Thursday, August 30, 2012

Natural Nipple Creams

This post is in response to an excellent inquiry made by a friend. She wanted to know what I thought about lanolin, coconut oil, or shea butter as a natural nipple cream. I wasn't sure how to answer, so this blog is my researched response!

First I would like to recommend good 'ole Breastmilk for nipple care. You can rub a little breastmilk on the nipples and allow them to air dry. For many women this is all they need for normal nipple care.

Also, remember that you DO NOT need to use any soap on your nipples! This will only increase dryness and decrease your own natural and protective oils.

As for some other commonly used natural products...

Lanolin, which means "wool oil", is a yellowish and waxy secretion from the sebaceous glands of woolly animals; most commonly from sheep. Lanolin is collected from the sheep's wool when it is pressed between rollers and squeezed out.

While scouring the internet I found some mothers wondering and discussing about thrush and lanolin use. It seems as though lanolin may increase the incidence of thrush, OR, if you have thrush (or the baby) don't use it because it may sustain the infection. Lanolin doesn't have anti-bacterial/fungal properties (like coconut oil) so this may be why infection occurs; mothers may not always have clean hands when applying nipple cream and bacteria could be introduced. This is one of the most commonly used nipple creams and is handed out by many hospitals and lactation consultants, but personally I think the plant based alternatives may be better and I found this report from Medline Plus for lanolin poisoning (which is not likely, but obviously possible). 

As for coconut oil, this stuff is AMAZING!!! A plant based oil with antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, SPF(5), and moisturizing properties and it can be safely used on or consumed by almost anyone (allergic reactions are rare, if they do occur they are often mild). Some critics remind that this is still a saturated fat and consumption needs to be limited, however others herald the incredible plethora of health benefits... here are a few articles that give more information on some little known uses for coconut oil, as well as an excellent summary of the history, uses, and research findings for this increasingly popular nut. Can also be used on babies as a diaper cream! This is my personal choice for best cream because if you find that you need a cream (breastmilk isn't quite enough), then you may need the bacteria and fungal fighting properties that coconut oil provides.

  Finally, shea butter. From the nut of the Shea Tree, found in Africa, shea butter is a highly nourishing moisturizer which can be used for a great variety of skin and hair related issues; as well as for cooking and baking. There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and other excellent compounds found in shea butter, it has an SPF of 6 and it appears to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties as well. Seeing as how it comes from a nut, some people with nut allergies may experience a minor reaction. Seems like an excellent moisturizer and prevention/treatment for stretch marks!

SO, to answer the original inquiry about which may be best to use as a nipple cream. Personally, I would not use lanolin because there are two alternatives that are plant based rather than animal based (however if someone has a nut allergy or a history of nut allergy then perhaps lanolin can be an alternative).

Breastmilk is my first choice of "nipple creams", but based on what I've learned in creating this post I think I will have both coconut oil and shea butter to use for any skin care need that arises! If you need something that helps manage bacteria or fungal issues such as yeast, then use coconut oil, for extra moisture you can use shea butter - The best of both worlds! I am definitely going to use shea butter to help prevent and treat my future stretch marks! :)

Please share your experience with any of the above OR other creams in the comments below :)

Also, I always recommend buying products that are pure, organic, and sustainably produced. Shea butter comes from Africa, so please buy from a company that supports this continent and the incredible people that live there!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are having breastfeeding issues or PAIN while nursing then please contact a lactation consultant in your area or your local La Leche League and they can help! Breastfeeding should not be painful!

This IS NOT medical advice. Talk to your doctor, midwife, herbalist, nutritionist, or other health provider if you have questions or concerns.

Happy Nursing!
~Wisdom and Birth


  1. I personally use coconut oil and shea butter for all skin related issues, have been for years, Shea butter especially provides instant relief to dry cracked painful itchy skin caused by eczema, even instant pain relief for burns. I am currently 6 months pregnant and have started experiencing dryness on my areolas and nipples after showering and use both to heal.

  2. Thank you so much...I have always used sweet almond and coconut oils on my skin and recently the nurse said she thinks I have nipple thrush...very painful...she told me to go get some antifungal cream from the chemist... Which I reluctantly did...discovering that it had saccharin in it I was not happy to have my baby use the breast with that on ( it also didn't seem to be soothing the issue) I came across your blog...I have just covered my breast in coconut oil and it already feels wonderful... I knew coconut oil was amazing but didn't realize it had antifungal properties... I have always used honey in the past for any rashes etc but it can get messy...and baby can't have honey until 12 months apparently. So again thank you so much for sharing such a thing as I can now rest as it has been very upsetting...I will let you know if it clears the problem :)

  3. I have been dealing with thrush for 8 weeks now! My baby is 10 weeks old. First we had nystatin and then fluconazole. I'd start to feel better and then it would come back with a vengeance. After having my baby on fluconazole for 5 weeks- I just stopped the medication. I am taking 2 garlic pills three times a day, 2 probiotics 3x, grapefruit seed extract pills 4x and washing my nipples in grapefruit seed extract and water mixture followed by slathering my nipples in coconut oil. I also eat coconut oil on toast in the morning. I am hoping that all of this will quickly spell relief! Thankfully my little one hasn't shown any signs if thrush. Hopefully that will continue. If this doesn't work I don't know what I'll do!

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  5. Make sure to get unrefined shea butter, as refined shea butter removes some health properties. I am 8 months pregnant and was deciding what to do about nipple cream. I have been using a mix of unrefined shea butter and extra virgin coconut oil (mix both together in my hands) and rub it on my belly, so far, no stretch marks of any kind. My shea butter has lavender in it, so I am assuming I can't use this as my nipple cream. May just give the coconut oil a try and see how it works when baby comes and I start breastfeeding. Thanks for the post.

    1. just bought a jar of Alaffia's "whipped shea butter & coconut oil unscented and unrefined" at Wholefood, and been using it for a week now. it sounded like the kind of product you are looking for.

  6. Nice meet admin.
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    By the away here the colourful baby written an article for breastfeeding babies and
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