How to Take Care of Your Breasts During Breastfeeding

babel · February 21, 2022
In this article, you'll find all the information you need to know on how to take care of your breasts during breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, and its benefits are countless and often irreplaceable. For this reason, most pregnant women express their willingness to breastfeed their little ones as much as possible. But are you aware of how to take care of your breasts during breastfeeding?

Often, you still hear some classic phrases like “you have to prepare your breast for breastfeeding”. However, you don’t have to prepare anything to be able to feed your child, because your breast is perfectly designed for this purpose.

But what you can (and should) do is learn more about breast care during breastfeeding. There are certain ways to prevent the most common complications (such as nipple chapping), and implementing them in time will allow you to enjoy your breastfeeding 100%. And even maintain it for as long as you and your baby want.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when it’s time for you to breastfeed. Take note!

“Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt”

A woman experiencing pain while her baby breastfeeds.

You’ve probably heard this phrase a lot, and if you’re a first-timer, you may be distressed if you feel more than simple discomfort when nursing your little one. Have you been lied to or is there something wrong with you? Not at all, because pain is a subjective sensation that’s related to hundreds of factors. However, there is some truth to this premise.

At the beginning of breastfeeding, you can expect your breasts to feel uncomfortable and a bit sore. Your nipples have become the most precious element for that hungry baby who sucks on them almost permanently for about 10 to 12 feedings a day. In addition to this, the skin that covers them is moist and becomes more prone to irritation by rubbing against your clothes.

Finally, all the physical and hormonal changes that your body undergoes after childbirth make your breasts become much more sensitive. This is very logical to think about if you take into account how much they’ve grown and the level of blood supply they have to produce milk. Your mammary glands are working full time!

In conclusion, all these factors influence the perception of the painful sensation of the breasts. But fortunately, after a while, your body gets used to it and the tissues adapt to this new condition. And little by little, the discomfort stops almost completely.

If, on the other hand, the pain lasts for weeks or other discomforts are added (such as bleeding, fever, or hardening of the breasts), it’s best to seek professional help from a lactation consultant to assess what’s really going on.

You may be interested in: Myths and Doubts About Breastfeeding

How to take care of your breasts during breastfeeding

Here are some useful tips to help you avoid pain and other common breastfeeding complications. So, pay attention to them and put them into practice.

1. Assess the baby’s latch

After your newborn’s first feeding, it’s important to check that their latching on correctly. Inadequate attachment between the mouth and the nipple is the main cause of pain and the development of cracks in the first weeks of breastfeeding.

For this reason, NICE guidelines recommend that the mother’s breastfeeding technique should be checked from the first feedings. The sooner action is taken, the sooner the problem will be solved.

You should keep in mind that the development of nipple lesions isn’t normal and should be corrected so that it doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding.

2. Allow your baby to nurse as often as necessary

Breastfeeding on demand is one of the 10 most important keys recommended by the World Health Organization. This strategy isn’t only beneficial for the child, but also for the mother, as it ensures correct emptying of the gland and prevents many complications.

During the baby’s first hours of life, the maternity doctors will tell you the optimal time interval to prevent the child’s blood glucose level from dropping. But after this critical stage of adaptation to the outside environment, the baby itself will be able to detect their body’s signals to feed. The same will happen to you, and for this reason, offering the breast when either of you needs it will be the right thing to do.

3. Try to maintain good breast hygiene

This aspect is essential in order to protect the delicate skin of the nipple and help it to strengthen its natural defenses. In this regard, take into account the following tips:

  • Don’t wash your breasts excessively: The skin of your breasts is clean and doesn’t need to be sanitized before or after each feeding. Washing your breasts once a day, during your daily shower, is more than enough.
  • Avoid using irritating products on the skin of your breasts: The best product for the hygiene of your breasts is soap and water. Irritating, abrasive, or disinfectant cosmetics aren’t recommended.
  • Keep your breasts exposed to the air: During the first weeks, which is the time when the nipples are most irritated, it’s best to keep them exposed to the air. As with any wound, being uncovered favors drying and natural healing.
  • You don’t need to apply milk to your breasts: It’s still okay to put a few drops of milk after feedings to heal possible cracks that may appear. However, it’s been proven that this procedure can worsen mastitis, so be careful!

A woman soaping up in the shower.

Commercial products for breast care

Before we finish, let’s make a mention of some commercial products that are offered as an aid to take care of your breasts during breastfeeding. However, you should know that recommendations for their use based on scientific evidence are scarce. Therefore, don’t rely on them 100%, and when in doubt, consult your doctor or lactation consultant.

Nursing bras

These are a good breastfeeding ally, especially when you leave the house. You must make sure you use one that fits your size and that holds and perfectly supports the breast without compressing it.

For the first days, you should avoid any bra that has an underwire in order to avoid discomfort after your milk comes in.

Breast care cream

There are several brands of lanolin on the market for nipple care and the healing of cracks. However, there’s some controversy surrounding their use, as studies have shown that there’s no significant improvement when they’re applied. It can even make it difficult for the baby to latch on.

To heal cracks, what you really need to do is to get a good latch. Otherwise, even if you get one crack healed, another one will come back later.

Hydrogel patches

These dressings are placed on the nipples when there’s pain in order to relieve it and can be put in the refrigerator to add a cold effect.

Some specialists recommend them for healing cracks. However, the highest quality scientific studies have found no more satisfactory results than those obtained through the guidance of a lactation specialist.

Nipple shields

When nipple irritation is present, simple rubbing against clothing can become very uncomfortable and even worse when accidental milk leakage occurs. For this reason, a good option for use outside the home is nipple shields. These elements have holes to allow air to pass through and thus facilitate the healing of the skin.

Pregnant woman attending a prenatal class.

First of all, to take care of your breasts, you need proper education

As you have seen, there are no great mysteries to take care of your breasts during breastfeeding. While it’s normal to feel some pain at first, you shouldn’t naturalize this sensation and you should ask a lactation consultant for help. Remember that the first cause of breastfeeding complications is the inadequate coupling between the mouth and the nipple, so it never hurts to review the technique.

At the same time, you don’t need expensive courses or complex techniques to prepare for breastfeeding. You just need good support and quality information to know what to do when you start this beautiful journey with your future baby. Enjoy it!