Lanolin-Free Nipple Cream Alternatives

Options for vegans and those with lanolin-sensitivity
baby nursing at mother's breast
© Can Stock Photo / Artung

Treatment for nipple pain has largely been the domain of lanolin, a waxy, yellow substance derived from wool, but there are times you may need a nipple cream alternative. When breastfeeding is new for a mother and child, it is normal to experience some discomfort, whether from a poor latch, from sensitive skin, or from cracked or sore nipple tissue.

Lactation consultants, midwives, doulas, and doctors alike have all recommended purified lanolin as a skin barrier and to facilitate moist wound healing. Moist wound healing is a method used to encourage the regeneration of skin using a moist environment to prevent scabbing.

Unless you have a lanolin allergy, this treatment is safe for you and baby. However, if you have sensitive skin, which can be aggravated by pesticides in the wool, or practice a vegan lifestyle, you may want to avoid lanolin. We’ve put together a list of nipple cream alternatives that can be beneficial to new moms experiencing pain.

1. Hind Milk

Hind milk, the thick creamy milk that you produce towards the end of a feeding has been shown to be just as effective as lanolin for nipple pain. Simply rub a little into the sore skin after each feeding. It’s safe for baby and it's free!

2. Unrefined Coconut Oil

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and rich in antioxidants, organic raw coconut oil (avoid refined, purified and liquid forms) provides a deep moisture that absorbs quickly. As a bonus, coconut oil has also been shown to strengthen underlying tissues and remove excess dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Safe for baby.

3. Organic Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil has healing and anti-inflammatory properties and you’ve probably already got some in your kitchen! Use an organic version and be sure to wash away before baby nurses.

4. Manuka Honey

Honey is known for being anti-bacterial and manuka honey in particular is known for its healing properties. Manuka honey has been shown to effectively fight and kill bacteria containing Streptococcus pyogenes. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) is a quality rating that indicates the level of components that give it its antimicrobial qualities.

A note about honey:

  • The only two types of honey that you should attempt this with are manuka and pure, unrefined honey. Never apply conventional grocery store “Grade A” honey to wounds as this could possibly worsen your condition.

  • Always wash your breast and nipple well before feeding baby when using a manuka treatment. Babies should not be exposed to it until they are at least 12 months of age.

5. Nipple Cream

Look for commercial nipple creams that only contain ingredients that can be safely ingested by baby. Some better brands include such things as extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, marshmallow root, and calendula.

Other natural options for relieving breast pain

  • Relax with a warm compress before baby latches. This helps relieve engorgement, and softens and relaxes the nipple, encouraging let-down.
  • Apply a cold compress between feedings under your arms and to your breasts to reduce swelling. Apply for 15-20 minutes as needed.
  • Hand-express a little milk if your nipple and areola are hard, and massage the breast gently to encourage flow.
  • Go topless as much as possible, and let the air dry your nipples.
  • Avoid soap on your nipples unless you are treating open wounds. Soap can be drying and strip the skin of natural oils. Water is all you need to keep your nipples clean.
  • Frequent, consistent nursing and/or pumping is important for maintaining your supply; nursing your baby will help improve your situation, so stick to it.

Often, sore and cracked nipples are a result of a poor latch and can be corrected with some guidance from a doula, lactation consultant, or nurse. Reach out to your local La Leche League USA or La Leche League Canada for support and expertise to help make your breastfeeding experience as wonderful as it can be!

*Originally published January 8, 2016