Products You Should Never Use To Treat Sore Nipples

Petroleum Jelly. Lee Rogers/E+/Getty Images

If you are breastfeeding and develop sore, cracked or bleeding nipples, you may be tempted to treat them yourself with over-the-counter nipple creams, ointments or lotions. While there are a few nipple moisturizers, such as 100% purified lanolin, that are safe and effective for nursing mothers to use, many common over-the-counter products are not helpful. Some can even be dangerous for your baby and cause further damage to your nipples.

Do not use any of the products listed below.

Products You Should Never Use To Treat Sore Nipples:  

  • Numbing Creams: If your nipples are sore, do not try to numb them with a numbing cream. Creams that numb your skin can interfere with your let-down reflex and may numb your baby's mouth. Ice, on the other hand, is safe to use to numb your nipple just before your baby latches on. However, do not apply ice directly onto your skin. Wrap the ice or place a layer of cloth between the ice and your nipple to protect your skin.
  • Unpurified Lanolin: Lanolin that has not been purified can cause allergic reactions, especially in those who are allergic to wool. You should only use medical grade 100% pure lanolin products.
  • Vitamin E Creams: Unless prescribed by your doctor, you should never use vitamin E cream on your nipples or the surrounding skin. It can be very dangerous if your baby takes in high levels of vitamin E through exposure at your breast.
  • Petroleum Products and Diaper Rash Ointments: Petroleum products and diaper rash creams do not allow air to flow to your skin. These products can clog the glands on your breasts. They can also pose a danger to your baby if they are not washed off your breasts completely before you breastfeed.
  • Anything That Contains Alcohol: Skin products made with alcohol may cause further drying and cracking of your nipples.

    Sore nipples can develop for a variety of reasons, so it's important to treat the cause as well as the symptoms. It's always best to see your health care provider for an examination before using any products on your breasts or nipples. Your doctor or lactation consultant can provide you with the best treatment options for your individual situation.


    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.

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