Vasospasm happens when blood vessels tighten and go into spasm, so that blood does not flow to the nipple. Mothers with vasospasm of the nipple feel sharp pain, burning or stinging in the nipple. It is usually accompanied by sudden whitening of the nipple, followed by a colour change from red to blue.

There are two main causes of nipple vasospasm.

It can be a response of the nipple to trauma, if the baby is not attached to the breast well. In this case, it tends to occur following breastfeeds. Attention to how your baby attaches can help resolve this problem.

Vasospasm that occurs at random times not related to breastfeeds is more likely to be a condition related to Raynaud’s phenomenon, where a person experiences similar symptoms in fingers, toes, etc in response to exposure to cold.

Applying warmth straight after breastfeeding may help. Breastwarmers can be helpful. Or use a little olive oil on the fingers and massage the nipple after feeds, under the clothing, without exposing them to the air or cold.

When these simple measures are not effective in relieving the pain, it is a good idea to see a health professional. There are several treatment options available, which you can discuss with your health professional.

Further resources

The information on this website does not replace the advice of your health care provider.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association March 2014