When I had both my babies, I was one of those mamas that had crazy engorgement and sore/cracked nipples. With my daughter Vienna, it was uncomfortable, but other than an infection that developed in one of my nipples I don’t remember it being that big of a deal. Not so with my son, Porter.
I had Porter at home on Christmas morning 2009. He nursed “like a champ” immediately after he was born – in fact he was still attached to me via his umbilical cord the first time he latched on. Right away, though, I knew he was different than Vienna had been two years earlier. He just felt different.
Vienna was one of those super-easy babies that nursed long, often, we never had any latch problems, she never had any stomach issues (other than once when she was six weeks), and she was just – easy. I nursed her to calm her, and she never had any times where she just wouldn’t calm down. With Porter, we learned quickly that he wasn’t quite as easy-going. He nursed pretty well until my milk came in – when it came with a vengeance. I was so engorged that my husband thought my breasts looked plastic. They were so full – and yes, they hurt! Well, the first night after my milk was in, we started to have some problems. Porter woke often, would eat for about five to ten minutes (tops), then go to sleep for about half an hour. He would then wake again and be *starving*. So, I would have to calm him down first (nursing didn't calm him), he would eat for about 5 minutes, get frustrated for a little while, might cry for a bit and then would fall asleep. It was a very exhausting cycle. This went on for several nights, by which time I was more engorged than ever, my nipples were so sore and cracked that I wanted to cry every time he tried to latch, and I just wanted him to nurse for a longer time, be satisfied longer, and get some sleep.
Luckily, my husband is amazingly supportive and wanted to help. So, he started doing some research online. Based on what he found, he suggested that I pump a little before I nursed so the baby could get a better latch which would in turn allow for a longer feed-time, and longer satisfaction, which would lead to more sleep for all of us. Thank goodness he cared enough to take the time and figure that out for me! I was so tired that I couldn’t think very straight, and having him give me that kind of support was just what I needed. I don’t have a fancy breast pump because I’ve never needed one since I stay home with the kids. I just have a little single handheld pump that was just perfect to take the edge off for me, and it gave my breasts enough “give” that Porter could get a good latch. That did it! He latched well, nursed for longer periods of time, had less frustration, and stayed satisfied longer than half an hour.
After all that, it took about a week or so for my nipples to fully heal, but with the help of Lansinoh ® Lanolin and Soothies® breast pads, the healing process wasn’t quite so bad.
I’m sure that there are more suggestions of what to do with sore/cracked nipples and how to deal with engorgement, but this is what worked for me personally. We’ll continue talking about breastfeeding here (among other pregnancy, birth, and baby topics), in the hopes of bringing useful information that can help you make the right decisions for you and your family.