Eczema on Nipples, Areola or Breast whilst Breastfeeding
Should I still breastfeed if I have eczema on my nipples?
Yes, you can continue to breastfeed, it is completely safe for your baby. In most cases eczema can be managed successfully, so that symptoms decrease and breastfeeding is manageable.
Eczema found on the nipples and breasts of nursing mothers is not uncommon. It usually occurs after a few months of nursing. The mother should be sure to fist rule out the possibility of thrush. The symptoms of thrush are mentioned here.
The symptoms of eczema may include itching, burning and raised red skin (not so much on the nipple itself, but mostly on the areola). The skin usually first shows tiny fluid filled blisters, which then crust over. The skin may seem weepy or crusty.
There are things that might decrease the severity and symptoms. Steroid creams are often used for Eczema of the nipples. Be sure to let your doctor or midwife know that you are nursing before he/she prescribes a cream. Most creams are compatible with breastfeeding if applied immediately after breastfeeding and wiped off again before the next nursing session. You might want to ask your midwife to culture your breast before prescribing a cream, this would be a good idea because Staphylococcus aureus could also cause skin irritation.
Causes of Eczema & Eczema Control Tips
- Use as little soap or no soap when washing your nipples. All you need is a little water to rinse them. The Montgomery glands on the areola secrete a substance which keeps your nipples clean and hydrated. The oily secretion that Montgomery glands produce contain antimicrobial factors that help to prevent germs from growing.
- Keep your nipples dry by replacing any nursing pads often. Some brands of disposable breast pads may cause irritation.
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- Use natural laundry detergents and avoid the use of perfume. Keep your clothes away from bleach.
- Stress is a huge trigger for eczema on nipples. I know it's not an easy one to control, but keep this in mind.
- Your diet definitely has a role to play. You may be experiencing an allergic reaction to a specific food. Dairy and sugar are common allergens. A gluten sensitivity can also lead to skin issues.
- Get your Iron levels tested. Your body is better equipped to heal itself when your red blood count and Iron levels are good. Desiccated liver caps are the healthiest source.
- Scratching will definitely worsen symptoms as well as pose as an infection risk.
- Avoiding hot showers are recommended. Be mindful of other harmful ingredients in shampoos or soaps while showering.
- Always rinse off after a swim in chlorinated water.
- Some mothers may be allergic to spandex, latex and dying agents. All of these can be found in most tops and bras. Its best to switch to organic, untreated, undyed, 100% cotton.
- A family history of eczema does make a flare up more likely.
- Using a breast pump on a high suction may damage and irritate the skin, causing the onset of eczema.
- Some brands of teething gels may trigger eczema on nipples.
- Some nipple creams and ointments may be the cause. Even Lanolin, which is the “go to" nipple cream for most mothers can cause an allergic reaction in some. Lanolin is obtained from the wool of sheep who are often sprayed with chemicals. Ultra purified lanolin is best to use.
- Some mycostatin formulations used to treat yeast infections may also cause irritation of the skin because they contain preservatives.
- Your baby’s sweat may cause a flare up. Your own sweat may also cause issues.
- You may develop eczema symptoms when your baby starts eating solids. This may be due to an allergic reaction to a food substance in the baby’s saliva. If this is the case, it is best to wipe the baby’s mouth out with water before breastfeeding.
Natural Treatment options for Nipple Eczema
- What is the best cream for nipple eczema? Use a non-allergic nipple cream to keep your nipples moisturized. A wonderful, natural alternative would be to use Virgin Organic coconut oil.
The use of nipple shields can be very helpful, but should only be used as a last resort. Nipple shields can reduce stimulation at the breast and therefore reduce supply. But, in the end it is better to have the baby at the breast with a nipple shield than to stop breastfeeding altogether.
Paget's Disease while Breastfeeding
It is imperative that a mother with ongoing (longer than three weeks with treatment) eczema symptoms see her doctor to rule out a rare form of cancer called Paget’s disease. This type of cancer typically only affects one breast. Early detection of this cancer is vital.
Breastfeeding could become a difficult task if you are not supported and guided during the challenges that may arise. Lack of support could make breastfeeding seem impossible. Please contact your local IBCLC.
After seeing a lactation consultant, you still feel that the eczema is too much to bare, you might want to consider pumping exclusively.
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