Just as a woman’s body is built to grow new life, her breasts are meant to sustain that life. There is not any extra maintenance that needs to be performed to ensure the breasts are prepared to breastfeed.
There are, of course, basic hygiene principles that should be followed, regardless of a woman’s stage of parenthood. Cleanliness helps prevent illness, proper diet helps prevent disease, and self-care helps catch problems before they arise. Hand washing, showering, and eliminating lotions and creams from the skin of the breasts are always recommended, but with breastfeeding being a factor, it is time to make sure you are practicing the best self-care.
As a soon-to-be mother, or a new-to-breastfeeding-mother, you may want more than this information. You may want to know how you can ensure that your milk makes it to your baby with the least amount of pain and struggle. The answer to the question, “How do I care for my breasts while breastfeeding?” is simply, “Be educated about breastfeeding.”
Take a Breastfeeding Class: Most hospitals and birth centers offer breastfeeding education courses to take during your pregnancy. Enrolling in the class will help ease your mind and feel more prepared for the journey ahead. You will have the opportunity to ask all of your questions and understand how the amazing process works.
Find a Board Certified Lactation Consultant: This is critical, as a great lactation consultant (LC) will be your best friend the first few weeks after giving birth. LC’s will work with you at the hospital and again at your home if desired. They will aid you in positioning baby for the best latch, ensure baby is transferring milk, and help baby figure breastfeeding out. A LC is not afraid to be hands-on and educate you; she will be a great supporter and encourager as well.
Join in on a La Leche League (LLL) meeting or Breastfeeding Support Group: LLL leaders are certified and have more experience than typical breastfeeding mothers. They lead group meetings in which breastfeeding topics range from newborn to toddlerhood with everything in between. The women who attend are open to sharing experiences and are welcoming and inviting to new mothers. It is a safe space to vent frustrations and ask questions in person throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Most hospitals offer an extended breastfeeding support group, meaning that you can come weekly or bi-weekly to a group setting with a LC who leads the meeting.
Own ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’: This reference book belongs in the home of every nursing mother. It is a quick way to look something up and understand what is going on.
Get to know Dr. Jack Newman: Dr. Newman (follow his social media accounts) is a Toronto pediatrician who has practiced medicine since 1970. He has always been ahead of his time when it comes to breastfeeding education. He provides videos and articles about everything breastfeeding related. If you hit a problem, he will have reference material that can help you.
Bookmark KellyMom.com: This website is the go-to for nursing moms. It also includes information from Dr. Jack Newman, but is its own separate space. There are blogs, pictures, infographics, videos, and discussion areas.
Join the Milky Mommas’ social media network: The largest and fastest growing breastfeeding social media company, Milky Mommas is run by educated breastfeeding professionals and moms who can relate to you. The community is welcoming and safe. The information shared is honest and in support of both mother and baby.
Lead a healthy lifestyle: It is important to stay healthy while breastfeeding, as your nutrition impacts your milk. Drugs, cigarettes, and certain medications can cause harm to your baby, so consulting a lactation consultant and medical professional for advice and support, if this pertains to you, is key to successfully breastfeeding.
Understand potential problems:
- Thrush – A yeast growth that occurs within the breast or baby can become painful.
- Clogged Duct – A hard, pea-sized lump clogs a milk duct, causing pain, inflammation, and potentially leading to further problems if not cleared.
- Mastitis – The body shows signs of the flu (fever, chills, aches), but the breast hurts, and there is a pie-shaped inflamed triangle extending from the areola outward on the breast. If not worked through quickly, it can lead to severe illness.
- Nipple Pain – Cracks, bleeding, or just pain are all signs of a poor latch from baby.
All of these problems can be solved naturally if noticed before they become severe. Again, education is key to keeping the body healthy and consistently prepared to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is a journey that will have challenges and successes. You will reach milestones and hit road blocks, but it is invaluable to both you and your baby! Take the time to become educated about breastfeeding, and the journey will be that much easier.