THE “ALL-PURPOSE NIPPLE OINTMENT” OR APNO
We call our nipple ointment “all purpose” since it contains ingredients that help deal with multiple causes or aggravating factors of sore nipples. Breastfeeding parents with sore nipples do not have time to try out different treatments that may or may not work, so we have combined various treatments in one ointment. Of course, preventing sore nipples in the first place is the best treatment and adjusting how the baby takes the breast can do more than anything to decrease and eliminate the breastfeeding parent’s nipple soreness. Please note that the “all-purpose nipple ointment” is a stop gap measure only and that the definitive treatment of sore nipples is to help the baby latch on as well as possible.
The following blogs on our website contain photos and a video which can be helpful: http://ibconline.ca/painful-breastfeeding1/
Version française : http://ibconline.ca/painful-breastfeeding1-fr/.
THE APNO CONTAINS:
1. Mupirocin 2% ointment. Mupirocin (Bactroban is the trade name) is an antibiotic that is effective against many bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Staphylococcus aureus is commonly found growing in abrasions or cracks in the nipples. Mupirocin apparently has some effect against Candida albicans (commonly called “thrush” or “yeast”). Treatment of sore nipples with an antibiotic alone sometimes seems to work, but we feel that the antibiotic works best in combination with the other ingredients discussed below. Although some mupirocin is absorbed from the gut when taken by mouth, it is so quickly metabolized in the body that it is destroyed before blood levels can be measured. Most of it gets stuck to the skin so that very little is taken in by the baby.
2. Betamethasone 0.1% ointment. Betamethasone is a corticosteroid which decreases inflammation. By decreasing the inflammation, the APNO also decreases the pain the breastfeeding parent feels. Most of the betamethasone in the ointment is absorbed into the skin by the parent, so that the baby takes in very little. Corticosteroids are not rarly prescribed for babies and children, often by inhalation or by mouth.
3. Miconazole powder to a final concentration of 2%. Miconazole is an antifungal agent, very effective against Candida albicans. Because it is added as a powder, the concentration of miconazole can be increased to 3% or even 4% or decreased to less than 2%. We believe, based on experience, that 2% is the ideal concentration for most situations. Fluconazole powder added so that the final concentration is 2% may be substituted for miconazole and so can clotrimazole powder to 2%. However, we believe that clotrimazole (Canesten) irritates more than the other drugs in the same family. Miconazole cream or gel cannot be substituted for miconazole powder as the compound will usually separate. Where miconazole or any of the above mentioned drugs (fluconazole, clotrimazole) are not easily available as powders, it is better to use only the mupirocin and betamethasone ointments mixed together than to add a cream or gel or nystatin ointment for example. By using a powder, the concentration of the other two ingredients is not as decreased as they would be if another ointment were used for the anti-fungal agent (for example, nystatin ointment). Thus, in the above preparation the concentration of the betamethasone becomes 0.05% (due to combination with the mupirocin) and the mupirocin concentration is decreased to 1%.
Note that nystatin ointment, which we used to use, and which decreases the concentration of the other ingredients, is far inferior to miconazole and also tastes bad. In fact, most Candida albicans are resistant to it.
We write the prescription this way:
Total: about 30 grams combined. Apply sparingly after each feeding. Do not wash or wipe off.
If possible, it is best to get the prescription filled at a compounding pharmacy. You can find a list of compounding pharmacies by going to http://www.pccarx.com/. Click Find a compounder at the very bottom of their information sheet, then add relevant information.
HOW TO USE THE OINTMENT:
HOW LONG SHOULD THE OINTMENT BE USED?
Any drug should be used for the shortest period of time necessary and the same is true for our ointment. The all-purpose nipple ointment is a stop gap measure. The breastfeeding parent should get good hands on help as soon as possible, even if the ointment is helping. Sore nipples are due, almost always, to the baby’s latch not being as good as it could be. The most important step for decreasing nipple pain is still getting the “best latch possible.” Sometimes a tongue tie has not been noticed and is a reason for continued pain.
Some pharmacists have told breastfeeding parents that the steroid in the ointment will cause thinning of the skin if used for too long. While this is a concern with any steroid applied to the skin, we have never seen this happen even when breastfeeding parents have used it for months.
Updated by Dr. Jack Newman, June 2017, September 2021
For more information on what is a good latch, with photos of what a good latch looks like, click and read: http://ibconline.ca/the-asymmetric-latch/ Version française : http://ibconline.ca/asymmetric-latch-fr/
The information presented here is general and not a substitute for personalized treatment from a medical professional who has good knowledge and experience in helping mothers with breastfeeding problems.
This information sheet may be copied and distributed without further permission on the condition that you credit International Breastfeeding Centre and it is not used in any context that violates the WHO International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (1981) and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions. If you don’t know what this means, please email us to ask!
Questions or concerns? Email Dr. Jack Newman (read the page carefully, and answer the listed questions).