Dealing With Bleeding Nipples While Breastfeeding
Is it normal to have bleeding nipples during breastfeeding?
It is normal to have sensitive nipples in the beginning, but when your nipples become cracked or start bleeding, it is usually a sign of a breastfeeding problem.
It is essential that you get to the root of your breastfeeding problem. If the tips below do not help fix the problem, please contact a lactation consultant, who will work with you and your baby, to determine and work through your specific issues.
During the first few days of breastfeeding, a mother might notice some blood in the breast milk (breast bleeding internally), but this is normal, and due to increased blood flow, this should go away on its own after a couple of days.
What Are Some of the Causes?
Improper positioning and latching at the breast. Learn more about proper latching on.
- Leaving your baby until he/she is over hungry, before breastfeeding, can cause aggressive sucking, resulting in nipple damage.
- Thrush can cause bleeding nipples and sharp shooting pains.
- Not keeping your skin supple with a breastfeeding cream, can cause severe dry skin in that area, which could cause bleeding from the nipple.
- A breast pump can also cause bleeding. If you use excessive suction when expressing with a breast pump, it can break some capillaries in the breast and cause bleeding from your nipples.
- Breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples can also make it a little more difficult for a mother to breastfeed. This condition is sometimes associated with cracked nipples, but you can do a few things to prevent this.
Tips on How to Solve Bleeding Nipples
Check that your baby is latched on correctly and positioned comfortably.
- Avoid using harsh soaps when cleaning your breasts; fresh, clean water is all you need.
- Nurse more frequently, but for shorter time periods, to avoid your baby from becoming too hungry. This will prevent vigorous sucking.
- Apply your own breast milk to your breasts and nipples after breastfeeding. Breast milk will heal them faster and will prevent infection, due to anti-bacterial properties.
- Use a breast cream every time after breastfeeding. A lanolin cream, such as Lansinoh HPA is recommended.
- You can get your nipples ready for a breastfeeding session by first pumping a little, to elongate the nipple, this may prevent nipple damage and bleeding. This is especially helpful to mothers with flat or inverted nipples.
- Take a mild pain reliever about 30 minutes before breastfeeding to relieve some of the pain. (Recommended only if very necessary).
- Always offer the breast that is not injured first, this will ensure that your baby breastfeeds less aggressively on the sore breast.
- Try different breastfeeding positions, until you find one that is most comfortable.
- To help increase the pace of healing, you can use a saline solution (salt and water) to rinse your breasts. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt in one cup (8 oz) of warm water. Soak for 5 minutes and pat dry. Apply some breast milk or lanolin cream to the breast and nipple afterward and air dry.
- Keep your nipples as dry as possible in-between nursing sessions. Replace nursing pads as often as you can, to prevent infection.
- Ice packs can also help for pain relief of bleeding nipples during breastfeeding.
Should I Stop Breastfeeding if I Have Bleeding Nipples?
Blood in breast milk will not hurt your baby in any way. If it's only one nipple that is bleeding, you can try giving that breast a break to heal and continue to breastfeed from the other breast, but you will need to watch out for engorgement, by expressing the milk (use hand expression, if pumping is too painful).
Sometimes, it is best to just use a nipple shield on that side, until your nipples have healed.
You may find some blood in your baby’s spit up or poop, but this is nothing to worry about.