Sore nipples are a common and frustrating difficulty of breastfeeding. The most likely cause of sore nipples is mechanical- how the baby latches on or how the baby sucks. Make certain that when the baby is going to latch on, she opens her mouth wide first. If she fails to do this, she might latch by essentially chewing her way onto your nipple, which will only make things worse. Get as much of the areola (the darker area surrounding the nipple) in her mouth as you can as well, as this facilitates good latch. Please see the article on latching the baby on. Do not hesitate to take the baby off of the breast if you think she has a bad latch!
A disorganized suck pattern can also contribute to making your nipples sore. This is a more complicated problem to solve and may be best addressed by your local lactation consultant.
Ways to treat the nipples, once you have the mechanical problems solved, involve comfort measures. Pure lanolin ointment applied to the nipple after each feeding can help to moisturize and reduce cracking of the nipple. Keeping your nipples dry by using breast pads during the day and letting them air dry in the evening is also helpful. Be gentle! Nipple tissue is delicate and sensitive. There are also breast gel pads on the market. These thick cooling pads of gel are good for about 5 days and you can use them whenever the baby is not nursing. A good trick is to have someone put them in the refrigerator for you while you nurse and then bring them back to you cold.
Fungal infections of the breast will also cause sore nipples. If your baby has thrush, or white pots in her mouth, this might be a cause. Go see your healthcare provider right away if you think this might be the cause of you sore nipples, most women with breast yeast infections will need medication for treatment.
Sore nipples can be frustrating, but try not to let them ruin your breastfeeding experience! If you feel like your nipple pain is not resolving with these changes, or it is getting worse, go see your healthcare provider or lactation consultant.