Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 12th August 2021

Lots of new moms seek normalcy and routine exercise during the first stages of motherhood. It’s that feeling of ‘everything’s changed, and my life looks completely different to a few months ago, but at least I can still go for a jog.’ So it sucks if that little slice of normality is snatched away from you because of something like sore nipples. That’s why taking care of them properly is so important. From runner's nipples to nipple chafing, we’re here to talk about nipple care for all moms

How does nipple chafing happen?

  • Chafing is a common skin problem caused by any combination of friction, moisture, and irritating fabric. Prolonged rubbing on the skin makes your skin sting or burn, and you develop a mild, red rash. In severe cases, chafing will include swelling, bleeding, or crusting. So generally, just not pleasant. 

  • Two of the most common causes of nipple chafing are exercise (specifically endurance sports such as biking or running) and breastfeeding/pumping. If you’re a feeding mom and a runner or a cyclist, you’ll likely have a higher chance of experiencing nipple chafing, so it’s best to make sure you’re taking precautions and keeping them safe.

Nipple care while exercising

If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing nipple chafing or not, the most common symptoms are:

  • Redness

  • Irritated, chapped, flaking skin

  • Burning or stinging

  • Pain ranging from minor tenderness to intense

  • Bleeding

  • Open sores or scabs

If you’re susceptible to nipple chafing while exercising, then it’s best to take some precautions beforehand. Arm yourself with these tips and tricks, and you might be able to avoid the chafe:

  • Lubrication – Petroleum jelly (vaseline) can do the job and keep your nipples from chafing (is there anything Vaseline can’t do?!). It can be difficult to wash out of clothing, though, so if you’re going down this route, a dedicated anti-chafing nipple product may be a better call.

  • Nipple tape/covers – There are various products to keep your nipples safe whilst exercising; medical tape can also do the job. Some of these options do come with some downsides of not sticking well due to sweat or being uncomfortable to take off, so make sure you’re using the right product for you.

  • Clothing – Usually, the best solution is wearing specific clothing that’s designed for exercising. Moving away from cotton towards synthetic materials can usually help as they’ll be softer and sweat-wicking.

If you’re already suffering from chafed nipples, your best bet will be taking a few days off from exercising, keeping your nipples clean, and applying vaseline when needed. So that’s official permission to skip that run and put your feet up. 

Nipple care while breastfeeding and pumping

Breastfeeding with chafed nipples can be painful, so first things first, if you’re exercising, make sure you’re following the recommendations above to avoid it.

If you’re breastfeeding with chafed nipples, you need to ensure your baby is latching correctly and not making your nipples worse. Here’s how to make sure they’re latching correctly.

  1. Hold your baby close with its nose level with your nipple.

  2. Tip its head back a little with its top lip touching your nipple. This encourages them to open their mouth wide.

  3. Position its mouth so that its chin touches your breast first, ensuring its head is tipped back – this enables your baby’s tongue to access as much breast as possible, and your nipple should be toward the roof of its mouth.

  4. When your baby is suckling, its chin should firmly touch your breast, and its nose should be clear of any obstructions. Your baby’s cheeks will look full and rounded as it feeds.

Outside of this, you can pump or express milk with your hand if breastfeeding is too uncomfortable or making your nipples worse.

You can also help your nipples recover through the following methods:

  • First, moisturize with breast milk – that might sound very Gwenyth Paltrow, but breast milk actually works to be a pretty awesome balm for your nipples. Then, spread any excess around your nipples after feeding or squeeze a few drops out and rub them onto your nipples.

  • Add a breastfeeding-safe cream – applying a thin layer of breastfeeding-safe nipple cream can help keep your nipples moisturized and recover quicker. This can be used in tandem with your own breast milk and doesn’t need to be washed off afterward as they’re baby safe.

  • Wear breast shells – a breast shell or collection cup-like Elvie Catch can help stop your nipples from further chafing on your clothes if that remains an issue.

As we said initially, exercise is so important to lots of new moms, especially for their mental wellbeing. So look after those nipples, and don’t let chafing get in the way of you and your fitness goals.