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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sore & cracked nipples

Nipple pain is one of the most common reasons for mothers giving up breastfeeding.

Nipple tenderness is normal in the first days after you start breastfeeding. Your nipples may feel tender for up to 30 seconds at the beginning of each feed if your pēpi (baby) is latched well, but this tenderness should ease as they suckle.

You'll often feel the peak of the pain or tenderness between three to six days after giving birth.

Causes of ongoing nipple pain

Nipple pain can be caused by problems with your baby's position and if they aren't latching at your breast correctly. Latching can be difficult, especially if your breasts are engorged (too full).

Infections, or a problem with your baby's tongue (tongue tie) can also cause nipple pain.


If you have nipple pain or tenderness for longer than 30 seconds into each feed, or if you continue to have sore or damaged nipples or breast pain after five to six days, see your midwife, GP, lactation consultant or breastfeeding support person as soon as possible.

Treating ongoing nipple pain

The first thing your midwife or lactation consultant will do is check your baby's position and latch at your breast and correct any latching difficulties.

Your pain will usually go away in a few days once your pēpi baby is feeding correctly.

Other treatment will depend on what is causing the pain and may include pain relief or a course of antibiotics if you have an infection.

You and your pēpi may need antifungal treatment if you have thrush of the nipple.

Getting help with nipple pain

If you're worried about your breasts or breastfeeding or if you need any help, contact your midwife, GP, practice nurse, breastfeeding support service, lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counsellor, or breastfeeding support group. See Getting help with breastfeeding.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.


See also:

Getting help with breastfeeding

Page reference: 45602

Review key: HIBRF-24381