Nipple Cream or Nipple Balm? What’s Best and What’s the Difference?

Nipple Cream or Nipple Balm? What’s Best and What’s the Difference?

I LOVE breastfeeding. 

So much so, that I have been nursing for 7.5 years straight.  Non-stop through 2 pregnancies, and tandem nursed for a period after each second and third child was born. Nursing is an incredible bonding experience and I have been very blessed to have had an easy nursing journey.  I also had an abundance of support from the very beginning - something I consider invaluable and feel that every new mom should have access to.  I home birthed all 3 children with a midwife and, in every way possible, the care and support was top notch.


For some mamas (around 40% according to this paper (1)), nursing can come with challenges.  Latch issues, tongue or lip ties in baby, over-producing, under-producing, mastitis or lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding are a few.  Even without any of those concerns, early days of nursing also come with the hurdle of getting your very sensitive nipples adjusted to their new role.  This can be a little painful, drying, sometimes causing them to crack or bleed.  Every nursing mama knows exactly what I mean when I refer to the wince that comes with the latch during the first week or the yowl when baby’s teeth start to come in. Yikes!

 Nipple Balm_NewNursingMom


Nursing mamas are not alone in the nipple irritation department though and dry, cracked nipples aren’t exclusive to women.  Surprisingly, this is a common problem for both men and women. 

Why do dry, cracked nipples occur?

 Other than breastfeeding, they are mostly caused by:

  • Pregnancy - hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause extra sensitivity
  • Chafing during exercise or sports - new moms getting back into a workout routine seem to be especially vulnerable
  • Using harsh soaps that deplete the skin’s naturally produced oils and cause dryness. See this post on the importance of clean ingredients in soaps
  • Irritation and chafing from synthetic or poor quality fabrics and dyes
  • Chlorine from swimming pools - Spraying your body with a homemade vitamin c water can help neutralize the chlorine on your body before you jump in a shower to wash it off
  • Bacterial or fungal infections - if nursing, fungal infection can be passed to baby aka thrush

 How to Fix the Problem

There are some simple ways to fix most of the above listed causes.

  • Warm compresses
  • Drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated
  • Wear loose fitting, soft clothes
  • Ditch the irritating and/or toxic soaps, perfumes, and fabrics
  • Avoid washing nipples directly with soap as it may remove the body's natural lubricants
  • Squeeze out and rub in some of the liquid gold breast milk if you are breastfeeding. Your baby won’t mind sharing a little :)
  • Use a protective and nourishing Nipple Balm

What Not To-Do to Help Breastfeeding Nipples

There is advice on the internet that recommends artificially toughening nipples either with physical stimuli or chemicals. It has been recommended to toughen up the nipples before breastfeeding by stimulating them by aggressive rubbing, pinching, massaging with a rough washcloth and even using light sandpaper. Ouch!  It has also been recommended to use rubbing alcohol, benzoin or similar chemicals on the nipples to toughen the skin to prepare for breastfeeding. Yikes!

The need to toughen nipples before nursing is a myth and thankfully, is not recommended by most health professionals any longer. The methods that used to be recommended can lead to dryness, cracking, bleeding and damage to the nipples.  Cracking of nipples allows an opening for bacteria, yeast, fungi etc. to enter, which may lead to infections like thrush and mastitis.

Why Balm and Not Cream?

The short answer: Balms are oil and wax based and creams are water and oil. Nipple balms provide a protective layer and last longer than creams.


I am sure most (or at least some) of you remember the science experiment in elementary school where you add food coloring to a jar of water and a jar of oil, then mix them together only to watch them separate.  So, how does this work for cream – or water/oil - based products? An emulsifier is added.  An emulsifier is a common ingredient/chemical in cosmetics, but the problem is that they can come with a host of issues.  Their toxic properties can vary and cause a range of skin irritations.  In addition, they can have a drying effect.  Water containing products generally need a heavy preservative also, or it will go south pretty quickly.

Creams also are absorbed much more quickly and have to be reapplied more often which can lead to increased irritation. For some nipples, creams can also dry the nipples out rather than providing consistent moisturizing.



Balms are quite a bit thicker than creams and usually in semi-solid form but melt beautifully when they come into contact with your skin.  The dictionary definition of “balm” is, “a fragrant ointment or preparation used to heal or soothe the skin.”  They provide a hydrating, nourishing and protective layer to the skin and help to seal in the moisture and the healing benefits of the herbs that are infused into the oils.  A good bit of the time, butters, like shea, cocoa, or mango are also added in to provide extra moisturizing, nourishing, and healing benefits. 

Why Green Forest Lady Nipple Balm?

It is soothing, healing, nourishing, clean, made with 100% organic, non-toxic, non-gmo ingredients, and does not need to be wiped or washed off before nursing your baby.  It smells of cocoa butter and herbs and will make you smile with relief each time you apply it. 

