The emergence of cracks on the breasts is one of the main complications caused by breastfeeding. This can lead to pain and force the mother to stop breastfeeding. What causes them and how do they form? How can they be removed? Discover some answers here.
Nursing cracks on the breasts: how to remove them?
- Nursing Cracks: How to Recognize Them?
- The causes of the formation of breastfeeding fissures
- Tips to prevent breastfeeding fissures
- How to promote the healing of breastfeeding fissures?
Nursing Cracks: How to Recognize Them?
A nursing fissure is characterized by a wound on the nipple, similar to a chapped or small scabbed area. It can be more or less red and more or less deep, depending on its stage of progression. It's worth noting that a nursing fissure is not always visible, especially when it has just formed. The woman then notices its presence due to the pain she feels during breastfeeding. It happens that the fissure bleeds and forms a scab that can become infected if not properly managed.
The causes of the formation of breastfeeding fissures.
The most common cause of the appearance of breastfeeding fissures is a poor positioning of the baby during feeding. This happens when the baby does not latch onto the breast properly and only suckles the nipple superficially. It's as if the baby is crushing the nipple between its tongue and palate, which is abrasive for the mother. As feedings continue, a small lesion forms, becoming increasingly painful and deep over time. The friction can also come from a poor adjustment of the size of the nipple shield or incorrect placement of a silicone nipple cover.
It also happens that breastfeeding fissures are the result of a tongue tie in the baby. Also known as ankyloglossia, this congenital anomaly is defined as a tongue tie that is too short and/or too fibrous, thus not very elastic. The tip of the tongue then has difficulty surpassing the lips, which causes discomfort during breastfeeding. A minor surgical operation is then necessary.
Tips to prevent breastfeeding fissures.
The best way to prevent breastfeeding fissures is to pay close attention to the position of the baby during feeding. The baby should lean more on their chin rather than their nose to avoid causing friction. Additionally, it is recommended to ensure that the baby's mouth is wide open to accommodate a large part of the areola.
You can also use a breast pump at the beginning of the feeding to stimulate the ejection of milk from the breast. This will gradually stretch the nipple into a "correct" shape to present to the baby. Indeed, the baby will then have a better chance of properly latching onto the entire areola, thus avoiding the occurrence of cracks.
Another tip involves the use of breastfeeding shells. These are designed to protect the nipple from additional friction and irritation caused by undergarments. They are also useful for collecting excess breast milk that is expelled, preventing it from staining clothing. Lastly, breastfeeding shells promote the healing of breastfeeding fissures, according to the so-called "wet healing" method. The shells help maintain the breast in the moist environment of the breast milk, which possesses healing properties. These properties are derived from the SPMs (Specialized Pro-resolving Mediators) it contains, molecules capable of reducing inflammatory responses and stimulating the immune system.
How to promote the healing of breastfeeding fissures?
The healing of breastfeeding fissures can be a lengthy and painful process. During this time, it is theoretically still possible to breastfeed, but it's painful. There are several methods available to promote healing.
Breast Milk : Rich in anti-inflammatory substances and containing anti-infectious agents, breast milk aids in healing in the event of fissures. It is sufficient to apply a few drops on the nipple after each feeding.
Lanolin : also known as wool fat, this natural substance poses no risk if ingested by a baby. It has soothing and emollient properties, and is often available in the form of cream, ointment, or salve. Simply apply a dab on injured nipples before and after each breastfeeding session.
Breastfeeding Shells : As previously explained, breastfeeding shells promote healing by trapping the remaining milk in the breasts and utilizing its healing properties. Additionally, they protect the nipples from the friction caused by bras.
Hydrogel compresses : available over-the-counter in stores and pharmacies, these special compresses help to alleviate burns and soothe the pain caused by fissures. They are to be applied to the nipples between each feeding.
KRONBORG H. & al. Early breastfeeding problems: A mixed method study of mothers' experiences. Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (2018).