Breastfeeding and a Rash Around the Nipples

Certain conditions and trouble with feeding can trigger a rash around the nipples during or after breastfeeding. Although nipple rashes are not typically dangerous, they are uncomfortable and annoying, particularly when you're trying to feed. Because some conditions that cause nipple rashes will also affect your baby, it is essential to understand why rashes around the nipples occur and how you can treat symptoms. Discuss your baby's feeding habits with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant, who can offer advice specific to your situation.

A mother breastfeeding her baby outside. (Image: claudiodivizia/iStock/Getty Images)

Signs

A rash around the nipples as the result of breastfeeding ranges from minor to severe. Besides a rash, women typically experience other symptoms such as soreness, a burning sensation, pains that shoot through the breasts right after or while feeding, itching and redness. If severe, the rash will turn into blister-like bumps that will dry and cake over. Symptoms will linger anywhere from one day to several weeks.

Possible Causes

Irritation from breastfeeding, particularly if your baby is not latching on completely while feeding, will trigger a rash around the nipples. In addition, blebs, which develop when milk gets trapped in the tissue of the duct outlet, can cause a rash around the nipple area, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation explains. A similar condition, called a plugged nipple pore, causes rash-like bumps when a pore around the nipple becomes clogged with oil. A rash also occurs from thrush, a yeast infection. Skin problems like impetigo will also cause a nipple rash.

Treatment Options

Take about 200 mg of an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to help relieve any pain and inflammation of the rash; you should get your doctor's approval for any medications you take while breastfeeding. Wash the rash and your nipples gently with water and allow them to air-dry after every feeding. Hold a warm, damp washcloth to the rash or soak in a warm bath to help soften any blockages in the nipple area. See a doctor if you suspect an infection; he can give you an antifungal cream or antibiotic to help speed the healing process.

Prevention

Prevent rashes from reoccurring around the nipples by exposing your breasts to direct sunlight as much as possible throughout the day. Because sunlight kills bacteria and yeast, you can also hang your nursing bras to dry in the sun. Do not wear breast pads that are lined with plastic, which will irritate your skin and trap moisture and milk against your nipples and pores. Change your nursing or breast pads after every feeding.

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