Breastfeeding and The Use of Nipple Creams, Ointments and Lotions

Is It Helpful or Harmful?

Christine Glade/Getty Images

Nipple creams, ointments and lotions are not always needed. In general, if you are not experiencing any issues with your breasts or nipples, you don't have to put anything on your skin to try to prevent problems from arising. There are actually glands on your breasts, the Montgomery glands, that produce their own natural moisturizer to help keep your nipples clean and protected. Most of the time this is all you need.

Using a cream, ointment or lotion when it's not needed can actually cause more harm than good. Some products may contain ingredients that can irritate your skin. Plus, excessive moisture on your nipples and breasts, especially if you live in a humid area, can provide an environment for bacteria and fungus to grow. This can cause an infection, such as mastitis or thrush, to develop. If you do use any type of product and develop skin irritation or a rash stop using it immediately and consult your doctor.

It's also important to remember that not all skin products are safe to use while you are breastfeeding. There are even some products that you should never use to treat sore nipples, such as numbing creams and vitamin E, because they could harm your baby if they remain on your breast and your baby ingests them. Ointments with scents or flavors are also problematic since they can change the taste of your breast milk and cause a nursing strike.

There are times, however, when it does make sense to use a nipple cream, ointment or lotion. If you have a skin condition on your breast, live in a dry climate, or you are experiencing problems with your nipples, these products may be helpful or necessary. There are certain soothing moisturizers that are made from 100% pure medical grade lanolin, or all-natural, organic ingredients that are are designed specifically for breastfeeding mothers.

Products such as these can safely be used to heal dry, cracked, sore nipples so that breastfeeding can feel more comfortable. If you suffer from a skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis on your breasts and nipples, you may need to be treated with a steroid cream or ointment, while soreness due to an infection could require the use of an antibiotic or antifungal medication. Your doctor can properly diagnose and treat these types of conditions. Be sure to tell the doctor that you're breastfeeding, and if a steroid or other type of cream or ointment is prescribed, you should put in on after you breastfeed then wash your breasts well before you start the next feeding.

Overall, if your baby latches on correctly from the start and you do your best to take care of your nursing breasts, you should not need to use any additional products. However, if any problems do arise, talk to a lactation consultant or your health care provider before using any creams, ointments or lotions on your breasts or nipples.

Your doctor can perform an examination and provide you with information on the products that are both safe and effective for your specific needs.   



American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

Continue Reading