Nipple Creams and Moisturizers to Treat Sore Nipples

What to Use and What to Avoid

Woman holding moisturizer cream in her hand
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Sore nipples are a common problem of breastfeeding. They are often the result of a poor latch. But, they can also develop for other reasons such as thrush, mastitis, blebs, dermatitis, a new pregnancy, vasospasms, or even using a breast pump incorrectly. Depending on the cause of the soreness, a nipple cream or moisturizer may help. Some over-the-counter products are soothing and safe, but others can cause even more problems. And, for some situations, only a prescription will bring relief. So, if your nipples are sore, first check and correct your baby's latch. Then, talk to your doctor to try to find out what's causing the pain and what you can do to treat it.

When You Might Need a Prescription Medication for Sore Nipples

If your sore nipples are from a medical issue, you may need a prescription medication. Thrush is a yeast infection that appears on your nipples and in your baby's mouth. Doctor's treat thrush with an antifungal medication. If you develop a type of breast infection called mastitis, you may or may not need an antibiotic. Dermatitis or other skin conditions of the breast are treated with steroid creams or ointments.

One popular sore nipple remedy is Dr. Jack Newman's All-Purpose Nipple Ointment. Dr. Newman's APNO is available by prescription only, and it's prepared at a pharmacy. It covers a wide variety of issues since it contains antibacterial and antifungal ingredients to treat infections, as well as a steroid to reduce swelling.

Five Safe and Soothing Nipple Solutions That Don't Require a Prescription

Sore, cracked, bleeding nipples that are due to a dry climate or a poor latch, may not require the use of a prescription medication for healing. An over-the-counter nipple cream, ointment, or lotion designed for nursing mothers could be helpful. However, you should always consult your doctor for the best possible treatment options for your individual situation. Your doctor may recommend one of the soothing moisturizers below. These products can safely help to heal sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples.

  1. Your Breast Milk: Your breast milk is a safe and readily available moisturizer that can be used to soothe your nipples. All you have to do is gently rub a little bit of expressed breast milk around your nipples and let it air dry.
  2. Lansinoh's HPA Lanolin: Lansinoh's lanolin product contains only 100% pure refined lanolin. HPA Lanolin can be used to relieve the pain and discomfort caused by dry, sore, cracked nipples. There is no need to wash this lanolin off your breasts before you breastfeed because it is hypoallergenic and safe for your baby.
  3. Medela PureLan 100 or Tender Care Lanolin: PurLan and Tender Care are also 100% pure lanolin products. They are all natural, hypoallergenic and do not contain any artificial additives or preservatives. Either of these lanolin creams can be used to heal and protect sore, dry or sensitive nipples. They do not have to be washed off before breastfeeding your baby.
  4. Motherlove Nipple Cream: Motherlove's Nipple Cream is not a lanolin product. It's lanolin-free. Instead, it is made up of all natural, certified organic herbal ingredients to help soothe and heal sore nipples. This cream contains extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, marshmallow root, and calendula flower. It's non-toxic and safe for your baby, so there is no need to wash it off before you breastfeed.
  1. Earth Mama Natural Nipple Butter: Earth Mama's Natural Nipple Butter is another all natural, non-toxic product that does not contain lanolin. It's made up of all certified organic ingredients including olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, candelilla wax, mango butter, and calendula flower extract. It can be used to soothe and heal dry, cracked nipples, and it does not need to be washed off before nursing.

The Creams and Ointments to Avoid

There are many other types of creams, ointments, and lotions available in pharmacies, supermarkets, beauty supply stores, and online. However, most of these products aren't helpful, and you should avoid them. Some creams can be dangerous for your baby to swallow, others can make your nipple soreness or irritation worse. Here are five products you shouldn't use to treat sore nipples. 

  • Numbing Creams: If your nipples are sore, do not try to numb then. Numbing creams can interfere with your let-down reflex and may numb your baby's mouth.
  • Unpurified Lanolin: Lanolin that has not been purified can cause allergic reactions especially in people who are allergic to wool. 
  • Vitamin E Creams: Unless prescribed by your doctor, you should never use vitamin E cream on your breasts. It can be very dangerous for your baby.
  • Petroleum Products: Petroleum-based ointments, such as Vasoline, do not allow air to flow to your skin. They can also clog the Montgomery glands located on your breast. 
  • Anything With Alcohol: Skin products made with alcohol may cause further drying and cracking of your nipples.

A Word from Verywell

Sore nipples can develop for a variety of reasons, and it's important to treat the cause as well as the symptoms. Over-the-counter nipple creams and moisturizers may be helpful, but they can also make the situation worse. It all depends on the issue, and you may even need a prescription.

So, before using any products on your breasts and nipples, you should see your healthcare provider for an examination. It's always best to ask your doctor for a recommendation or stick with the safe choices listed above. And, of course, if you have an allergic reaction while you're using any type of product, stop using it right away and contact your doctor.     

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