Dry nipples during pregnancy: causes and remedies

Medically reviewed July 2022
dry nipples during pregnancy Naytal

Dry cracked nipples are a common issue when you are pregnant and it is a perfectly normal condition to experience. Your breasts will change beyond recognition when you’re pregnant and will continue to do so for a while after you have had the baby too. As the breasts grow and stretch the nipple area in particular can become quite dry and itchy as well as a bit cracked and sore.

Here we share why you might get dry, itchy or crusty nipples during pregnancy and what you can do to help.

Is it normal to have dry or crusty nipples during pregnancy?

It is very normal to experience dry nipples even early on during your pregnancy. As the pregnancy hormones settle in, there can be a whole host of changes going on in your body, (some more fun than others!) including dry and sometimes flaky skin on and around the breasts and nipples.

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Why might you get dry nipples during pregnancy?

There are two main reasons for dry nipples during pregnancy:

  • the natural growths of your breasts causing changes to your skin
  • and the production of colostrum milk.

As the breasts get ready to produce all that wonderful milk for your baby, they swell and grow. This leads to stretched skin which can at times become thinner and dry as a result of the excess growth.

The breasts may also start to produce colostrum (first milk for the baby). This colostrum may leak in droplets that then dry out and form a slightly crusty layer over the nipple. This is perfectly normal and happens to a lot of women during pregnancy and beyond.

What can help?

As with any dry skin issues, keeping yourself well hydrated is one of the key things you can do to help. Drinking 2-3 litres of water per day helps to keep you and your skin well hydrated and supple.

During your pregnancy any moisturising creams that you usually use on your body should also be safe on the breasts. You only really have to worry about what you are using on your breasts, as and when you start expressing colostrum or breastfeeding.

Having said that, some women can experience more sensitive skin during their pregnancies in which case very mild, gentle, unperfumed products might be more suitable.

What products are safe to use during pregnancy?

Any mild soaps or moisturisers should be perfectly safe to use. We would advise that you don’t start using any new products; stick to what you know and what your body is accustomed to.

If the nipples become sore or cracked as a result of any dryness you can always try a simple lanolin based nipple cream or vaseline. You may need to use a breast pad after applying either of these.

If you are already producing colostrum you could also express a few droplets of this wonderful golden milk and rub that into the nipples. Colostrum has incredible antibacterial and soothing properties and can really help with dry cracked skin. You can leave the breasts to air dry after application. This can also help if you have any issues with cracked nipples when breastfeeding.

How should I clean nipples during pregnancy?

You can clean your breasts as normal during pregnancy, but we would advise using a mild gentle soap, nothing too heavily perfumed.

After you have had your baby, if you are planning to breastfeed it is recommended that you don’t use any soap at all on your breasts and simply wash them with warm water. We also recommend that you don’t apply any scented products like perfume around your chest area.

Can anything prevent dry or crusty nipples?

  • Stay hydrated. Keeping yourself well hydrated at all times is the main way to prevent any dryness of the skin at any time.
  • Eat well. Maintaining a well balanced diet can also help to combat dryness, getting plenty of water rich fruit and veggies into your diet is not only important for dry skin but for your well-being during pregnancy as a whole.
  • Moisturise and look after your skin.

It is incredibly important that you take the time to look after your body, especially during your pregnancy. Although we are often too busy to pay attention to the little changes that our bodies are going through, they’re often trigger warnings that our body needs some extra attention or input, like more water.

Inadequate hydration is one of the most common reasons for most pregnancy ailments. Water is a free, easy remedy to many many complaints regarding pregnancy, so make sure to drink plenty of it!

Get more tips and advice on coping with common pregnancy symptoms at Naytal. Discover which foods can help with heartburn, at-home remedies for greasy hair and how to cope with hot flushes.

Want to speak to someone about your pregnancy or birth? Book a midwife appointment at a time that suits you to get specialist advice with any concerns.

Kate, Naytal Midwife

Kate has been a Midwife within the NHS for more than 15 years and supports women to work harmoniously with their bodies and tune into their intuitions.

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