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SPOTLESS MAMA: Spotless Nipples

by Sarah on April 8th, 2011

Many moms of newborns will be all too familiar with nipple problems, ranging from slight tenderness and redness all the way through to cracks, bleeding and thrush (yeast) infections. Luckily I’ve suffered very little this time round and breastfeeding has been a real pleasure, but I wish I’d started my spotless journey back when I had my firstborn. Let’s just say that I think it would have helped a lot!

Before anything else, positioning your baby correctly to ensure a good latch is vital in minimising problems. Position, position, position! Fortunately there is quite a bit of advice out there on how to work on getting a good latch. I’m not going to go into that here.

Another thing to note is that thrush infections are very often shared and passed between you and your baby, which is why I’ll mention a few treatments for both you and your baby’s mouth. A holistic approach is best for thrush, and you may have to look at your diet as well. I’m also not going to write about that now.

But, apart from a good latch, there are many ways in which the same spotless ingredients we use for so many other jobs can help with sore nipples and yeast infections. Here are some:

Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar) is very soothing and healing and is excellent for treating or avoiding thrush. If you have an infection, dab a few drops of neat vinegar round your nipples regularly, especially after each feed. Otherwise – or instead – dilute a tablespoon (or more – up to half a cup) of vinegar in half a cup of water. Even better, dilute the vinegar with half a cup of Rooibos, rose water or rose petal tea (more about these below). You can wash your nipples with this solution after each feed, dab some on using cotton wool, or spray it on occasionally. Also add a cup of vinegar to your bath water.

Roses

Roses are very soothing and healing to any sore, red or irritated skin (see my post on using roses for more info), and the same applies to sore nipples. Use rose petal vinegar on your nipples as described above, either neat or diluted. Or dilute any vinegar with rose water or rose petal tea. You can also add any of these, or some rose essential oil, to your bath.

Rooibos tea

This is another soothing, healing remedy for nipples (and all skin – see my other posts on Rooibos). It is anti-inflammatory andanti-microbial, so it will ease discomfort and protect against infection. Add a pot of strong Rooibos to your bath or use it to dilute the vinegar solution above. Or, wash your nipples in Rooibos or dab some on after feeds. You can also use warm wet teabags as a compress. Remember to allow your skin to dry before you cover up.

Here’s the solution I like most as it combines the benefits of all the above:

  • half a cup of rose petal vinegar, made with apple cider vinegar
  • half a cup of Rooibos tea.

I keep this in a spray bottle and just spray it on every now and then. The same solution is a brilliant skin toner, acne treatment and instant spray-on hair conditioner.

Olive and coconut oils

Both of these will help to treat and prevent dry or cracked nipples, as well as soothe and protect the skin. Both are anti-fungal and will help fight and prevent infections (the caprylic acid in coconut oil in particular is a potent anti-fungal agent). Both are safe for babies, but coconut oil is especially nutritious and easy to digest. Apply either or both to your nipples as often as you like. (Add a drop of tea tree, lavender, or rose essential oil to your olive and / or coconut oil to increase its effects.) You can also apply coconut oil to the inside of your baby’s mouth if s/he has a yeast infection. Use pure extra virgin oils.

Breast milk

Nature couldn’t be more convenient here. After feeds, squeeze out a little extra milk and rub it all over your nipples. It is the best remedy for soreness, redness, bleeding and cracking, and is also antibacterial. Be sure to let it dry, preferably in sunlight, before you cover up. This is because fungi and bacteria, and yeast in particular, thrive in moist, warm and dark environments. If you dohave a yeast infection, perhaps you should avoid this treatment anyway – yeast also thrives on the sugars in milk. Whatever the case, exposing your nipples to air and sunlight when possible is very beneficial.

(Breast milk is also great for soothing and clearing up the gooey eyes that babies often suffer from until their little tear ducts get sorted out. First clean the eye(s) with cooled boiled water. Even better, clean with cool Rooibos, rose water or rose petal tea, which are all soothing and anti-bacterial. Then squeeze a drop of breast milk into the affected eye(s). You can also squirt a tiny bit of breast milk into your baby’s nose to help clear up a blocked or runny nose.)

Washing

Avoid washing your nipples with soap, which dries out the skin and makes them more likely to get sore. Use plain water or a weak bicarb solution to wash. Adding any of the above-mentioned treatments to your bath water will also help.

This is also a good time to consider trying out the spotless laundry instructions. Residues from washing detergents and softeners can seriously aggravate sore and delicate skin. Bicarb, vinegar and tea tree oil are all excellent at eliminating yeast and will make sure any yeast spores in your laundry are killed. Most importantly, add a cup of white spirit vinegar to the final rinse of underwear, breast pads, bedding, baby clothes, towels, etc. (everything really).

If your baby has a yeast infection, you can also spray any moist areas, like baby’s armpits and folds, with a vinegar solution (seeabove), and swab the inside of baby’s cheeks with a weak bicarb solution (one teaspoon bicarb dissolved in a cup of cooled boiled water, or in a cup of cooled Rooibos tea) four times a day.

Happy breast feeding!