One customer recently sent me a message and said:

 “I recommend this Nipple Balm to everyone!! It helped so much when I got thrush on my nipples for a whole month.  It helped soothe them enough that I could still feed my baby without being in excruciating pain and I was so happy to find something so natural that I didn’t have to worry about wiping them it off before feeding her! I truly believe it helped my process so much! Love love love!!”  - Jayleigh

Another mother reached out to tell me:

"This stuff is a miracle worker.  It is probably what helped me survive breastfeeding.  After horrible blistering at birth, this helped me heal quickly and get through those first 6 weeks of learning the routine and overcoming all the breastfeeding obstacles that I had." - D. Habash


What is in it that makes it so good?

The ingredients in Nipple Balm, like all our products, are pure and simple.  It quietly boasts nature’s healing power and gently nourishes and relieves dry, cracked, painful, red, irritated skin. 

Olive Oil - According to this paper by US National Library of Medicine, “Previous studies have shown that olive oil, applied to the skin, has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is proposed in this study that olive oil may also help prevent cracked nipple and sore nipple in breastfeeding mothers.” (2)

Cocoa Seed Butter - Made up of mostly fatty acids, it helps to form a protective layer on the skin that prevents moisture from escaping which in turn, stops the sensitive nipple skin and area from drying out.

Shea Butter - Helps keep nipples soft and supple while creating a protective barrier. It moisturizes and helps in cell regeneration which is perfect for healing minor cuts and cracks when baby is teething.

Calendula Flowers - Full of antioxidants, which help repair damaged cells, anti-inflammatory properties which helps soothe the irritated, inflamed and painful skin, and also antiseptic properties that help keep the area free from bacterial growth. 

Marshmallow Root - Contains a substance called mucilage, that forms a slick, gummy gel that is cooling, soothing to irritations and helps in wound healing. So much more than a yummy, fluffy treat. :)


How to Use Nipple Balm

Nipple Balm can be applied as many times and as often as needed.  There is no need to wash it off before nursing, and it can be used for prevention.  Are you a mama like me who is constantly breastfeeding on the go? Hikes, grocery shopping, errands all were made easier with a baby carrier and a jar of Nipple Balm in my backpack, diaper bag and purse. 


Pregnancy Nipple Cream 

Two questions that are continually asked are, should I use a pregnancy nipple cream and is there a difference between a nipple cream for breastfeeding and a pregnancy nipple cream? 

Let’s look at the easiest question first. A nipple cream or balm for breastfeeding and a pregnancy nipple cream or balm are the same. The treatment for sore, cracked, bleeding, painful nipples whether it is caused by the hormonal changes and stressors before the birth of your baby, or after, is the same. Luckily, you do not have to find the perfect nipple balm while pregnant and then find a different one post-partum. 

Tender, sore breasts and sore, dry nipples are very common during pregnancy. Sore breasts can often occur shortly after conception and can be one of the first signals that a new life is on the way. A nipple balm can help provide relief for the uncomfortable nipple symptoms of pregnancy as well as help keep your nipples in optimal, breastfeeding-ready shape for the bonding nursing journey to come.


Nipple Cream & Balm FAQ

Nipple creams and balms that are safe for breastfeeding are made with only organic ingredients that are safe for the baby to consume.

We might be biased (slightly), but we believe the The Green Forest Lady Nipple Balm is the best of all the nipple creams, balms, ointments or lotions available.

Any time your nipples are sore, cracked, tender, bleeding, dry or have other uncomfortable symptoms is a good time to use a nipple balm or cream. Using a nipple balm or a nipple cream for dry nipples during pregnancy can help prevent further damage which can include chafing, cracking and bleeding.

Nipple cream is used to help relieve nipple symptoms of soreness, drying, cracking, bleeding and tenderness. Nipple balm is also used for these issues but it also provides a protective layer for the nipple.

Although Lanolin is well known and most believe it is safe, according to dermreview an allergic reaction can be caused when lanolin enters the bloodstream. The incidence of lanolin allergies is increasing.

Mount Sinai states lanolin is a poisonous ingredient and can be harmful if swallowed. Breastfeeding nipples often are dry, cracked and have micro openings that allow nipple products to enter the blood stream. The baby is exposed to substances on the nipple when breastfeeding unless the nipples are thoroughly cleaned off before breastfeeding.

For a lanolin free nipple balm see here .

All nipple care products have different expiration dates. Please check with the manufacturer for best use by dates. Products that are organic will have shorter shelf lives than products with longer life preservatives.

Breastfeeding involves thousands of contacts over the nursing period with the mother's nipples. Because lanolin can cause allergic reactions and has been determined to be a poisonous ingredient by Mount Sinai, it can be generally concluded that lanolin is not safe for babies.

Lansinoh® is a brand name of a nipple cream that uses lanolin.

