Nipple fissures are painful or sore cracks that can appear in your nipple. They primarily affect new parents who are nursing for the first time. Learning how to breastfeed (chestfeed) correctly can prevent nipple fissures from forming and promote healing if you already have them.
Nipple fissures are painful cracks in your nipple that can appear in one or both breasts. Anyone can get them, but fissures most often result from breastfeeding (chestfeeding). Nipple fissures can become so painful that they may prevent you from nursing even if you’d prefer to continue. Luckily, several home remedies and lifestyle changes can ease unpleasant symptoms and heal nipple fissures.
You’re most likely to have a nipple fissure if you’re nursing, especially if this is your first time. In the beginning, your baby may struggle to latch onto your breast correctly, causing your nipples to become tender, painful and cracked.
Athletes — most commonly joggers, cyclists and surfers — get cracked nipples, too. “Jogger’s nipple” is another term for nipple fissures and affects long-distance runners especially.
Eighty to 90% of breastfeeding mothers or gestational parents experience nipple pain and fissures. Symptoms often appear during the second or third week after your baby is born.
No. Nipple fissures are common, but they’re not normal. A cracked nipple is a sign that there’s too much strain on your nipple tissue. Taking steps to prevent further injury while helping the tissue heal can prevent complications associated with nipple fissures.
With a nipple fissure, pain or soreness usually accompany a tear in your nipple.
Sometimes a nipple fissure is a symptom of another condition called thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth and is common among newborns. The fungus can spread to your nipple while you’re nursing, causing a fissure. If you already have a fissure, thrush can worsen it. Your healthcare provider can prescribe antifungal medication to treat thrush.
Nipple fissures mostly appear during pregnancy or afterward once you begin breastfeeding. Less commonly, they result from friction during exercise or a skin condition.
Changes in your body during pregnancy and, especially, improper nursing techniques usually cause nipple fissures. Causes include:
Your healthcare provider can diagnose your nipple fissures during a physical exam.
You can treat fissures at home unless you experience complications like an infection or a fissure that won’t heal.
Healing nipple fissures often involves implementing proper nursing techniques. Getting your baby to latch onto your breast with a full mouth encircling the dark tissue surrounding your nipple (areola) can ease pressure on the nipple itself. An asymmetrical latch protects the nipple. A lactation consultant can show you how.
It’s also important for a trained professional to evaluate your baby’s mouth to determine why they’re having difficulty latching properly. Often a condition called a tongue tie makes it difficult for your baby to latch properly and use their tongue correctly.
Positioning yourself comfortably so that you don’t have to change positions while you’re nursing can allow your fissures to heal, too.
If nursing is too painful, you can:
Consult with your provider or a lactation expert about how long you should pump and how to use a breast pump correctly to prevent nipple soreness.
In addition to ensuring that you’re breastfeeding correctly, you can:
Treating nipple fissures related to exercise involves:
If a skin condition causes your fissures, you should avoid products containing harsh chemicals that may be causing a reaction. Topical creams and antiseptics can help your nipples heal.
Untreated nipple fissures can lead to:
Prevent nipple fissures by using proper nursing techniques and preventing too much friction between your nipple tissue and your workout shirts or bras.
Consult your healthcare provider or a lactation coach before attempting to nurse for the first time. They can teach you:
To prevent nipple fissures caused by friction during exercise, you can:
Nipple fissures are sore and painful, but they’re treatable. Addressing what’s causing the problem and pampering your nipples while they heal can help.
Nipple fissures may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal, although the soreness may improve much sooner.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Nipple fissures are unpleasant, but you can usually heal them without visiting your provider’s office. Learn about proper breastfeeding techniques before you leave the hospital with your newborn to prevent fissures. If you’re having trouble nursing your baby, don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider or a lactation consultant for help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2022.
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