Lanolin, a yellow wax-like substance extracted from wool, is used as a lubricant as well as a foundation for ointments and creams. Pure, medical-grade lanolin is often recommended to new breastfeeding mothers as a treatment option for sore nipples. Lanolin is only harmful to your nipples if you suffer from a lanolin allergy. In many cases, it helps prevent cracking and nipple pain.
Evidence for Lanolin Use
Lanolin has been shown to work better than other methods for breastfeeding mothers for reducing nipple pain in some cases. In a study published in the December 2010 issue of “Skin Pharmacology and Physiology,” researchers found that highly purified anhydrous, or HPA, lanolin decreased nipple pain during feedings faster than expressed breast milk. The study participants using only expressed breast milk to heal nipple trauma had pain intensity increase while the mothers using lanolin had pain diminish as soon as they began treatment. The nipple trauma healed faster in the lanolin group, and there were also fewer incidences of mastitis.
Why It Helps
Moist wound healing is the use of a moist environment to encourage skin to regenerate over a wound, according to the 2010 “Skin Pharmacology and Physiology" report. A moisture barrier is placed over an injury to prevent crusts or scabs from forming. This method is being used for treatment of burns and general wounds and can produce new skin growth 50 percent faster than other wound treatments. HPA lanolin has anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties.
A study published in the May-June 2013 issue of "Dermatitis" found an incidence of lanolin allergy in patch testing of 1.8 to 2.5 percent. Although relatively uncommon, this allergy could cause a contact dermatitis reaction such as rash on or around the nipples. A lanolin allergy could also cause dermatitis symptoms in a nursing infant. Stop using lanolin if you or your baby develop symptoms that indicate an allergy to lanolin.
A literature review conducted by Kristine Morland-Schultz and Pamela D. Hill published by the “Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing,” or JOGNN, in July 2006 found that topical treatments such as warm tea bags or water compresses applied at least 4 times per day in the first 5 days of breastfeeding were more effective than no treatment in preventing the nipple pain associated with early breastfeeding. Expressed breast milk has antibacterial properties, according to an article in the La Leche League publication "Leaven" published in 2000. Rubbing fresh hind milk, which has a higher fat content than the foremilk, into sore nipples following the feeding can soothe pain and reduces infection risk.
An August 2005 study in the "Saudi Medical Journal" reported that sore nipples treated with hind milk healed more quickly than those treated with lanolin. Because hind milk is easily available, free and has no side effects, the researchers recommended its use over lanolin.