I suffered from cracked, bleeding, and excruciatingly sore nipples for the first two months of breastfeeding my first son (although for most women, the pain will be milder and will last just a few weeks).
After hearing great things about lactation consultants, I paid a ridiculous Australian woman $250 to visit us and observe Felix while he was breastfeeding. Apparently, nothing was wrong with his “latch,” and the Aussie seemed confused as she doled out her standard advice in infuriating, often nonsensical, smiles: “Breastfeeding is like a dance, and the breast pump is just an extra partner.” “Hold the baby’s head like a steering wheel as you guide it onto your breast.” Huh? Try holding your baby’s head like a steering wheel and let me know how it goes. I couldn’t quite get the ten-and-two position down.
I might have laughed, had I not already been crying from the burn of my soft cotton shirt touching my chest.
During this time, I’d burst into tears whenever my baby began fussing from hunger, and my husband, Daylon, called the pediatrician in a panic after Felix spit up bits of blood (turns out it was from the lesions on my nipples). I even allowed Daylon to feed my precious newborn a bottle of Enfamil one morning around week 5, while I lay in bed and sobbed from the guilt…and from the flannel sheets tearing at my nipples. (If you do resort to formula, don’t go for Enfamil like I did. Instead, check out this Safe Infant Formula Guide for some better options.)
My Top Pick for Best Organic Nipple CreamI’ve already told you that nipple creams didn’t do a whole lot for me when I was in the throes of breastfeeding misery, but if I had to do it again, I would try Green Goo Nursing Cream, based on their clean ingredient list and the commitment of the herbalist who makes this stuff.
The Light At the End of the Nipple…I Mean Tunnel
Even the most gruesome of breastfeeding scenarios will eventually improve (I did not, in the end, lose the entire tip of my left nipple, despite my conviction that it was detaching). I know moms who have been saved by visits from La Leche League reps or lactation consultants.
For me, nothing really worked, except of course the passing of fifty or sixty days spent topless, watching TLC’s “A Baby Story,” and taking solace in the fact that at least I wasn’t in labor anymore.
And organic nipple cream helped soothe the pain between nursing sessions. (By the way, the time between said sessions usually did not exceed 45 minutes. Felix was a nursing fiend.)
If your own nipple pain is less intense than mine was (as in, there is no fear of losing a nipple and only limited scabbing), creams may offer significant relief during those rough few weeks of breastfeeding.
Oh, it’s worth noting that with my second son, Wolfie, the pain never escalated beyond a mild pinch, and breastfeeding cream definitely brought relief.
Nipple Cream: Your Baby’s First Food!
Since your baby will presumably be ingesting small amounts of whatever you smear on your nipples, it’s critical that all ingredients are safe. Many people swear by lanolin, and I know this was what my mom and her friends all used in the ’70s and ’80s. Yet a lot of products now boast that they are “lanolin free.” So what’s the deal?
The Deal with Lanolin
Lanolin is the greasy discharge from a sheep’s sebaceous glands, and is used in host of cosmetics, from lip balms to breastfeeding creams. Although highly effective in soothing and healing chapped skin, lanolin contains a heavy load of pesticides (the wool is soaked in chemicals to remove parasites before the lanolin is scoured out of it), and at the moment there are no truly organic options out there.
These days, thankfully, lanolin-free nursing creams are easily found.
The Good Stuff
Green Goo Nursing Cream
Green Goo Nursing Cream contains 100% organic, non-GMO ingredients, including beeswax, chamomile flowers, and extra virgin olive oil. This is now my go-to gift for nursing friends, and one of our best sellers. You can buy Green Goo Nursing Cream from Gimme the Good Stuff’s online store.
Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter
Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter contains ingredients safe for baby–such as organic olive oil and mango butter. This cream brought me a bit of relief when I was nursing Felix (I hadn’t yet discovered Sierra Sage), and can be found in lots of brick-and-mortar retailers and on Amazon.
MADE OF Soothing Organic Nipple Cream
Made Of’s Soothing Nipple Balm is made from only plant-based ingredients, 95% of which are organic. It’s also been tested for everything from microbial contamination to heavy metals, which is what makes this brand so unique.
