My nipples hurt, burn and turn white. Sometimes I have pain deep in my breast. What is happening?

You could be experiencing vasospasm. Vasospasm affects the nipples and areolas of breastfeeding mothers. It is a muscle spasm in the tip of the nipple, forcing blood out of the nipple. This leads to white, blue or purple nipples. When the spasm ends, the nipple turns bright red as blood flows back in.  

Vasospasm is usually a reaction from other causes of nipple pain. Latch is the first thing we want to evaluate. Make sure baby has a deep latch (ask your Peer Counselor for help!). Some symptoms of vasospasm can also overlap with thrush.  If you think it might be thrush, reach out to your doctor immediately.

If you have Raynaud's Syndrome, you may be more likely to experience vasospasm of the nipple/areola. Pain usually occurs after the baby has come off the breast. Cold temperatures and stress can trigger the pain or make it more intense. Moms may feel a burning, stinging, stabbing or itching sensation. After a feeding, the nipple may look pointed or slanted (lipstick nipple). Deep breast pain or shooting pain deep in the breast can sometimes happen as well.

How to Help:

  • Prevent vasospasm by staying warm. 
  • Apply pressure to the nipple or use a warm washcloth when baby comes off the breast/you have finished pumping. 
  • Avoid exposing the nipple to air after the baby has finished eating.
  • It helps to massage the nipples immediately after a feeding, either with pure olive oil warmed between fingers or with All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO). 
  • Nicotine and caffeine can contribute to vasospasm. Eliminating or decreasing use of these can help decrease symptoms. 
  • Vitamin B6 (which promotes circulation), calcium, and magnesium have been shown to treat vasospasm symptoms. Make sure you discuss any supplements with your doctor.

Great job working through breastfeeding pain! Your baby is benefiting so much!


SOURCES:  Newman, J., Pitman, T. (2014) Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding (Revised


Wiessinger, D., West, D., Pitman, T. (2010) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th Ed.)

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