latches on
  • Nipple shields (although many breastfeeding experts do frown at using them for too long)
  • Painkillers such as paracetamol half an hour or more before a feed if the pain is proving unbearable.
  • Use woollen breast pads, if you are using breast pads, or change disposable breast pads at every feed.

What Mumsnetters say about dealing with cracked nipples while breastfeeding 

  • The old method of dry healing is no longer thought to be helpful; moist healing is the way to go. tiktok
  • Just rub a bit of breastmilk over them and leaving it there till it dries naturally. Botanist
  • I had extremely sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, and nipple shields – the very thin, really flexible silicone ones – were the answer. My midwife recommended them, although she told me I'd get mixed reactions from professionals. I was able to stop using them within about five days because the soreness went completely. Alison222
  • I found that using reusable pads impregnated with lanolin helped straightaway, as did putting Lansinoh cream on my nipples and on the area of the disposable breast pads where my nipples would be. AKMD
  • Go to the chemist and ask for Jelonet, its designed for burns but is brilliant on cracked nipples. You can put Lansinoh on, then the jelonet gauze and it stops your bra/t-shirt sticking to your nipples so as they heal they don't keep having the healing top layer of skin/scab repeatedly ripped off. AnotherGreenDay 


Last updated: over 1 year ago