Sore or cracked nipples when breastfeeding
If you get sore nipples when breastfeeding, it's usually because your baby's not positioned and attached properly at the breast.
It's important not to stop breastfeeding. With help, feeding should quickly become more comfortable again.
Get help early for sore nipples
If you find 1 or both nipples hurt at every feed, or your nipples start to crack or bleed, it's important to get help from your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter as soon as you can.
They can watch as you feed your baby and help you get them correctly positioned and attached to the breast.
When your baby is effectively attached, your nipple rests comfortably against the soft palate at the back of their mouth.
If your baby is poorly attached to the breast, the nipple is nearer the front of their mouth and can be pinched against the hard palate, causing pain.
Flattened, wedged or white nipples at the end of a feed are 1 sign your baby may not be properly attached. Your baby may also seem unsettled after feeds.
Having sore nipples when you're trying to breastfeed a new baby can be stressful and upsetting.
Try to carry on breastfeeding or express milk by hand if you can, and ask for help early.
Self-help tips for sore nipples
Bear in mind that self-help tips will not be effective if your baby is poorly attached during breastfeeds.
But you may find it helps to:
- change breast pads at each feed (if you're using them) – if possible, use pads without a plastic backing
- wear a cotton bra so air can circulate
- keep feeding your baby for as long as they want – keeping breastfeeds short to "rest" your nipples will not ease nipple pain and could affect your milk supply
- avoid using nipple shields (a thin, protective cover worn over your nipple as you breastfeed) or breast shells (a hard, protective cover worn inside your bra) – these will not improve your baby's attachment to the breast
If your nipples start to crack, try dabbing a little expressed breast milk onto them after feeds.
Get help early if your nipples are cracked or bleeding, as this increases your risk of getting an infection in your nipple.
If nipple pain does not improve
If your baby is properly positioned and attached at the breast during feeds and your nipples are still sore, ask your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter for help.
There may be an underlying problem, such as thrush.
Video: how do I know if my baby is properly latched?
In this video, a midwife talks about how to check if your baby is latched on properly when breast feeding.
Media review due: 28 October 2022
Page last reviewed: 1 March 2019
Next review due: 1 March 2022