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Should I wash my nipples after breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to provide nourishment for your baby. However, it does require caring for your nipples to keep them healthy. Many new moms wonder if they need to wash their nipples after each breastfeeding session. Here is a look at the pros and cons of washing nipples after breastfeeding.

Quick Overview

In most cases, there is no need to wash your nipples after each breastfeeding session. Your breasts produce natural oils that help keep your nipples healthy. Washing with soap and water can strip away these oils and cause nipple dryness and irritation. However, you may want to rinse your nipples with water after breastfeeding if you have been in a dirty environment or if your nipples are prone to infection. Ultimately, you should do what feels right for you and your nipples.

Should I Use Soap?

Using soap directly on your nipples is generally not recommended. Soap can remove the natural oils produced by your breasts that keep your nipples healthy. This can lead to dry, cracked, and irritated nipples which can make breastfeeding painful. Some mothers do choose to use soap sparingly on their nipples, but this should be avoided unless instructed by your doctor.

Instead of soap, simply rinsing your nipples with water is the preferred method of cleaning after breastfeeding. Water will remove milk residue without stripping away the natural oils. Gently pat your nipples dry with a clean towel.

When is Soap Okay?

In some cases, using a small amount of gentle, fragrance-free soap on the nipples can be alright. Situations when soap may be used include:

  • If you have been in an extremely dirty environment
  • If you have a nipple infection such as thrush
  • If your baby has been sick and you want to prevent spreading germs

If you do use soap, be sure to only use a very small amount of a pure, gentle soap. Avoid scented and antibacterial soaps. Make sure to rinse all the soap off fully and apply a nipple cream afterward if needed to replenish moisture.

Helping Sore Nipples

If your nipples are sore, cracked, or irritated:

  • Allow your nipples to air dry after breastfeeding
  • Apply a lanolin cream or nipple butter after to soothe and heal
  • Use breast shells between feeding to protect your nipples

If your pain does not improve in a few days, see a lactation consultant who can check for potential issues like tongue-tie in baby or incorrect latching technique.

Preventing Infection

To help prevent nipple infections like thrush, take these steps:

  • Change breast pads frequently
  • Replace nipple shields regularly
  • Wash any breast pump parts thoroughly after each use
  • Make sure baby’s mouth is clean and healthy
  • Allow nipples to air dry after feeding

If you suspect a nipple infection, call your doctor right away for treatment. Left untreated, nipple thrush can be very painful and interfere with breastfeeding.

Should I Wash Before Breastfeeding?

It is generally recommended to wash your breasts before breastfeeding. Since your breasts produce milk that your baby will ingest, you want them to be as clean as possible. Consider these tips:

  • Wash breasts daily with gentle soap and water
  • Pay attention under breast creases where milk or sweat can collect
  • Gently wash nipples and areolas to remove any dried milk
  • Rinse away all soap residues completely

Hand expressing a little milk before breastfeeding can help clear milk ducts and ensure your milk is flowing well.

Nipple Cleaning Tips

Follow these simple tips for keeping your nipples clean while breastfeeding:

  • Rinse with water after breastfeeding
  • Change breast pads frequently to avoid moisture buildup
  • Let nipples air dry after rinsing or applying creams
  • Wash any breast pump parts thoroughly after each use
  • Apply lanolin or nipple butter to protect skin

Keep in mind that there is no need to scrub or vigorously clean your nipples. Gentle cleaning is best to avoid irritation.

Should I Use a Nipple Brush?

Nipple brushes or other special scrub brushes are generally not necessary. These brushes can actually cause irritation and micro-abrasions on delicate nipple skin. Simply rinsing with water or using your clean hands to gently rub water over nipples is the safest method.

If you have been using nipple brushes, stop use if your nipples become red, sore, or cracked. Discontinue use unless medically advised by your breastfeeding specialist.


For most breastfeeding moms, there is no need to use soap on your nipples after each feeding session. The best practice is to simply rinse your nipples with warm water to remove any milk residue. Soap should only be used sparingly and rinsed away completely. Take care not to overwash your nipples, as this can lead to dryness and irritation. With the proper gentle cleaning routine, you can keep your nipples healthy and comfortable for a happy breastfeeding journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I clean my nipples with water after each feeding?

You do not necessarily need to clean your nipples after every feeding. Simply rinsing with water or wiping away any visible milk is sufficient for most mothers. Over-washing can remove natural oils and lead to nipple damage.

Is it okay to use soap on nipples when breastfeeding?

It’s best to avoid using soap directly on your nipples, as it can cause dryness and irritation. In some cases, like if nipples are infected, a small amount of pure, gentle soap may be used – but always rinse off fully.

How can I prevent nipple infection when breastfeeding?

Change breast pads frequently, allow nipples to air dry after feedings, use proper nipple hygiene, wash any breast pump parts thoroughly, and make sure your baby’s mouth is clean. See a doctor at the first sign of nipple infection.

Is it necessary to wash my breasts before breastfeeding?

Yes, you should wash your breasts once daily with a gentle cleanser. Pay close attention to creases and folds. This helps keep your nipples and breast skin clean for your baby.

Should I use a special nipple brush when breastfeeding?

Special nipple brushes or scrub brushes are not usually recommended, as they can cause nipple irritation. Gently washing with your clean hands or a soft washcloth is sufficient for most breastfeeding mothers.

How can I soothe sore nipples from breastfeeding?

Try these tips to soothe sore, cracked nipples: air dry nipples after feeding, apply an ointment like lanolin, use breast shells between feedings, check your latch with a consultant, and avoid using soap on nipples.

Key Takeaways

  • Do not use soap on nipples after most feedings – simply rinse with water.
  • Only use a small amount of extremely gentle soap if nipples are infected.
  • Take steps to prevent nipple infections like thrush.
  • Wash your full breasts daily with cleanser but avoid scrubbing nipples.
  • Soothe sore nipples by air drying, applying nipple creams, using shells, and getting a proper latch.