As a parent, you want to do what’s best for your baby. But that can be hard when it comes to dealing with the discomfort that can come from breastfeeding. One of the most common remedies for nipple pain is a salt water solution: saline or epsom salt. Which one should you use? Let’s take a look at the differences between saline and epsom salt, and when each should be used to help relieve nipple pain.
Breastfeeding is an incredibly rewarding experience but can also come with a few uncomfortable pitfalls. One such pitfall is cracked nipples, which can interfere with successful breastfeeding. This common condition happens when the baby's mouth or tongue makes improper contact with the nipple, breaking down the delicate surface skin cells. Poor latching techniques can also cause cracked nipples, as can using breast pumps incorrectly. Taking breaks to air dry the nipples and applying nipple ointment may help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with cracked nipples. The most effective strategy for preventing cracked nipples? Connecting with a lactation consultant beforehand who can provide accurate advice and much-needed support along your breastfeeding journey.
What is Saline Solution?
Saline solution is a mix of sterile water and sodium chloride (table salt) in equal proportions. When performing a saline soak, it’s important to use non-iodized salt, as iodized salt may irritate your skin. You should also make sure that the water isn’t too hot—it should feel just slightly warmer than your skin temperature when you first start soaking your nipples. In terms of nipple pain, this solution can be applied directly to the affected area or even sprayed onto the nipples prior to breastfeeding. This helps prevent infection and discomfort while also promoting healing by keeping the area clean and moist.
What is Epsom Salt?
Epsom salt is different from regular table salt because it contains magnesium sulfate instead of sodium chloride. This makes it more effective in relieving inflammation due to its higher concentration of magnesium sulfate which helps reduce swelling, redness, and tenderness in sore nipples caused by breastfeeding. Applying a warm compress soaked with an Epsom Salt solution directly on the affected area can provide fast relief from nipple soreness and tenderness. This is especially helpful when trying to treat a milk blister or bleb.
When Should I Use Saline vs Epsom Salt?
If your nipples are feeling dry or cracked, then saline solution is the better choice since its main purpose is to keep the area moist and clean which will aid in healing faster than if you were to just let it air dry without any treatment. However, if your nipples are inflamed due to friction, then Epsom Salt would be more beneficial since its higher concentration of magnesium sulfate will help reduce swelling faster than saline alone could achieve. In either case, both solutions should not be applied directly onto open wounds since they may cause further irritation and discomfort instead of relief so please make sure that any wounds are properly cleaned before applying either solution as part of your treatment plan for nipple pain relief.
How Often Should I Use the Soak?
2-3 times per day
before nursing or pumping
7-8 times per day
after nursing or pumping
Just make sure not to overdo it—if you notice any redness or irritation after soaking your nipples then stop and let them rest for a few days before trying again. Once they start feeling better you can resume doing them regularly until they feel back to normal again.
How to Do a Soak
To do a soak, simply mix together the salt with 1 cup of warm water. Pour the solution into a clean bowl large enough to comfortably fit your breasts. Lean over the bowl so that your nipples are submerged in the liquid, and let them soak. Afterwards, gently pat your nipples dry with a clean towel. You should do this until your pain subsides.
Both saline solution and epsom salt can provide relief depending on what kind of issue you’re dealing with so make sure you know when each one should be used in order to get maximum benefit out of them! The healing process of cracked nipples is an important factor for any breast-feeding parent, but it's just as essential to identify the root cause in order to ensure a healthier experience. With these helpful tips, we hope that your nursing journey will go smoothly!
About the author: Kellie Green is a certified and licensed Speech Pathologist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who specializes in infant feeding. She operates a private practice in Columbus, OH, Green Living & Wellness.