Prevention of and Therapies for Nipple Pain: A Systematic Review


  • Kristine Morland-Schultz,

    1. Kristine Morland-Schultz, MS, RN, is a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at OSF – Saint Francis Medical Center, Children's Hospital of Illinois (CHOI), Peoria.
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  • Pamela D. Hill

    Corresponding author
    1. Pamela D. Hill, PhD, RN, CBE, FAAN, is a professor in Maternal Child Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Address for correspondence: Pamela D. Hill, PhD, RN, CBE, FAAN, Maternal Child Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1515 5th Avenue, suite 400, Moline, IL 61265. E-mail:


Objective: To review the literature on nipple pain and to delineate effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of nipple pain in breastfeeding mothers.

Data Sources: Computerized searches on MEDLINE, Pre-MEDLINE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library.

Study Selection: Articles from indexed journals relevant to the objective were reviewed from January 1983 to April 2004. Preference was given to research-based studies in English.

Data Extraction: Data were extracted and organized under two headings: prevention of nipple pain or trauma and treatment of nipple pain or trauma. The Critical Appraisal Form by J. Briggs was used to extract the data from research-based articles.

Data Synthesis: The health benefits of breastfeeding for mother and infant are well documented; however, nipple pain is a common reason reported by women for the early termination of breastfeeding. Several studies have compared various treatments for either the prevention of or treatment for nipple pain. These treatments include warm water compresses, tea bag compresses, heat, application of expressed mother's milk, lanolin, vitamin A, collagenase, dexpanthenol, hydrogel therapy, glycerin gel therapy, moist occlusive dressing, education regarding proper latch-on and positioning, and no treatment.

Conclusions: No one topical agent showed superior results in the relief of nipple discomfort. The most important factor in decreasing the incidence of nipple pain is the provision of education in relation to proper breastfeeding technique and latch-on as well as anticipatory guidance regarding the high incidence of early postpartum nipple pain.