As a breastfeeding mother, you have probably experienced the agony that comes with cracked nipples. Rest assured, most breastfeeding problems can be remedied, and having cracked nipples makes it quite uncomfortable to nurse your infant. Even though most of the time, the nipple naturally heals, it is essential to address the root cause of the condition and get a better understanding of how long for cracked nipples to heal. Cracked nipples are characterized by red, irritated, and throbbed skin on or around the nipples.
How long does it take for cracked nipples to heal?
The duration of cracked nipples healing varies depending on the severity of the condition. For a mild condition, the state of the nipples will improve between seven to ten days, and you will be back to a regular, painless breastfeeding routine. On the other hand, the cracked nipple will take approximately two to three weeks for a severe ailment to recover fully. The long-established wound usually originates from bottom to top hence the need for longer recovery times.
What causes cracked nipples?
The two most re-known causes of cracked nipples are poor latches and incorrect positioning by the baby. Since breastfeeding is a skill that both the mother and baby should be cultured, you need a little bit of experience to properly place the nipple on the baby’s mouth and body against you. In most cases, continual improper positioning of the baby results in a throbbing nipple. In the cases of latching, infants with an incorrect latch-on position tend to pinch off your nipple in response to forceful letdown reflexes. But these simple latching tips should ease the process.
In other instances, the anatomical issue may be the cause of the cracked nipples. Examples of these structural deformations include tongue-tie high palate, receding chin, and a smallmouth. Additionally, if you are using both bottle feeding and breastfeeding to nurse your baby, they may confuse the nipple and apply more pressure, which leads to cracking. Because of the many possible causes of cracked nipples, it is best to determine the specific reason to avoid reoccurrence. It can be pretty challenging to decide on the cause of the cracked nipples. Consider seeking the opinion of a certified lactation consultant. The professional will assess the positioning used, lactation techniques, suckling patterns, and strength.
Other causes of cracked nipples
Thrush is a yeast infection, and this is caused by Candida albicans when it overgrows, a fungus that stays within your skin and digestive tract. The fungus thrives well on the lactose in milk and can affect both you and the infant. Signs of the infection are cracked, itchy, pink, and crusty nipples. For the baby, he or she may portray a curd-like coating on the tongue. Thrush can be treated by applying a prescribed anti-fungal cream and maintaining high levels of hygiene. By implementing this medical precaution, you can go on with breastfeeding and fully recover within a week.
- Nipple sensitivity
The level of nipple sensitivity varies depending on the mother. But most mothers are highly sensitive during the first four days after giving birth. During this period, any suckling strength can result in a cracked nipple. The good thing about this is that it self-resolves within the first few weeks. But if you cannot handle the pain, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers or cool compresses before and after nursing.
Babies experience irritable pressure as their first teeth start erupting at the age of three to four months. The discomfort of this pressure is usually relieved by biting things; thus, you can result in a sore and cracked nipple. The best way to prevent painful teething from the baby is by giving her a teething toy or a frozen wet washcloth that will numb her gums. As a result, this will ease the latching process.
- Use of a breast pump
Using a bottle to feed your baby before attempting to breastfeed increases the risk of cracked nipples. When a baby drinks from a bottle instead of the breast, he or she will use a different sucking style. They may be more prone to cause nipple harm if they are used to drinking from the bottle. Additionally, the breast pump has a small flange it is likely to cause cracked nipples. Lactation consultants recommended using a spoon, cup, or syringe feeding rather than bottle feeding as the former has no adverse effect on the baby’s latching.
Tips for breastfeeding with a cracked nipple
A cracked nipple is one reason that can cause a sudden stop to breastfeed your baby. But this should not be the reason, especially when you look at the benefits breastmilk offers your little one. These are some tips to follow.
Start breastfeeding on the less cracked nipple
You should be able to find ways to navigate through the breastfeeding process with a cracked nipple. You can start by breastfeeding on the less cracked and sore side and then shifts to the other side. Upon shifting, less pressure would be needed to let the milk come out.
Use of silicone nipple shield
The nipple shields are placed on your breasts to cushion you from the pain during breastfeeding. The shields cushion pain and perfect the breastfeeding latch technique. This helps to reduce the cracking on your nipples. When looking for the nipple size, you need to choose the one that perfectly fits your areola to avoid worsening the condition.
Remedies to cracked nipples
- Applying freshly expressed breast milk
By applying freshly expressed milk on the cracked nipples, you will be providing anti-bacterial protection. It is a simple remedy that will protect you from infection. This mitigation method should not be applied if you have been diagnosed with thrush.
- Warm compress
Contrary to applying fresh breast milk, a warm compress does not have any anti-bacterial advantage. The process entails dipping a washcloth on warm water, placing it on the nipple for a few minutes, and gently patting dry. Continual application of this method will fasten the healing process.
- Application of medical-grade lanolin ointment
Lanolin ointment is applied to the cracked nipples to ease the pain and discomfort. You should not worry about nursing your baby after applying the cream, as it is hypoallergenic and safe for the infant.
- Saltwater rinse
A saltwater rinse is used to hydrate the nipple and fasten the healing process. It is prepared using a half teaspoon of salt mixed with approximately eight ounces of warm water. After that, you should soak your nipples in the saline solution for one minute after nursing your baby and rinse it afterward with warm water.
- Changing nursing pads frequently
Damp nursing pads can delay the healing process. It is because your nipples need to be exposed to fresh air to hasten the healing process. Therefore, you should frequently change your breast pads whenever they get damp or use nipple shells to protect the nipple from the dampness of the pads.
One last thing on How long for cracked nipples to heal
No breastfeeding mother should undergo the agony of breastfeeding with a cracked nipple. Cracked nipples can be a nightmare when trying to feed your little one. But with proper latching technique and a little patience should fasten the healing process. Plus, the tips we have discussed above should help soothe your nipples.