Cracked Nipples

Fine cracks in the nipple caused by breast-feeding

  • Age, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

During the first few weeks of breast-feeding, fine cracks and raw areas may develop in the skin on and surrounding the nipple. These cause a stabbing or burning pain, usually as the baby starts or stops feeding. Cracked nipples are most often caused by the baby failing to take the whole nipple into his or her mouth properly when feeding, which itself is usually due to poor positioning of your baby at the breast. Leaving your nipples wet after each feed may also cause them to become tender and cracked. Occasionally, cracked nipples can become infected and inflamed (see Mastitis).

Your doctor or breast-feeding counsellor will advise you on the correct technique for positioning and feeding your baby properly. You can also take preventive measures to help stop cracks forming (see Avoiding cracked nipples) and to avoid infection.

Cracked nipples will heal over time after you have learned how to position your baby correctly at the breast. However, if your nipples are very painful or if discomfort develops only after several weeks of successful breast-feeding, you should consult your doctor. If your doctor suspects that the sore area has become infected, he or she will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics for you. Your doctor will also possibly prescribe treatment for your baby if his or her mouth has become infected. This treatment should clear up the infection in a few days.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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