Motherlove Nipple Cream
Motherlove Nipple Cream’s organic ingredients include marshmallow root and calendula, and is scored a zero-hazard product by Skin Deep. You can buy Motherlove on Amazon.
Fans of Poofy’s breastfeeding cream say it not only soothes sore nipples, but also works for dry skin and eczema. Just four natural ingredients make up Happy Boobies, so it’s safe for momma and baby alike.
The Bad Stuff
Maternity Solutions for Painful Breasts Cream contains fragrance, parabens, and triethanolamine, none of which I would want my baby to ingest, even if it cured my mangled nipples. (Well, maybe at the height of my misery while nursing Felix I would have made my peace with it, considering I justified Enfamil).
Udderly Smooth Udder Cream is icky for all the same reasons, and also contains peg-2 stearate, a suspected environmental toxin.
The Sneaky Stuff
The two most popular breastfeeding creams are the lanolin varieties produced by Lansinoh and Medela, and each is rated only a 1 out of 10 on Skin Deep. However, given the potential risks of lanolin (see above), I avoid both brands. Of the two, Lansinoh seems safer: according to their website, Lansinoh HPA Lanolin “has been refined…to remove all allergenic components…and to bring to the lowest level possible any environmental impurities (including pesticide residues).” Medela does not provide such information.
Mama Mio Keep Calm Nipple Balm also contains lanolin.
Despite its high price, Mustela Nursing Comfort Balm is not the Good Stuff, with PEG chemicals and other synthetic ingredients in its formula.
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Superlan works best for me, I tried all other lanolin cream, but superlan beats them all by far.
You can buy it on Amazon.com
Hi Maia- throwing this question out under the Nipple Cream section because it has to do with breastfeeding biz. Can you recommend a safer option of milk storage bags? Could you presumably just use glass? Also, I’ve already invested in the Sierra Sage Comfort Cream, but what do you suggest in terms of nipple pads? First time mom here prepping to give birth in 1 month and very unsure about all of the breastfeeding products! Thank you!
Maia James says
Unfortunately, there really is no plastic-free storage option for breastmilk, other than just putting it into glass bottles/ball jars. For nipple pads I recommend something like this: http://amzn.to/1MqwfhM
Have you used the honest company nipple balm??… my breast feeding experience ALWAYS as painful as yours… I’m on my 4th child and fear breastfeeding pain more than giving labor… My nipple bleed and Crack for the first 40-60 days… I was given as a gift the honest company nipple balm but I don’t know how good it is, please help I’m due in 2 wks!!! …. also what are the best body wash and lotions for baby???. Thx!!
Maia James says
Ugh that sounds horrible! Yes, I think the Honest Balm is fine. As for body wash and lotion, I like Babo products: https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/store/brand/babo-botanicals/
Miss G says
What are your thoughts on using coconut oil for chapped nipples? I don’t want to order a nipple balm online ahead of time, in case I don’t need it (power of positive thinking and all that, haha), so I’m trying to find something that we have around the house to use in the mean time if breastfeeding becomes painful. Thanks!
Maia James says
Coconut oil would be perfectly safe to try as a nipple balm…let us know if it works!
Jessica Keen says
Did it work?
What changed to allow your nipples to heal? I am three weeks in and feel like there is no light at the end of the nipple. Have chunks of nipple missing as well. Had started with earth mama butter and just got the lansinoh yesterday. Have seen lactation consultants and had her tongue/lip tie revised and I feel like no healing has occurred. Still use nipple shield occasionally when I just can’t bear it. If it takes sixty days I don’t know I can sustain hope for that long…
Maia James says
Oh I really feel for you! All I can say is that although it feels interminable to you now, it WILL end, and my OB said in 30 years of practice he had never seen anyone’s nipples take as long as mine did to heal. So, I highly doubt yours will last so long! Nothing really changed that made them suddenly better. They just gradually got slightly less painful until the scabs healed and the agony ended. With my second baby, btw, there was never any pain. Hang in there!
Holly Ferguson says
What do you think about boobease from Bamboobies? https://www.buybamboobies.com/products/boob-ease-100-organic-nipple-balm
I want to know about Boobease nipple cream too!! Hopefully you van get an answer on this!
