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Sore Nipples: Getting the Right Latch

Sore Nipples: Getting the Right Latch - Milk & Baby

Sore nipples: getting the right latch

Wendy McHale BS, IBCLC and owner of Nurturing Lactation, LLC, says sore nipples is the number one Issue that she gets phone calls about. The majority of the time she says it's a latch issue and “friction on the nipple caused damage to the tissue.” The tissue will be sore until it heals. This was true for Lori Duff. Lori remembers “sitting with the breast pump, while crying and watching streams of blood join the milk in the bottle.”

If the latch continues to be less than ideal then the nipples will continue to be painful.

Solution: “Pain is always bad,”  Ashley Brown-Combs RN, IBCLC, CLC “cracked bleeding nipples are a sign of a latch issue.”

Lanolin or nipple balm is helpful to protect the already damaged tissue while mom and baby work together to get that perfect latch. When it comes to getting a proper latch “It’s really a matter of getting the baby’s body in the right position,” says Wendy and Ashley agrees.  Ashley says, “Once we change positions, often times, the pain is gone!”  The only time this is not the case if you are dealing with a structural issue such as a lip tie or tongue tie with baby or if mom has inverted or flat nipples to contend with. Always get support from La Leche League and a lactation consultant if you’re feeling frustrated with breastfeeding.

Getting the Right Position

If there are no physical issues then work with your baby on a proper position. Baby’s body needs to get right up against mom in the early days so his chin can rotate forward a little bit and to facilitate a deeper latch. Lactation consultants used to teach the “Smash method” (some still do) where you tickle the lips of the baby and then smash the baby’s face into the breast of mom to encourage latching. But now the opposite is true.

Ideally, babies should lead into the breast with their chins. “Our jaws only hinge down,” says Wendy. If the baby is looking straight on, it's difficult for him to open his mouth. If the head is tilted back a little then he can open his mouth much wider and get more breast tissue into the mouth - a deeper latch. The top lip only needs to barely clear the nipple to get a proper latch. If mom can find a position where the baby is belly-to-belly with mom then chances are you’ll achieve the right latch.

If a mom is suffering from sore, cracked or bleeding nipples she can't seem to correct on her own then she should contact a lactation consultant to reassess the baby’s latch.


Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of three. If you liked this posting please follow her on Twitter @writerbonnie or like her on Facebook at for more great info on Raising Kids.

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