With my first child, I was prepared for pregnancy to be uncomfortable at times. I expected labor and delivery to be intense. I figured I’d be emotional after having a baby. What I didn’t expect or really prepare for is that breastfeeding can be difficult the first few days as well!
Don’t get me wrong. It is worth it. The pain isn’t that bad and a lot can be helped by making sure baby has a good latch from the very beginning (though this certainly didn’t make it completely painless for me as many claim). Instead, I find that for the first week or so of nursing a baby I have to take a deep breath and mentally prepare for the first minute or so of each nursing session because it is quite uncomfortable.
Perhaps you can empathize if you’ve also breastfed a baby (and my apologies to anyone who hasn’t yet but plans to- I wish someone had warned me!).
A few days after I had my first baby when I was in the trenches of learning to breastfeed correctly, the lactation consultant suggested using a lanolin cream. I tried it and proceeded to get much, much worse (turns out I was allergic to lanolin!).
Needless to say, I didn’t use it again after that, but it did make me wonder if there was any type of cream or remedy that I could use that might offer some relief.
Why Not Lanolin?
For me, the answer was because I was allergic, but as I started researching to make my own nipple balm nursing cream, I realized that lanolin was not an ingredient I would want to use, even if I could without a reaction.
What is Lanolin?
Lanolin is essentially an oil obtained from Sheep’s wool. The sebum (oil) is extracted from the wool and it undergoes another process to create the finished lanolin. This is obviously problematic for anyone allergic to wool (raises hand), but there are also concerns about pesticide residue found in wool and the potential for this to build up in fatty tissue or in breastmilk.
From the research I’ve conducted thus far, there is no organic source of lanolin, as many sheep are actually sprayed with pesticides to treat against various mites and pests. Additionally, most sheep are fed non-organic and genetically-modified feed and traces of this can be found in the wool as well.
Sources disagree about the safety of lanolin and some claim it is perfectly safe, but it wasn’t a risk I wanted to take with my new born babies just in case. Most popular brands of nipple cream contain concentrated lanolin and while these may help mom heal more quickly, this is also becoming part of baby’s first food and more natural options can be effective as well.
A Natural Nipple Cream
Determined to have a little bit easier of a time with those first days of nursing with my last two babies, I started experimenting with making a natural nipple cream or nursing balm that would help ease the discomfort in those first days.
I also discovered that there are now some pre-made natural options available to purchase, but I still opted to make my own since I had the supplies on hand. If I was going to purchase a pre-made option, I’d choose Motherlove Nipple Cream or Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter.
Choosing Safe Ingredients
Since this cream is essentially ingested by a nursing baby, I made sure to use ingredients that are safe, natural, and have a low chance of allergic reaction. For this reason, I decided not to use almond oil, beeswax, or coconut oil (as much as I love it) because these all have a small chance of allergic reaction. I also didn’t use any essential oils in this recipe as I have concerns about ingesting them even as an adult and never use them on babies.
Nipple Cream Ingredients
Instead of using any ingredients that could potentially cause an allergic reaction or be harmful to baby, I used the following:
- Olive Oil– the main ingredient in both store-bought natural options I found and considered a safe, food-grade oil. (I just made sure I got it from a good source)
- Cocoa Butter– Another food-safe ingredients (I use it to make chocolate) that helps thicken the balm and protect the skin. Other butters like Shea Butter or Mango Butter could also be used.
- Calendula Flowers– Soothing to skin and said to promote faster healing of skin problems.
- Chamomile Flowers– Also soothing to skin as well as being calming and relaxing.
- Marshmallow Root– Cooling, soothing and slippery. This helped offer relief to sore and red skin. This was also used in the Motherlove Nipple Balm and it has many positive reviews.
Nipple Cream Instructions
The first step in this recipe is to infuse the herbs into the olive oil. This helps maintain their beneficial properties and impart them into the balm without leaving any kind of residue or grittiness. This can be done in three ways:
- Solar infusion– If you have the time, you can let the oils infuse in the sun. Here is the method, but in short, I would put 1/4 cup each of chamomile and calendula flowers, 2 tablespoons marshmallow root and 1 cup olive oil in a pint size or larger mason jar. This would be left in the sun and shaken daily to infuse. Note that this only works well in warm weather.
- Time Infusion-Similar to the solar infusion but without the sun. The same ratios of herbs and oil are put in a jar and left for at least 6 weeks, shaking daily.
- Heat infusion– The one I did this time because I was out of time! Place the same ratios (1/4 cup each of chamomile and calendula flowers, 2 tablespoons marshmallow root and 1 cup olive oil) in a double boiler and heat over low heat for several house until the oil takes on the scent of the herbs and changes color slightly.
No matter which method you use, at the end of the process, carefully strain out the herbs and keep the finished oil. I do this with a metal strainer lined with cheesecloth. Note that when infusing the oils, it will make more than is needed for this recipe but the remaining infused oils can be used in lotions and other recipes.
How to Make the Nursing Balm Nipple Cream
Pour the following ingredients into a double boiler:
- 1/4 cup infused oil
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter
Stir until jut melted and pour into a jar or tin to store. Note that this balm will be somewhat soft and not ever get completely firm. This was the best texture to actually use it from my experimentation. If you prefer a harder balm, add more cocoa butter. Alternately, the liquid oil could be used alone or in a higher ratio for a more smooth balm. Mine had been in my car in the cold before taking the picture above so it was slightly more solid that it would have been normally.
Ever used a nipple cream or lanolin? Did it work for you?