Some nursing moms sail through breastfeeding with nary a wince or twinge of discomfort while others experience pain in the form of sore or even cracked nipples. (If you fall into the latter category, take [emotional] comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. One 2013 study found that 44% of breastfeeding moms had issues with nipple pain.) While figuring out the why behind nipple discomfort is key for pain-free breastfeeding, uncomfy moms can find much-needed relief in the interim in the form of a nipple cream.
“Nipple pain during breastfeeding is highly prevalent, with up to 10% of moms experiencing it one week into the process,” says Dr. Felice Gersh, a board-certified OB-GYN in Irvine, California. “I’ve even heard some moms describe the pain as ‘excruciating.’ Nipple creams can help soothe tender areas and allow moms to comfortably continue nursing. However, nipple pain is often an indication that the baby isn’t latching onto the breast properly and positioning and technique need adjusting.”
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Professor Diane Spatz, who is also a Nurse Scientist for the Lactation Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, agrees, saying pain shouldn’t be an issue for breastfeeding moms.
“Nursing mothers should feel pressure, not pain,” Spatz says. “If there’s pain, it needs to be evaluated. Over 90% of the time, pain is attributed to the infant not being attached to the breast correctly.”
That said, Spatz explains that if nursing moms do experience nipple trauma, products containing lanolin (a common nipple cream ingredient) or hydrogel pads may offer some relief.
Can’t take the pain or discomfort anymore? Here are 10 nipple creams to consider when breastfeeding.
1. Best overall
Peruse the breastfeeding section of any store and you’ll likely see a tube of Lansinoh Nipple Cream (which, by the way, boasts a 4.7 out of 5 rating on Amazon from almost 6,000 customer reviews). The reason for its pervasiveness? Lanolin is the No. 1 nipple cream ingredient recommended by doctors.
“Unless there’s an allergy, look for a nipple cream with lanolin,” says Gersh. “Studies confirm that lanolin comforts the nipples the best. That’s not to say that other products aren’t effective, but in head- to-head studies, lanolin comes out on top or equal to the alternatives.”
Where to buy: Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream ($9, Lansinoh)
2. Best for pumping mamas
Not all nursing moms breastfeed. Some pump exclusively or do some combination of both breastfeeding and pumping. For women who have a close, personal relationship with their breast pump, Boob-ease Organic Pumping Lubricant is a good choice. While it’s not a nipple cream in the traditional sense, it helps to reduce friction while pumping for more comfort. And it’s made from all-natural ingredients, like coconut oil, beeswax and cocoa butter to boot.
Where to buy: Boob-ease Organic Pumping Lubricant ($6, Bamboobies)
3. Most readily available (and affordable)
OK, so technically speaking, breast milk isn’t a nipple cream, but if you ask some moms and experts, it’s the best remedy out there.
“Whenever my nipples got sore, I put a little breast milk on them and it worked great,” says mom of two Michele Lee, of Garwood, New Jersey.
Breast milk is usually Spatz’s first recommendation for moms who are experiencing nipple discomfort.
“One of the best treatments for nipple pain is to express a little milk after breastfeeding or pumping and apply it all around her nipple,” she says. “Human milk is anti-microbial and healing to the skin.”
After applying the milk, Spatz advises letting the nipples air dry.
4. Best vegan option
For natural mamas who are looking for a completely plant-based balm for their sore breasts, Free the Nips Nursing Balm is a great option. We love it not only because of the all-natural, cruelty-free ingredients (think mango butter and calendula extract), but also because of their all-inclusive advertising.
“Whether you are expecting, breastfeeding, bottle feeding or simply tired from trying, you and your breasts deserve to be treated well,” their campaign boasts.
Where to buy: Free the Nips Nursing Balm ($13, Handmade Heroes)
5. Best all natural
Looking for the best natural nipple cream for breastfeeding? You just might have met your match with Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, which contains organic olive oil and organic shea butter.
“I try to use products that are as natural as possible in every aspect of my life, so Earth Mama Angel Baby hit the mark for me,” says mom of one Maria Tennant, of Maplewood, New Jersey. “I didn’t want to use something with lanolin in it.”
(Note: Lanolin is derived from sheep’s wool and can be irritating to anyone with a wool allergy. In the past, pesticide residue has been found in lanolin, but is now considered safe and even recommended by doctors.)
Where to buy: Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter ($9, Specialty Addition)
6. Best non-greasy formula
The unfortunate reality is that many nipple creams can leave a greasy residue behind, staining clothes, bras and nursing pillows. For something lighter — and non-staining — try Storq Nursing Balm, which absorbs quickly, has a light (all-natural) coconut scent and — we’d be remiss if we didn’t say this — comes in a chic little glass jar.
Where to buy: Storq Nursing Balm ($19, Storq)
7. Best cream-free alternative
Not everyone is keen on using a cream on their breasts when they’re nursing. But everyone wants relief from sore nipples. Enter the Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads.
“The only products that have been researched in regards to nipple pain are hydrogel pads and lanolin,” says Spatz. “I’ve heard many mothers comment on how soothing the hydrogel pads are.”
Where to buy: Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads ($8/four-pack; Target)
8. Best for cracked nipples
Sadly, cracked nipples can happen. And when they do, consider reaching for Motherlove Nipple Cream, which is rich (without lanolin) and contains soothing marshmallow root and calendula. This all-natural cream has more than 9,000 positive reviews on Amazon, with some mamas claiming to use it as a double-duty salve for breasts and chapped lips!
Where to buy: Motherlove Nipple Cream ($11, Amazon.com)
9. Best for sensitive skin
Moms with sensitive skin may want to be extra careful when choosing a nipple cream. It may take a little trial and error to find the right one for you, but for one mom, Nipple Nurture Butter was the best pick.
“Someone gave me Nipple Nurture Butter at my shower, and I didn’t think to use it until a few months into breastfeeding,” says mom of one Allison Green-Priddy, of Brooklyn, New York. “Initially, I tried one of the popular, super-thick ones, but I had a reaction. This one seemed to be the most soothing for me.”
Where to buy: Nipple Nurture Butter ($10, Bella B Naturals)
10. Best smelling
Indulge in the teensiest bit of luxury when you’re breastfeeding by using a nipple cream that smells good. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Nursing Butter smells like — you guessed it — cocoa butter. While you may not feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical beach or are spending the day at the spa, you can relax a little more knowing it’s free of parabens and phthalates and contains soothing pro-vitamin B5.
Where to buy: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Nursing Butter ($6, Palmers)