How to Treat Sore Nipples From Breastfeeding & Pumping

Feeling raw, tender and sensitive, you're not alone.

For all its joys, breastfeeding can come with one major frustration: sore nipples. If your nipples are feeling raw, tender and sensitive, know you’re not alone. It’s actually quite common in the early weeks of breastfeeding as your body adjusts to this new experience.

However, if your pain still persists after a few weeks, there may be an underlying cause. Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to treat nipple soreness during your breastfeeding journey. Let’s dive into what might be prolonging your pain and how you can find relief.

Causes of Nipple Soreness

Poor Latch

One of the most common causes of sore or painful nipples is a poor latch or incorrect attachment of the baby’s mouth onto the breast.

A poor latch affects your baby’s ability to get enough milk from your breast. They may try sucking harder, which puts a lot of harsh pressure on your nipples and makes them chafed and sore.A poor latch can also result in your breasts swelling. When your baby breastfeeds, your breasts get a signal to keep producing milk. If enough milk isn’t being removed, your breasts may struggle with milk production or become engorged. Milk stagnation can lead to painful inflammation, which results in sore nipples.

Why Does Poor Latch Happen?

If you’re struggling with poor latch, know it’s not your fault. Many mothers face this challenge for multiple reasons, such as:

  • Flat or inverted nipples: Babies can have a hard time latching on properly to flat or inverted nipples. However, there are many techniques you and your lactation specialist can try to help your baby latch on properly, such as expressing or using a nipple shield.

  • Tongue or lip ties: Some babies may have lip or tongue problems known as ties. A tongue tie involves a thin band of tissue connecting the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth. A lip tie happens when there isn't enough space between a baby's upper and lower gums. Both ties restrict their ability to make a proper latch.

  • Shallow latch: Sometimes babies will suck on just the nipple instead of covering the whole areola with their mouths. This is known as a shallow latch, and it causes your nipple to rub on the baby’s hard palate, leading to painful or sore nipples.

Wrong Size Flange

If you’re using a breast pump to help nourish your baby and are experiencing sore nipples, the problem may lie with your flange size.

A breast pump’s flanges pull against your nipple to extract milk. When flanges are too small, they can pinch and squeeze your nipples. When they’re too big, too much of your areola is drawn into the flange, which can also result in pain.

The Willow Fit Check

The Willow Fit Check

We'll walk you through sizing step by step, starting with our digital sizing guide that makes measuring easy. You'll receive additional sizes & can also book a virtual session with one of our Sizing Specialists.

Wrong Size Bra

Every woman knows the importance of having the right-sized bra, especially mothers. Bras that are too small can rub up against your nipples and cause excess friction. This regular irritation may result in nipple redness and discomfort.

Willow Daily Pumping Bra

Willow Daily Pumping Bra

You’ll never want to take off the aptly-named Daily Pumping Bra. Custom-made for Willow by The Dairy Fairy, it’s comfy, supportive, and no-fuss—what every breast pump bra should be.



Nipple thrush is a fungal infection that can occur after giving birth. While there are no obvious signs of having nipple thrush, there are a few symptoms you could experience.

You may experience burning nipple pain that’s continuous, as well as sharp or shooting pain throughout your breast area. Your nipples may also appear bright pink.


When your milk ducts are blocked or you have a bacterial infection from cracked nipples, your breast can become inflamed. This inflammation is known as mastitis, and it can happen from poor latch, ill-fitting bras, breast engorgement and poor breast drainage.

Can I Keep Nursing and Pumping With Sore Nipples?

If you’re wincing from pain when breastfeeding and pumping, you may wonder whether you should continue doing so. Is it safe, and is there a way to decrease the pain?

In most cases, it’s safe to keep nursing and pumping while treating your nipple soreness with home remedies. However, if the pain persists or worsens, contact your lactation consultant or healthcare provider for advice.

If you or your baby have an infection, such as mastitis or thrush, contact your doctor. You should keep pumping and nursing, but your doctor can give an official diagnosis and any necessary treatment to heal the infection.

Keep in mind that it’s important to stick with your nursing schedule so you don’t reduce your milk production. Stop only if your doctor or healthcare provider recommends it.

Treating Sore Nipples

Nipple Cream

For nipples that are sore, dry or cracked, a moisturizing nipple balm can work wonders. Make sure to use a dermatologist-tested cream made with gentle ingredients that promote healing and won’t cause further irritation.

Mama Care Bundle

Mama Care Bundle

For a body that's done so much. The Willow Mama Care bundles includes our clean, ultra-moisturizing nipple balm to heal and sooth cracked nipples and luxurious, quick-drying breast and belly oil.

Warm Compresses

Applying a warm compress several times a day can help provide relief for sore nipples, as well as help with reducing inflammation. Soak a clean washcloth in warm water, and press it to your nipples for about 10 minutes. You can do this before nursing or pumping to make your experience more comfortable.

Switch Up Nursing Positions

Often, trying different feeding positions can help with poor latch issues and reduce pressure on sore nipples. You can experiment with different positions to find one that’s comfortable for you and your baby.

If you’re pumping, try adjusting the suction level on your pump to see which setting is less irritating on your nipples.


Air-drying your nipples can help prevent further nipple soreness. After nursing or pumping, gently pat your nipples with a clean cloth. Allow them to air dry for at least several minutes before putting your bra or clothing back on.

Enjoy Your Nursing Journey to the Fullest With Willow

Breastfeeding should feel comfortable for you and your little one, but it’s not always a smooth road. At Willow, we’re here to help moms everywhere have a pain-free experience when pumping and nursing. With our wearable, hands-free breast pumps, you can achieve total freedom while easily sticking to your nursing schedule. Find out if Willow is right for you by taking our quick and easy pump quiz today!

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. It should not be used to diagnose or treat medical conditions or problems. Please contact your healthcare provider with questions or concerns.
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