How amazing are women’s bodies, right? Not only are they aesthetically astounding but they’re capable of awe-inspiring things, like making humans. And not only that, they’re equipped with the tools to fully nourish a baby for the first six months of their life while remaining an important nutritional supplement beyond a year, if Mom chooses.
But just because something is natural, doesn’t make it easy or comfortable, even. Breastfeeding is new to both Mom and baby, so it’s a skill you’ll have to learn together. Learning anything alone is tricky; throw an inexperienced partner in there and the challenges compound so don’t get discouraged.
While we here at BAWDY are not experts in breastfeeding, we do know a thing or two about caring for the skin on your most neglected parts - nipples included. Here, we’ve answered new moms' most pressing questions about nipple care while breastfeeding and outlined our favorite nipple ointments that help keep both Mom and baby happy and healthy.
Is nipple cream safe while breastfeeding?
Like any skincare product or cosmetic, nipple creams are absolutely safe to use if the product is made with healthy ingredients. You and baby can certainly benefit from using them so don’t shy away from them - but do know what you need to know.
For example, when deciding what nipple cream to pack in your hospital bag, look for ones made with clean, all-natural ingredients. Be sure to check the label for anything you might be allergic to because even hypoallergenic or organic nipple balms with natural ingredients can be irritating to some Earth mamas. Additionally, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you might want to skip trying the product. You want a cream for your sensitive nipples free of parabens and preservatives. Another great rule of thumb is to steer clear of anything with fragrance that could diminish the smell of milk as babies will need to naturally be drawn to the smell of your liquid gold. Scents can make latching more difficult, so put down the mango butter!
Can you breastfeed with sore, cracked nipples?
A 2016 study showed that 30% of mothers reported dry, cracked nipples within the first 30 days of giving birth. Needless to say, if you’re experiencing soreness or tender nipples, you’re not alone. And yes, you can breastfeed with sore, cracked, and even bleeding nipples - it’s safe for babies but probably really uncomfortable and painful for you.
And again, while these symptoms are normal, they could be signs of a problem that needs to be addressed if they continue. Poor latch or an improper nursing position, tongue-tie, or a breast pump that’s using too high of a suction setting could result in chronic irritated and sore nipples.
How do I use nipple cream while breastfeeding?
Protection and hydration are key when treating sore, cracked nipples so it’s advantageous and safe to use nipple cream before and after you breastfeed - as long as they’re safe and directed for this kind of use.
However, if you’re wary of using even safe creams before the baby takes a seat at the boob buffet, be sure to apply directly after you’ve cleaned up following your baby’s meal. You can also clean any cream residue from the area before you feed with a gentle cleanser and warm compress beforehand. This could help reduce the chance of experiencing a clogged duct and make expressing easier.
What is the best nipple cream for breastfeeding?
Caring for a baby is an extremely personal experience and unique to each family. With that said, we’ve outlined top choices covering all preferences.
Lanolin: chances are you received a sample tube or two of lanolin cream in the hospital after delivery. This common cream is made with the oil extracted from a sheep’s wool. While a report in 1989 found trace amounts of pesticides in some lanolin lots that led to a lanolin-free trend, sourcing and production of lanolin-based products have evolved, today, to a place where it’s considered safe to use.
Nipple Balm: clean, non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free, our Nipple + Areola Stick is a safe bet when it comes to balms for your sore and tired nips. The velvety formulation of rich, moisturizing marula and soothing honey paired with anti-inflammatory chamomile is safe for babies and has natural antibacterial properties. Win-win.
Breast Milk: the female body is a wonderland. Not only is it making and feeding a baby, but applying freshly expressed breast milk to your nipples can also help heal your battered boobs thanks to its antibacterial protection.
Coconut Oil: if you’re looking for a purely plant-based option, Garden of Life's Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is a great choice since it’s cold-pressed, which reduces the coconut flavor and aroma that could compete with the smell of your natural breast milk. While babies might enjoy coconut milk later in life, they’d rather stick to Momma’s magic milk at this age.
You may notice we did not mention petroleum jelly (Vaseline) above as an option for soothing sore nips. While it is used in wound care, a great lip balm and cuticle care, and safe to apply to breasts, it’s highly debated whether it’s safe and beneficial to use during breastfeeding as it doesn’t allow airflow to the skin and is “not safe for ingestion.”
The Bottom Line
The health of you and your little one is your choice and preference. We can't promise instant relief (although, we can try!), but through nipple butter and salves for dry skin with cocoa butter, shea butter, marshmallow root, or other moisturizers for nipple pain, we want to do our best to help nursing mothers combat dryness and sensitive skin. At the very least, we’re simply here to offer information and suggestions for breastfeeding moms based on expert advice and research. At best, you might find a tip, trick, or a lifesaver product you love.
Like most things in life, you do you!