22 answers

Painful Nipple


I have what I think is a healing clogged milk duct that scabbed almost 2 months ago. I nurse about 2times a day (as much as I can handle it) and my son has pulled off the scab several times. Even if he does not succeed at tearing the scab off it is still so painful that I can't fall back to sleep without ice and pain killers. I wasn't able to exclusively breast feed so I feel so guilty withholding, but the pain can get so disruptive. I have no other symptoms so far. Any help would be great, thanks.

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call a lactation consultant to help you... pain means something is wrong and you need someone to help sort out what is causing the pain. help with a solutions and help you move forward so this does not repeat.

Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Breastfeeding and Parenting Solutions

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Definitely seek help as others have suggested.

BUT if nursing continues to be so difficult, you should congratulate yourself for sacrificing so much for your little one and you may want to consider switching to all formula. I know everyone talks about how wonderful breastfeeding is, but the reality is that there is a small percentage of women that can not do it. It can be extremely isolating and traumatic, but your baby needs a happy and healthy mother. Your son has already had the awesome benefit of five months of breastmilk! My sister finally came to the very difficult decision that she could no longer nurse after a few very painful months. At first, she was devastated, but she soon realized there are many women out there that have difficulties nursing, but that is a hard thing to admit in the current climate! Now her two boys are 4 and 2 and extremely happy and healthy. Remember, an entire generation of children were raised on formula in the fifties!

Really, be good to yourself and your child -- don't feel guilty for a second and switch to formula if that is what works!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi V., warm wash cloths on the area my help, too. Try to hand pump on that breast without the baby nursing until the nipple is healed. The warm compresses may help if your breast is sore or has hard spots, and may help the nipple heal. Keep some balm on it like Neosporin until it heals. After the scabbing heals, then start him nursing again. You'll want to pump in the meantime to keep milk in production from that breast.

Have you contacted your doctor or a lactation consultant? That would be my first suggest just to make sure that there is not more problems going on then a sore nipple. I had a similiar experience, although 'chunks' were missing from my nipple - talk about painful. So, I can relate to the pain factor. The lactation consultant that I saw told me to pump and feed my daughter with a bottle until I healed. This way she was still getting the breastmilk like I wanted and I wasn't in so much pain each feeding. You can also try expressing some of your milk onto the sore nipple and letting it air dry. The antiboties in your milk have some type of healing in it, so that may help you also. Good luck!

Have you been to your Dr? Nothing should take 2 months to heal, even with the scab being pulled off repeatedly.
Honestly, it does not sound like a clogged or healing milk duct. Your milk ducts are higher up in your breast tissue & some are even under your arms. Did you or the baby have thrush? It's a yeast infection that babies can get in their mouths. You may notice a white film on his tongue, gums, cheeks, & roof of mouth. If that is the case, you need to go to the pediatrician (or call it in to them) and they'll prescribe a liquid that you have to paint the inside of his mouth with. You also can paint yourself with it. If that's the problem, this will clear up the infection & allow you to heal.
If that is NOT the issue, I'd try changing nursing positions on that side to change the angle of his latching on. Laying down side by side, reverse him & use the football hold (pillows help to support him with this one), anything at all to change the angle.
But first off, you REALLY should go to the Dr & have them look at it. Your OB/GYN would probably be the best one to see.
Good luck, hope this helps!
Starlite *

Get in touch with your local La Leche League! A leader would be happy to talk to you and help you work through your problems. Info online at www.llli.org

ok, i apologize for all of the questions, but i'm not sure exactly what you are saying... why do you think it is a plugged milk duct? this would feel like a lump in your your breast, be tender to the touch and probably enflamed. if it had been going on for 2 months, chances are that you would also have a fever and further infection.
do you have pain in both breasts when your son nurses? or just on the side with the scab? if you have pain in both breasts when he nurses, i would suggest having his latch evaluated as that pain can be excruciating and can linger after the nursing session is over. if the pain is only on the side with the scab, i would look into why the crack has not healed as well as evaluating his latch on that breast.
is the scab on the tip of your nipple? if so, it could be that you have a cracked nipple from a problematic latch. the best healing is air and lansinoh. let your nipple dry (no bra whenever possible, or cotton bra, or let the nipple air dry before closing your bra) adn then apply the lansinoh to the scab. if it is a crack, nursing would hurt a bit - like touching a cut anywhere else on your body - but it should stop hurting once baby stops nursing. since you say that the pain continues AFTER he's done nursing, where does it hurt? is it a local, nipple only pain right around the scab? or does it make your whole breast hurt? does it ooze (life it's infected) or hurt even when baby is not nursing? if it is making your whole breast hurt, or seems to otherwise be infected, and because it hasn't healed for two months, i would suggest contacting your local LLL group and going to see a leader about what else it could be. breastmilk is amazing stuff and actually helps cracks heal when allowed to dry. if it is some kind of plugged duct, the scab would be sort odd, which makes me think it is some other kind of infection or something else.
i'm sorry this got so long!

oh! and WAY TO GO MAMA on nursing for 2 months on a hurt breast, and for sticking with it even with other difficulties!! There should be more of you out there!!

I had wounds when I first started nursing, and I was told not to let it scab over, contrary to what you would think for most wound healing. I used what they called a triple nipple compound which helps heal the wound and provides some pain relief, and you don't have to worry about wiping it off before the next nursing (though you usually apply it after a nursing session). I think it's the same as Dr. Jack Newman's nipple ointment. Most doctors have heard of it and can write a prescription for it to be compounded at a pharmacy. Another good topical nipple cream that is safe (i.e. you don't have to wipe it off for nursing) is made by Motherlove. Their products are at Whole Foods (usually near the vitamins). I think if you let it scab over it will only continue to hurt when your baby nurses. If you want any other advice or more info about the triple ointment you can call The Art of Breastfeeding at ###-###-####. I think they have a website too. They're a really wonderful resource.

I also swear by Lansinoh. After a rough start with my first, a lactation consultant turned me on to the ointment. When I was due with my second, I was sure to have my Lansinoh ready. The soreness disappeared, and the babies didn't mind it. It's a really fast healer, just keep the stuff on constantly, wipe off the excess before baby latches on, then slather it on again and use a nursing pad. Good luck.

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