Thank you for sharing your story and what you’ve found out. I had a rough time too. I remember counting to 15 or 30 when my son would first latch on so I could stay focused on not pulling him off during the initial pain. I tried rubbing breastmilk on my nipples after feedings, then moved on to lansinoh. What turned the corner was when his doctor told us he needed vitamin D drops, like all breastfed babies. I chose Carlson Labs on Amazon. It included a little vitamin E, which his doctor okayed. I applied it to my nipple as a way of giving it to my son. That way I could be sure I didn’t miss his mouth 😉 It must have been the vitamin E in it that healed my nipples in a day, maybe two. I had been using Lansinoh for weeks by then with only mild success and I could practically watch my nipples heal with this. Did you come across vitamin E in your research?
Maia James says
Wow, I didn’t uncover this in my research, but very good to know! Thanks so much for sharing.
Are there any breast wipes that you recommend? I heard that you can wipe off your nipples with breast wipes after nursing to clean and prevent thrush. One site recommend Bella B Nipple nurture breast wipes?
I looked up those wipes but cannot find a list of ingredients–let me know if you have that and I’m happy to weigh in. The bigger issue I think though is that, why would you want to clean your nipples before or after nursing? My understanding is that the bacteria in breastmilk and possible on the nipples is actually beneficial. Unless there is a specific problem, I wouldn’t see any need to clean your nipples. Although of course I’m not a doctor!
Hi! Im 24weeks but already preppin for breastfeed. Can you give some tips on how to prepare your breast/nipple for breastfeed before baby comes to avoid or atleast lessen cracks and bleeding. Thanks
Do you no longer recommend the Sierra Sage comfort cream? I don’t see it listed under Good Stuff anymore.
Maia James says
We definitely still recommend it! Sierra Sage rebranded and the company is now called Green Goo. But here’s the line up: https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/store/brand/green-goo-brand-gimme-the-good-stuff/
I have suffered through sore nipples with 4 of my babies. I would strongly suggest others try laid back breastfeeding position. It sincerely helped me with my last one. It is also okay to give one side a break and use a pump for a few feedings. Gel dressings, saline rinses, polysporin cream if the skin is broken, and softshell nipple shells to keep everything off of the nipple so there is no tearing when it is time to nurse again. These are very annoying to wear because they cause extra leakage. You can place a disposable nursing pad inside the outer shell away from your nipple to catch the leak. I would like to try Milkies milk savers to actually keep the milk but at this time they are just too expensive for me. <3 Prayers for healing for all of you. I'm due with my fifth and I am most nervous about the first week or two of nipple boot camp rather than actual labor.
Question on the Green Goo – I know you’re not supposed to give honey to a baby under 1 year. Is beeswax okay? Thanks for the super helpful guides! Love your website!
Maia James says
Yes, my understanding is that beeswax in products is safe, but you could check with your pediatrician!
Hi there, I was curious if you have done any research on disposable nursings pads? I am currently using the lansinoh brand. I have thought about trying the bamboobies disposable ones. Any thoughts or recommendations?
Maia James says
Hi, we actually haven’t looked into this, but will add to the list!
Actually both Medela and Lanisoh use Low Pesticide Lanolin. So low that it is around 1 part per million total. Medela also blends their product with other skin healing ingredients that are considered green.
Thanks a lot for info!
Kayla B says
Hey! So I was scrolling through Amazon looking for a “stick” version of cream to use to avoid using my fingers and I came across Good Nature brand Bee Calm Balm and I was wondering if you’d be able to tell me if that was a good/not so good option?
Maia James says
I don’t know that brand, but will add to our list for a future investigation!
Tanya Roberts says
Gotta love all natural nipple cream made from organic extra virgin coconut oil! Can be found here: http://www.lactationconnection.com/Breastmilk-Bandit-Natural-Nipple-Cream-p/2900.htm
What are your thoughts on Boob Ease from the makers of Bamboobies??
Coree Mahoney says
What about Honest brand nipple cream, and the brand Tubby Todd? I haven’t seen you mention Tubby Todd in any of your product guides and curious what you think about them for baby lotion, soap and sunscreens as well.