Breastfeeding is the best option moms have for feeding their baby. However, sore nipples can make even the most determined mother think twice and reconsider bottle feeding. Knowing how to take care of your sore nipples isn't always easy, but for many of us is very important if we are to continue breastfeeding. After all, no one likes pain and no one likes the soreness to continue. So what should you do?

Evaluate Your Methods.
The biggest reason that mothers get sore nipples is because they are either positioning their baby poorly or their baby is latching on poorly. Both of these are things that can be corrected and this alone can be enough to eliminate most if not all nipple soreness. Here are a few helpful tips for getting proper position and latch on. There are also a lot of resources online complete with pictures, videos, diagrams, and drawings. Try to evaluate your feedings and compare them with the information available to you. If you continue to have problems it is a good idea to talk to your doctor, your baby's doctor, or a lactation consultant. They will be able to pinpoint your exact problems and help you fix them.

  • Your baby should be well supported. For most this means using a pillow, nursing pillow, or something else to help assist because you may be at it for awhile.
  • You should hold your baby so that you are supporting their body. Your hand should be supporting their neck rather then their head. To help them support their head you can use your fingersbeneath their chin while your finger and thumb are on their neck.
  • You should always bring the baby to your nipple rather then your nipple to your baby. This should happen only after they have opened their mouths wide and are ready for the nipple.
  • To get them to open up gently rub your nipple across their top lip. You can also use a clean finger.
  • His or her head should be tilted back (after all none of us drink without tilting our heads). This also means their nose will not be covered by your breast (even if you have large breasts).
  • Your nipple should point toward the back of their mouth and once they are latched on they should have the whole nipple and most of the areola (the brown part around the nipple) in their mouth.
  • Their mouths should be open wide with their lips turned outward (much like fish lips).
  • As long as your milk is in (and not coming in) and you aren't engorged you shouldn't feel pain when the baby starts suckling. If you do it is a sign that your baby isn't latched on properly.

Breast Milk.
Your own breast milk can be used to help condition, soften, and prevent sore nipples. Gently squeeze your nipple to get a few drops of milk out before and after feeding. Use this to rub the entire brown area with the milk. This can help to prevent later problems.

Lanolin cream (as long as it is 100% lanolin) can be used to help heal nipples, to sooth soreness, and to prevent future problems. Take a pea size amount and rub it between your fingers. Gently coat the nipple and areola with the lanolin after each feeding and before showering. This product is safe for your baby to consume and therefore doesn't need to be washed off before use. It should also be noted that it is all natural, healthy, and safe for both of you.

Saline Soaks.
If you are in a lot of pain then saline soaks may help a lot. Warm 1 cup of water and add 1 tablespoon of table salt and stir. Soak your nipples in the solution for 10-15 minutes and then let air dry. You can do this a couple of times a day. The warmth and salt will help to sooth away the pain.

Breast Packs.
There are several different types of breast packs. Most can be frozen, refrigerated, and or microwaved to provide cold, cool, or hot treatment. You can place them in your bra for a little relief from your pain.

Air is often your friend, especially if you have wounds. Sore nipples do very well with a little air time. You can spend 10-15 minutes a day with your nipples exposed to help them heal and to provide relief.

Nipple Shells and Shields.
Nipple shells and shields are covers that go over your nipples. Shields are actually made for nursing, however nursing with them on makes it harder for baby to get milk, often makes it easy for nursing problems to continue, and makes it more likely for your milk to dry up. Therefore normal use of shields isn't recommended. However both shells and shields can be used to protect your nipples from contact with your clothing. Wear them in your bras and your nursing tops to protect your nipples from rubbing on the material.

Home Remedies.
I am normally a huge fan of all sorts of home remedies. However, in this case most home remedies aren't safe for you, your baby, or both of you. It is a good idea to always talk with your doctor when you hear about a new home remedy before you try it out on you or your baby. Some common home remedies that aren't safe for treating sore nipples are using soap, lotion, and or tea bags on your nipples. These things can have negative side effects for you and none of them are healthy for your baby. Always ask your doctor or the baby's doctor before trying something that might be risky to you or the baby.

Sore nipples are never fun and they can make breastfeeding hard to do and hard to continue. Proper position and latching on is the most important thing because this will make it less likely that you have sore nipples. With a little care you can also treat the problem after it has happened. If the problem continues you should talk to your doctor.