View Our Best Selling Course: Simply Breastfeeding

View Now

Sore Nipples: 7 Causes and the Solutions You Need to Know

Most women will experience some nipple tenderness when they are learning to breastfeed. It can be uncomfortable at the beginning of each feed; this discomfort typically eases off within the first 10 seconds after latching.

If you are experiencing pain that makes you “curl your toes”, or if your nipples have cracking or damage, your body is sending a signal that something is not right. Although it can be frustrating and sometimes difficult to determine the cause of the pain, please do not give up. Most causes of sore nipples can be treated and you will be able to breastfeed, pain free.

Possible causes

  • Baby is latching incorrectly

In the first couple of weeks, an incorrect latch is often the cause sore nipples. Mom and baby are still learning. A few simple adjustments may be all you need to breastfeed more comfortably.

Read more about how to get a good latch in this post.

Some mothers find they get their best ever latch when baby ‘self-attaches’. You can see a description and video of self attachment in this post.

It can take a bit of time to figure out the position that will work best for you and your baby. Feel free to experiment and do not hesitate to ask for help if needed.

P.S. If you’d like more help, we have an online class that goes step by step through what you need to know about breastfeeding. Check it out here. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for a free preview.)

  • Tongue-tie

The movement of baby’s tongue is very important to the mechanics of breastfeeding. A baby uses his tongue to draw the breast into his mouth, to keep it in his mouth and to transfer milk. With a tongue-tie, a stretchy band of tissue under the tongue (called a frenulum) is tighter than it should be. This restricts the tongue’s movement and can lead to sore nipples.

If you suspect that your baby may have a tongue-tie, it is important to have it assessed by someone experienced in working with tongue-ties. Talk to your doctor or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

  • Candida (yeast infection)

Candida is a yeast infection that can be transferred back and forth between mom and baby. Women with yeast-infected nipples typically have a sudden onset of pain. Some women describe this pain as burning or like having “ground glass” in their nipples. Infected nipples may be pink or fiery red and there may be cracks at the base of the nipple. The areola (brown area around the nipples) may appear shiny or be itchy. A baby with a yeast infection will have white patches in the mouth on the gums or cheeks (called thrush) or may have a bright red diaper rash that does not respond to regular diaper creams. See your doctor for treatment if you or your baby are having any of these symptoms.

  • Milk bleb or blister

A milk bleb or blister occurs when a thin layer of skin grows over the opening of a nipple pore, blocking the flow of milk from that pore. You may see a small white dot on the end of the nipple. The pressure from the backup of milk behind the pore can cause intense nipple pain. Treatment is available; talk to your doctor or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

  • Incorrect use of a breast pump

The flange is the part of the breast pump that covers your nipple. Flanges come in different sizes; it is important to get the size that fits you best. Most pumps come with the standard flange size, 24mm (the distance across the opening of the flange). If the flange is too small, your nipple will rub on the sides of the flange. If the flange is too large, too much breast tissue is drawn in as you pump. Pumping with a flange that does not fit well can cause soreness.

Another cause of sore nipples while pumping can be the level of suction. It is not usually necessary to pump at the highest suction setting. If your nipples are sore, try lowering the suction to see if that helps.

  • Vasospasm

Some women have sharp, burning nipple pain after a feed and notice the end of their nipple turning white (blanching). This is caused by a spasm of the blood vessels in the nipple. Women who have had a yeast infection or have had cracked or damaged nipples are at risk for this. Cover the breast immediately after feeding or try holding a warm rice bag or hot water bottle against your chest. If the pain persists despite these measures, please discuss other treatment options with your healthcare provider.

  • Pregnancy

In the early days of pregnancy, you may have tender nipples while breastfeeding. If you cannot come up with any other reason, this may be the one!

Treatments for sore nipples

The best way to treat sore nipples is to identify and fix the source of the problem. Start by having the latch assessed, as often this is the cause.

The following may help sore or damaged nipples to heal:

  • Breastfeed on the least sore breast first. Baby will nurse more gently on the second side. If both nipples are sore, hand express some milk before a feeding to help your milk letdown.
  • There are healing properties in breast milk; rub a few drops on your nipples after feeds. (Note: If your nipples are cracked, abraded, or wounded or if you have a yeast infection, use plain water to rinse your nipples after feeds instead.)
  • Recent research show that nipple creams are not helpful. This study found that in most cases of sore nipples, the pain will be reduced to a mild level by 7 to 10 days. (Dennis, Jackson and Watson, 2014)
  • You could try wearing breast shells if the pressure from your bra or clothing is painful.

There are many reasons for sore nipples. It may not be possible to determine the source of your discomfort on your own. The good news is that most causes of sore nipples respond quite quickly to treatment. Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (breastfeeding specialist) near you if you need assistance.

Tired of Googling?
Get the answers to the top 14 questions new parents ask.
Ultimate Newborn handbook

You can feel confident from day one!

- Confidence in motherhood starts here -

Meet Jana

As a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant I have helped thousands of new families in the early days and weeks after delivery. Over and over, I have seen the same questions and challenges catch new families off guard. 

I want it to be easier for you!

I have put the answers to all of these questions in our online prenatal courses. I want you to have the information you need ahead of time so that you know what to expect with breastfeeding and taking care of your newborn.
Let me help you enter motherhood feeling confident, peaceful and empowered.

- Trusted by World’s Best Brands -


  1. BellyBelly. “Tongue Tie- 9 Facts You Need To Know” 2015.
  2. Bonata, Kelly. “Sore Nipples or Breasts? Here’s Help…” 2018.
  3. Breastfeeding Medicine. “Persistent Pain with Breastfeeding” Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. 2016. “
  4. Dennis, CL., et al. “Interventions for Treating Painful Nipples among Breastfeeding Women”. 2014.
  5. La Leche League. “Breastfeeding with Sore Nipples” 2019.
  6. Walker, M., “Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician. Using the Evidence.” Jones & Bartlett, 4th Edition 2017, pp589-91.

Other Posts You Might Like

-We're here to help. Check out these other useful posts -

Top 6 Pregnancy Mistakes Shared with Us in Secret

We have visited over 30,000 brand new parents in their homes, as they transition from pregnancy to parenthood. We have witnessed joy and excitement but also tears and frustration as families felt overwhelmed and unprepared.

12 Insider Truths About Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

One out of every 4 or 5 women will suffer from postpartum depression and/or anxiety in the year following the birth of their baby. Here are 12 important things you should know.

8 Myths of Motherhood

Before giving birth, we imagine life with a new baby… wonder, amazement, the sweet smell of baby skin, feeling more in love than ever with our partner.

What Foods Increase Milk Supply?

These foods have all been suggested to increase the milk supply. But do they actually work? If only it was that easy! While trying different foods can have nutritional benefits, there is no evidence that anyone food will increase milk production.

Postpartum Nutrition – The 4th Trimester

Brooke Bulloch is a Registered Dietitian from Food To Fit Nutrition Inc... This post originally appeared on her site and is reprinted here with permission.

Cesarean Birth: Answers to the Top 10 Questions

One in every four or five babies in North America will be born by cesarean section (C-section). Sometimes, the C-section is planned in advance; others are done with little or no warning due to last-minute complications.