I’ve Got Nipple Soreness and Cracking from Breastfeeding. Should I use Lanolin?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Hi, it’s Nice to “see” you again. Today, I’m going to talk about a question I get quite often from breastfeeding moms: “I’ve got nipple soreness, cracking and chafing from breastfeeding. Should I use lanolin?” Before I tell you my answer, which I’m sure you already know, I want to give you some important background.
(I believe it’s important to have all of the facts before forming an opinion.)
Natural Remedies for Nipple Soreness and Cracking
As you may or may not know, in addition to lanolin, natural treatments for nipple soreness, cracking and chafing include:
- warm water compresses
- tea bag compresses
- application of expressed mother’s milk
- vitamin A
- hydrogel therapy
- glycerin gel therapy
- moist occlusive dressing
- education regarding proper latch and positioning.
Naturally, education regarding proper latch and positioning is always the first treatment to use, and includes break latch and relatch or trying a different hold and/or reclining while breastfeeding.
Even with all of these natural remedies, nipple soreness, cracking and chafing remain one of the top three reasons why moms discontinue breastfeeding.
Among all treatments, the most widely used is lanolin ointment/cream. Is lanolin’s popularity because of its effectiveness?
In over 45 years of working with the breastfeeding community, I have concluded the use seems to be based more on tradition than actual effectiveness of the lanolin. Studies have also shown this to be true. We will get to the research; first we need to look at the properties of lanolin.
What is Lanolin?
Lanolin, from the Latin words lāna (meaning ‘wool’) and oleum (meaning ‘oil’), is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. It’s this wax that’s chemically processed into lanolin. (I should note that lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool.)
Now, if this definition doesn’t make you look twice about using lanolin on your body, it should concern you that you’re using it on your sore, cracked nipples prior to and while breastfeeding your child.
Concerns About Using Lanolin
What else don’t I like about lanolin? Glad you asked.
- Messy and sticky to apply
- Must wash off before breastfeeding
- Animal-based product
- Chemically extracted from sheep’s wool with residual amounts remaining in the lanolin
- Irritates sensitive skin
- Can cause allergic reactions
- Does not provide protection against infection
- Non-breathable product that can promote bacterial growth
Doesn’t sound that great, does it? Conversely, in studies and reviews, peppermint has shown to have multiple benefits. (I’m happy to send you a list of these resources, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Right out of the gate, natural peppermint works two ways: prophylactically preventing sore, cracked nipples and actively treating sore, cracked nipples.
All-Natural, Lanolin-Free Treatment for Nipple Soreness
So there you have it: Peppermint is shown to be a better treatment than lanolin.
As for Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel, it’s the only water-based, vegan, all-natural product designed specifically for breastfeeding moms. I’m proud to say it’s also:
- Free of parabens, phthalates and petrochemicals
- Safe for mom and baby
- World Health Organization (WHO) Code Compliant
- Pharmacist formulated
- Contains cooling peppermint that soothes on contact
- Uses no harmful chemical processes
- Cruelty free
Peppermint in Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel
Let me give you two examples of how small the amount of peppermint in Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel is both effective and safe:
Example #1: If the mother puts as much as 1 mL of gel on her nipples, when the baby feeds the next time, even if the baby ingested entirely 1 mL of gel, the baby would ingest only 0.002 mL of the peppermint oil. Note: 1 mL equals 1/5th teaspoonful.
Example #2: Let us assume the mother would put on at most 0.5 mL, which would result in the baby ingesting 0.001 mL. Now, let us assume that by the time the baby breastfeeds, the mother absorbs 1/2 of the peppermint oil and/or it rubs off her nipple. Now, the baby would be ingesting 0.0005 mL. Finally, assume the baby is able to ingest as much as half of what is in/on the mother’s nipples, in addition to several ounces of breast milk. The baby would not ingest more than 0.00025 mL of peppermint oil, a vastly insignificant amount (1/200,000th teaspoonful).
Two more reassuring facts
The dosage used in the single clinical trial for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in children was 0.1 mL three times daily for children weighing less than 45 kg (99 lb, 3 oz). See the study HERE.
Two pounds of peppermint candies contain 1.25 mL to 2.5 mL peppermint oil. Each one-ounce serving of candy contains 0.4 mL to 0.8 mL of peppermint oil, which would be safe for children to eat.
Do I recommend lanolin for treating sore, cracked, chapped nipples caused by breastfeeding? No, I don’t. As I’ve just demonstrated, peppermint water has been shown to be a more effective and better treatment for sore, cracked nipples. In terms of its safety, thousands of mothers have used Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel without any known safety issues.
While peppermint in relatively high doses has the potential to decrease milk supply, this has not been reported by any user of Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel to date. There has also been no report of adverse effects on mothers or babies or on milk supply with any of the studies I discussed.
I am available almost anytime and happy to provide free consultations on medications and breastfeeding and all related topics, unless I am on a medical mission in Haiti (check out the non-profit I support with all of my personal proceeds from the sales of Dr. Nice’s Moisturizing Gel). If I don’t know the answer, I will find the breastfeeding expert needed to help you.
Until next time, thanks for reading and remember: Never give up!
Frank J. Nice, RPh, DPA, CPHP