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Cracked Nipples

Katelyn Drauszewski | Jan 9, 2023

Cracked, irritated, red, and painful nipples do happen, while not normal this is common. Read more to learn why and how to get help. 


  • Thrush: Newborns sometimes develop thrush post-birth, especially if antibiotics were administered directly to the mom or baby during labor and delivery. The antibiotics disrupt the microflora in both Mother and baby. Babies are at higher risk for thrush because their gut microbiome is not as developed. Signs of thrush in babies are white spots that can not be removed in the mouth and painful possibly red nipples in the mother. This is a fungal infection that can be quite painful for both mother and baby! Very often the dyad must be treated together with an anti-fungal. Continuing to breastfeed is important so seek out help from a lactation expert if you think you or your baby is experiencing an episode of thrush.
  • Ineffective latch: An ineffective latch is the most common reason for a sore irritated nipple. When effectively latched the nipple is drawn to the back of the baby’s mouth, commonly referred to as the soft palate. When drawn properly to this soft area the nipple is not irritated. An ineffective latch however sometimes causes rubbing against the hard palate due to ineffective drawing back of the nipple, this causes rubbing and friction. A great mantra to follow before latching that may help you visualize a pain-free latch is “ nose to nipple, tummy to mummy”.
  • Nipple preference: If you’re breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it is possible the baby may use an ineffective shallow latch, or chew on the breast when transitioning back and forth between breast and bottle. Other symptoms of this may be colic and irritation at the breast. Using a slow follow nipple and following a paced bottle feeding method may help avoid nipple preference.
  • Incorrect flange size and breast pump difficulty. Pumps often come with a generic flange size , either too small or large depending on your unique anatomy. Additionally, the pump suction may be too high causing increased friction within the flange. Some ways to mitigate the risk of nipple crackingduring pumping would be to get sized properly for a flange, reduce suction if necessary, and lubricate with non-toxic breastfeeding-approved lubrication.


For more tips and evidenced-based support reach out directly to Kate Drauszewski, LPN, CLC. You can schedule a direct 1:1 consult or private message for more help.

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