When I was having my children, folks used to say that women forget the pain of childbirth and also the pain that can accompany the first days or weeks of nursing a newborn. Having had and nursed three children, I will attest that this “halo effect,” as it is sometimes called, is not true, at least for me. My youngest child is 30 years old, and I still remember those long, hard hours of labor and the first tender days of nursing my babies. Yes, those memories are colored by the beautiful remembrance of the enormous wash of love and protectiveness I felt for those brand-new little beings, but to this day I still cringe when I remember the sensation of a days-old baby latching on to nurse, and how nipples that started out tender quickly became painfully sore from the near-constant attention of a new infant with super-suckle powers. I said it then, and it still holds true: a baby-safe nipple cream is a lifesaver.
Many women say nipple pain is the main reason they stop breastfeeding. It is normal in the first days or weeks of nursing, to experience daunting soreness and inflammation. I was lucky to know some grandmotherly women who had had lots of babies back in the days before bottle-feeding was even an option, so they knew some serious tricks. These days, most of those wise women have gone on, but we are fortunate to now have professional lactation consultants available. If you are using a good nipple cream and everything is going smoothly, your discomfort should decrease and then disappear altogether. If the discomfort of nursing increases or continues longer than those first weeks, and definitely if you experience skin breaking or bleeding, consult a professional!
None of those are necessarily breastfeeding deal-killers and you may be able to significantly improve your experience with small changes like adjusting the way your baby latches on or how you hold your child during nursing. If your midwife or doctor doesn’t have a good lactation consultant attached to their practice, you can find support through organizations like the La Leche League or your local WIC office. There are also many online support options, including professional lactation consultants that are often covered by insurance.
What About Lanolin Cream?
Lanolin was the go-to nipple cream for breastfeeding for a very long time, and there are still many people who swear by it. Lanolin is sebum that is naturally secreted by wool-bearing animals like sheep. This oily wax gets caught in their wool and, after sheering, can be extracted. Before the era of pesticides, using lanolin cream was considered a safe, natural, effective way to ease the discomfort of nursing, and it is still readily available for sale for this purpose.
However, a 1992 study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that lanolin samples contained residues of 17 different pesticides, some of which are known to accumulate in breast milk. It is not lanolin itself that is the problem, per se, but the fact that sheep are often sprayed with chemicals to control lice and other pests in their wool, and there are often pesticides sprayed on the plants that the animals eat, all of which gets into their sebum and “funks up” the natural lanolin. If you are interested in using lanolin, be sure to find a source that can guarantee it came from unsprayed sheep fed on organic pasture.
Fortunately, there is a fantastic alternative for those of us who don’t want to rub sheep sebum on our breasts or can’t find lanolin we trust. A nurturing nipple cream made with organic, protective shea and cocoa butters; soothing, moisturizing calendula-infused oil; and skin-loving coconut oil brings serious botanical support to nipples that are working hard to feed a child.
A Quick Note About Nipple Cream Ingredients
Fractionated MCT coconut oil is lightweight and fast-absorbing, which makes it ideal for a nipple cream. You want to avoid using heavier oils or butters that leave your skin slick because it can affect how well your baby can latch onto the nipple. Sunflower oil is a good substitute if you don’t have MCT coconut oil. Additionally, I opt not to use any form of wax, like beeswax, in a nipple cream because it can leave a residue on the skin that goes into an infant’s mouth.
Breastfeeding Cream for Sore Nipples
Makes about 1/2 cup.
- 2 Tbsp. organic refined shea butter
- 10 wafers organic roasted cocoa butter (about 23 grams)
- 2 Tbsp. organic calendula herbal oil or homemade calendula-infused olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. organic fractionated MCT coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp. organic non-GMO verified vitamin E oil
- Combine shea butter, cocoa butter, calendula oil, and MCT coconut oil in the top of a double boiler.
- Gently heat and stir until butters liquify.
- Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. If your kitchen is cool, set aside on counter to partially solidify, or you can put the bowl in the refrigerator.
- When the mixture is starting to solidify near the center (the edges will solidify first), whip with a hand mixer until fluffy. If it is a warm day or your kitchen is warm, it can help to put your bowl in an ice bath and then whip.
- Add vitamin E oil and whip to stiff peaks.
- If you try to whip the mixture and it’s still too liquid, just put it back in the refrigerator. Keep an eye on it at that point because it often sets up quickly then. Whip as normal.
How to Use Organic Herbal Nipple Cream
- Let your nipples dry after nursing.
- Rub a small dollop of nipple cream between your fingers—it doesn’t take very much because this spreads nicely with body heat—and gently smooth onto your nipples and areolas.
- If you are concerned about getting cream on your clothing, put a nursing pad or cloth inside your bra.
- If the cream has soaked into your skin when your baby wants to nurse next, the ingredients are edible and safe. However, if you have any concerns or if there is still residue, feel free to wipe it away to make sure baby can latch on well.
Want more new-baby DIY recipes?
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