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Women and Family Care

Sore Nipples and the Breastfeeding Mother

If you continue to have problems with sore nipples after following these steps, be sure to contact your healthcare provider or WeeSteps at 970.495.8283 in Fort Collins or 970.624.5100 in Loveland.

Sore nipples can be normal as you begin breastfeeding your new baby. However, having very sore, cracked or bleeding nipples is not normal.

Usually this problem is related to the way your baby latches on to the breast. It is important to have your baby get a big mouthful of the nipple and areola.


  • Position your baby with pillows so she is at breast height. This reduces strain on your nipple and prevents soreness.
  • Roll the baby completely on her side so she is "belly to belly" with you. This also reduces nipple strain and soreness.
  • A cross-cradle hold or football hold works best to achieve a good latch-on with a newborn.
  • Position your baby with her nose to your nipple so she has to reach up slightly to reach the nipple. This is an asymmetric latch.


Compress your areola slightly to make a "nipple sandwich" for the baby. This will allow your baby to get a
deeper latch. Be sure to stroke her nose with your nipple and pull her quickly to the breast, leading with her chin, when she opens her mouth wide. Wait for her mouth to open wide and her tongue to come forward. Then pull her
to the breast so she gets a good mouthful of the areola (the dark brown part of the breast) in her mouth.

Look for these four things:

  1. The angle of your baby's lips at the breast is greater than 140 degrees.
  2. Most of the areola is in your baby's mouth. One inch from the base of your nipple, more near the
    baby's lower lip than the top.
  3. You feel deep pulling sensation as baby nurses. You should not feel sharp pain or have pain that lasts
    more than a moment while baby latches-on.
  4. Listen for swallowing every three to five sucks after your milk comes in. 

Heal your nipples

  • Alternate the way you hold your baby in at each feeding. Try cross-cradle hold one time and football hold the next time.
  • If your breasts are very full and engorged, try to hand express a little milk or use a breast pump for a minute or two before your baby latches-on. This will make it easier for your baby to latch-on.
  • Breast shells may help during the healing process. Breast shells promote the circulation of air around the nipples and keep the pressure of the bra off the nipples.
  • After each feeding, massage a little of your own colostrum or breast milk into the nipple and areola.
  • A combination of expressed colostrum or breast milk and breast shells is one the fastest ways to promote healing.

These measures may help you resolve uncomplicated problems with sore nipples. There are circumstances where sore nipples indicate a more severe problem. Please seek help with a Certified Lactation Counselor or your healthcare provider if your problem persists.

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