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Nipple Cream for Breastfeeding: Ingredients to Avoid

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Updated Sep 07, 2022

Nipple Cream for Breastfeeding: Ingredients to Avoid

There are numerous established benefits of breastfeeding. For babies, the benefits include getting complete nutrition and passive immunity. For mothers, breastfeeding helps with bonding and can also act as a natural way to prevent pregnancy (known as lactational amenorrhea). However, there are sometimes drawbacks that come along with breastfeeding, most notably nipple discomfort and cracked skin. Fortunately, you can use a nipple cream for breastfeeding.

Before making a purchase, learn what ingredients are suitable and safe for both you and your baby.

Do you need a nipple cream for breastfeeding?

Although breastfeeding is natural, it still requires skill and some getting used to. Several factors can affect comfort while nursing, including the mother’s position, the baby’s position, how the baby latches on, and many more.

Women who already have problems with dry skin or eczema may experience more problems with the skin around their nipples.

If you start experiencing nipple soreness or cracking, alternating sides or switching to a breast pump are two solutions. However, if both nipples already feel painful or have bleeding it’s time to consider a nipple cream for breastfeeding.

Cracked or bleeding nipples do not automatically mean you need to stop breastfeeding, but it does mean some adjustments need to be made.

Ingredients to avoid in nipple creams for breastfeeding


When purchasing a nipple cream for breastfeeding, it is important to remember that you are looking for something therapeutic rather than cosmetic.

Even when it comes to other types of skin care products and makeup, it is best to avoid any artificial or added fragrances. They may smell nice, but the scent does not usually taste as good. This can deter your baby from breastfeeding properly.

Therefore, if you have sensitive skin or a sensitive baby, you definitely want to skip out on this ingredient.


Weak topical steroids such as hydrocortisone are commonly recommended for itchy or irritated skin. For those with more severe eczema or dermatitis, doctors may prescribe more potent corticosteroids.

Normally, steroid-containing creams are quickly absorbed and not strong enough to cause any harmful effects in a nursing baby.

However, overusing this type of cream makes the skin thin and fragile, which worsens nipple cracks and damage. Only use these creams on the necessary areas at the lowest effective potency. Avoid applying them directly to the nipple and areola area, as these are more sensitive.


Retinoids are vitamin A-derivatives that are often ingredients in many anti-aging products. Aside from smoothening out wrinkles, it can help with skin discoloration and stretch marks. Some women may try using their existing facial products in lieu of a nipple cream for breastfeeding.

During pregnancy, retinoids are a big no-no as they are known to cause birth defects.

But what about breastfeeding infants?

Even though breastfeeding babies are already out of the womb, they can still suffer the negative effects of retinoids through breastmilk and topical products. Therefore, never give retinoids to newborns and children.

Thick emollients

It may seem counterintuitive, but when selecting a nipple cream for breastfeeding, less is sometimes more.

Unlike lighter creams, ointments sit on the skin longer and are harder to wash away.

They are designed to be occlusive, which means they block the skin. This prolongs contact with the skin’s surface but repels water and blocks out air.

Emollients like petroleum or petrolatum jelly and oils can be used but should be applied sparingly. You don’t want to over-moisten cracked skin, as this can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Like with other products, you should wipe away and cleanse your breast and nipple area before allowing your baby to nurse.

Povidone iodine

Although a commercially available nipple cream for breastfeeding won’t include povidone iodine, some women might be tempted to use it.

Povidone iodine is available over the counter as a topical antiseptic. Many people have a bottle stocked in their medicine cabinet or first aid kit, since it can be used for minor wounds.

If a baby ingests iodine, either through contact with the mother’s skin or breastmilk, it can affect their thyroid function. Therefore, it is best to avoid using povidone iodine around the breast or choose a better alternative.

Key takeaways

In summary, choosing the right nipple cream for breastfeeding is not always easy. There are two things to consider: a mother’s comfort and her baby’s health.

However, mothers should avoid using other products and topical medications on the breast and nipple without a doctor’s approval.

Additionally, mothers should always practice proper hygiene and general skin care. Mild soaps and light lotions are ideal products to maintain good skin health and prevent dryness.

Learn more about Breastfeeding here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Updated Sep 07, 2022

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