Q: I am nursing my 4-week-old son, and my left nipple is cracked. It is very painful to nurse on that side. I've used both vitamin E oil and lanolin for 5 days, but neither seems effective. What can I do?
A: A cracked nipple usually is due to a problem with positioning and latch-on. Cracks are not normal. Where the crack (or cracks) is located often indicates the problem's source. You're smart to continue to nurse from the affected nipple: Studies show that a cracked nipple heals just as quickly if it's used for nursing as if it's left alone. Nursing may speed healing, since it increases the blood flow to your breasts.
To promote healing, apply breast milk to the nipple cracks, and let it air-dry. Breast milk not only will heal cracks better than lanolin, vitamin E, or other creams but also can prevent infections. You'll also need an all-purpose nipple ointment to heal a damaged nipple, and moist wounds require special care. Ask us or lactation consultant for help.
First, check your baby when she's off the breast, and see if she can extend her tongue beyond her gum line. If she can't extend her tongue, that might be the cause of your cracked nipple. Have your pediatrician look at her tongue to confirm this. It's possible to breastfeed in this case, but you'll need one-to-one help from a lactation consultant who's had experience with this situation. If your cracked nipple was caused by a positioning problem, here are some tips on establishing a good nursing position:
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