Thrush is an oral fungal infection. An overgrowth of the yeast, which is a type of fungus, can cause Thrush. The yeast, called candida albicans, is often in babies mouths but only causes problems if there is an overgrowth. If nipples are cracked or damaged they can become infected with the candida fungus. This is one of the reasons to keep nipples in good shape before or while breastfeeding.

The nipple cream or balm does not cause the thrush, it is the break in the nipple skin that allows fungus to enter and provides an environment to reproduce. If nipples have a thrush infection it is important to see your doctor so that appropriate treatment can be started immediately. See this article for more information.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that may be caused by an infection.

There are several elements that can lead to mastitis either by themselves or in combination with other elements. Bacterial infection from either bacteria entering the nipple or bacterial growth in stagnant milk, blocked milk ducts, a spreading of a general infection etc.

Mastitis is not caused by nipple care products.

If you think you have mastitis it is important to seek advice from a healthcare provider, naturopath, midwife, or your local La Leche League leader.

Nipple care products are not meant to treat mastitis.

The Green Forest Lady Nipple Balm use instructions: apply a thin layer as often as needed. There is no need to wash or wipe off before breastfeeding, all ingredients are safe for baby.

If you are using Green Forest Lady nipple balm you do not have to wipe off before breastfeeding because all our ingredients are organic and safe for the baby. With other nipple creams you may need to wipe them off before breastfeeding. It is important to read the manufacturer's specific instructions before use.

Use nipple balm any time your nipples are sore, cracked, dry, irritated, tender or chafing.

YES! The Green Forest Lady Nipple Balm can be used on your lips. All ingredients are safe. Our nipple balm is also an excellent lip balm.

In the food world there is a huge difference between butter and cream. That isn’t true in the skin care world.

A nipple butter may be exactly the same as a nipple cream but its consistency may be more whipped, either provided by a physical process of whipping the product or through an additive that gives the product a lighter more whipped consistency.

Butter and cream can also be exactly the same and it is called a “butter” rather than a “cream” purely for marketing purposes.

Lotions are more liquid than creams or balms. Lotions have a greater percentage of water which makes them more spreadable in a thinner application over large areas of skin, for example your legs. Because lotions are more water based and absorb quickly they are not ideal for nipples as they will not moisturize the area as well and do not stay on the area as long as a balm or a cream would.

In the skincare world definitions are not as specific as the food world.

The term ointment is usually applied to something that has a thinner consistency than a balm and used in only 1 area to treat a specific condition. Balm is usually thicker than an ointment and can be used in other areas, for example, a nipple balm can also be used as a lip balm but a nipple ointment that has been prescribed to treat a nipple yeast infection would not be used for any other purpose.

When asking what is the best nipple relief ointment the first question to answer is are you trying to solve a medical issue that you need to see a provider for, example a fungal infection, or an infection of the breast tissue; or, are you looking for an ointment for cracked nipples or a more general problem like dry or sore nipples?

If you are treating a medical issue the provider will prescribe an appropriate product. If you are searching for relief of a more general issue a nipple balm may provide the best relief.

Salve is a more general term that can apply to creams and balms. The word salve usually implies that it has “healing” properties rather than only protective or moisturizing properties. That is why we sometimes use the terms balm and salve interchangeably.

Sometimes the terms nipple gel and nipple ointment are used interchangeably, but they are quite different.

Gels usually turn from a “gel” form when they contact the skin to a slippery liquid layer that leaves a film or coating on the area. Gels can dehydrate the skin which can lead to drying and cracking of the nipple.

As far as we know, niple is a misspelling of the current word nipple. However there are more than 800 searches for Niple Cream per month on Google, most of them from Indonesia, followed by the U.S. The origins of the word nipple can be traced back to nible, neble and neple from the 1500's which may account for the different versions of the same word.

Yes, nip is a shortened version of nipple.

Yes! A good nipple cream or balm can help chapped nipples that may occur during pregnancy and the chapped nipples that may be caused by breastfeeding.

As well as helping to heal the skin, a balm provides a lasting layer for the nipple to soothe and protect helping to prevent future chapped nipples.

The nipple soreness that occurs with pregnancy may be due to the skin changes that are occurring to the nipples. A good nipple balm can help support and nourish this fragile skin.

No. A nipple balm or cream can also be used on the breasts. The skin changes of the breast are similar to the changes occurring for growing bellies during pregnancy. The Green Forest Lady Growing Belly Balm may also help provide relief for changing breasts during pregnancy.

If you are out of diaper cream or diaper balm, nipple cream or balm can be used in a pinch.

Nipple balm is used on a smaller area than products for diaper rash.

Usually a product that is specifically for diaper rash is more economical and effective than a nipple product.

We recommend The Green Forest Lady Baby Booty Balm for its safe, nurturing and protecting ingredients.

If you want the product to soak into the skin but not have a protective layer choose a cream.

If you want the product to soak into the skin and leave a protective layer choose a balm.

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