Nipple cream, nipple balm, nipple salve, nipple ointment…. Whatever you call it, when you start breastfeeding you will need some, and most new moms reach for a lanolin nipple balm. I did. But then I learned what was actually in lanolin and I stopped using it immediately.
The first few weeks of breastfeeding are the most difficult, but you can get through it, especially with the right balm. I remember a few nights where Adam would hand the baby and when he would latch on it would take everything I had to not let out a cry and scare him. My nipples were SO raw. It lasted 6 weeks with Julian, my first, until my nipples toughened up enough to not want to cry every time I fed him. It sucks, but it passes. It’s kinda like when you wear close toed shoes all winter and then break out the flip flops in spring and that area in between your toes hurts until it gets used to the flip flops again… but like times a million. The one thing that got me through it was my nipple balm, I tried a couple store bought ones after Julian was born. I rubbed some on after every single feeding! I had it by my bed and in my diaper bag to make sure it was easily within reach after every feeding. BUT! When I was breastfeeding Charlie, my second son, I made my own and that was by far the best one!!
Not all nipple balms are created equal.
Ingredients were really important to me. Yes, it’s for mommy’s nipples, but it’s going into baby’s mouth so I wanted to make sure it was natural and healthy for baby. Unfortunately, this was an after thought for me the first time, but I hope after reading this article you’ll pick the right one from the start and avoid my mistake.
Probably the most popular nipple balms are the Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream or the Medela Tender Care Lanolin. These were the ones that were recommended to me when I was pregnant by other moms so I bought some thinking I’d be ahead of the game once baby came. I used it for a little while, it honestly didn’t seem to work that well, but I had no reference at this point, it was my first time nursing a baby and I thought that my nipples were just meant to hurt. Then I started thinking more about the balm and then I realized I had no idea what lanolin even was.
What’s Exactly in Lanolin Nipple Balm?
So, I looked it up and lanolin is a byproduct of wool. It’s also called wool wax or wool grease and it’s secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. It’s basically what keeps a sheep’s wool waterproof and their skin protected. It has many uses by humans, nipple balm is one of them, but others range from lubricants, rust-preventatives, shoe polish, cosmetics, and even baseball players use it to soften and break in their gloves. So, it’s kind of a catch all lubricant, but again, it’s going into baby’s mouth multiple times a day so I kept researching.
Here’s the thing, let’s go back to those sheep. Sheep sound natural, right? Well, not exactly. To make it usable for us, people have to process the lanolin and purify it to remove dirt, sweat, dust, pollen, fecal matter and pesticides. Yes, farmers treat sheep with pesticides because, like a dog with fleas, sheep’s wool makes a nice, cozy home for all types of bugs like fleas and mites. Scientists have studied lanolin samples and found traces of several types of pesticides. And they found that the toxins can accumulate in breastmilk. Ingesting these pesticides directly or via mother’s milk is dangerous for a baby and their brand new sensitive systems. Depending how much is ingested it can cause allergies or poisoning.
Once I learned all of this it was clear to me that lanolin shouldn’t be used as a nipple balm. I was frustrated that I even used it in the first place, but the only thing I could do now is get a better one. I wanted a balm that not only protected my nipples from the pain of nursing for the first time, but that actually had some healing properties to help restore my skin. I searched for natural, organic, and healthier balms and found plenty of options!
I didn’t have access to all of these at the time since I needed to buy some on island in a bit of a crunch, but if you are keen to use Amazon then you’ve got lots of choices. Here are my top 3 picks for the best lanolin-free, natural, and organic nipple balms:
- Upsrping Nipple Balm – This is the one I bought on island and I really love it. It’s USDA Certified Organic, uses a coconut oil base, and contains calendula flower and rosemary seed extract. Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal, and it moisturizes the skin very well. Calendula reduces pain and swelling when applied to skin, and rosemary seed extract is an antioxidant that is also thought to help fight free-radicals. Ingredients: Organic coconut oil, organic beeswax, organic sunflower seed oil, organic shea butter, organic cocoa seed butter, organic calendula flower extract, organic rosemary seed extract.
- Cora Organic’s Organic Nipple Balm – with Coconut Oil and Chamomile – I like this one because it’s also USDA Certified Organic, they only use 6 ingredients and they are all plant-based. Their proprietary blend of essential oils have natural healing properties, while their plant based moisturizers prevent cracking and dryness, and with every purchase, they give pads (panty liners) to girls in need. Ingredients: Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Shea Butter, Organic Beeswax, Organic Sunflower Seed Oil, Organic Marshmallow Leaf/Root Extract, Organic Chamomile Extract
- Boob-ease by Bamboobies – Organic Nipple Balm, lanolin free, and only 5 ingredients. I am a huge fan of Bamboobies, not only for their nipple cream and nursing pads, but also their story. I love an entrepreneur with a strong mission. She had the idea and she ran with it! But back to the nipple balm. This one is Certified Organic by the USDA and Oregon Tilth, which is a non-profit organic certifier in the US. Oregon Tilth has been around since the mid 70s and they shaped the standards for the 1990 Organic Food Production Act in the US and they are recognized in 7 countries worldwide. Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, marshmallow root, calendula flower.
Or….The Best Option!
- Make it yourself!! – This is the BEST one by far! It wasn’t till my my second pregnancy that I discovered the amazing health benefits of essential oils. During my pregnancy I made my own belly butter to help moisturize and nourish my stretching belly skin and then the next step was to make my own nipple balm once baby Charlie arrived. You can find my recipe for the nipple balm I made HERE. It took the painful stage from 6 weeks to 2 weeks! Ingredients: Mango butter, bee’s wax, almond oil, coconut oil, essential oils: lavender, geranium, frankincense, helichrysum, Roman chamomile.
Once I switched from lanolin based nipple balm to the Upspring organic and natural nipple balm and then to my own homemade version, my poor, raw nipples actually started healing! It was such a game changer and I had peace of mind knowing that my baby was ingesting natural and organic ingredients. I was one happy momma!
The bonus to these balms too is that once your nipples are healed and used to nursing you’ll stop needing the balm for yourself and you can use it for baby! When Julian started drooling like crazy at around 3 months and sucking on his hands nonstop, his little chin, cheeks, and hands, would get chapped with red bumps. We made it part of our nightly routine before bed to put the nipple balm on his face and a little on his hands and it really helped his skin! Nipple balm can be used for chapped lips, rough cuticles, rashes, diaper cream, or even breast pump lube.
If you’re pregnant or nursing currently I highly recommend making your own nipple balm, and if you don’t want to please use one of the organic and natural ones I mentioned above. Stay away from lanolin – it’s not healthy for you or baby and it won’t help heal your nipples.
Let me know in the comments if you have made your own nipple balm or which natural one your chose instead!