Nursing and breastfeeding can be a natural experience for many people, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or without unique challenges. Knowing how to care for your breast and nipples can make all the difference.
For many, breast and nipple pain can happen within the first few weeks of breastfeeding (but not usually normal). It’s important to pay attention to your pain and discomfort and contact a lactation consultant or IBCLC when needed.
Additionally, breast and nipple care can help improve your breastfeeding journey. Check out a few nipple and breast care tips to confidently care for your body and infant.
Caring for your breasts and nipples while breastfeeding
1. Use high-quality nipple care products
You’ve likely heard or read about new moms dealing with dry or cracked nipples after bringing their babies home, especially if their baby is latching incorrectly. This can pose a common problem that results in significant discomfort.
It’s essential to care gently for your nipples, apply all-natural nipple balm or cream, and use Hydrogel patches or sterling silver nipple caps as needed.
2. Always wash your hands
It’s always a good idea to wash your hands before breastfeeding or caring for your nipples. You’ll prevent germs and bacteria from affecting your baby and minimize your chance of developing infections.
Reducing germs around your baby makes it easier to identify if they are sick or experiencing reflux, which requires different treatment forms.
3. Wear cotton bras
Some fabrics trap heat and moisture, creating environments for bacteria to thrive and cause infections. Consider wearing cotton bras like this one from Kindred Bravely for more breathability.
The material can help increase circulation against your skin, making you more comfortable than itchy fabrics with rigid underwires.
4. Practice baby latching correctly
Many new moms struggle to breastfeed because they don’t know how to help their babies latch correctly. After tickling their lips and positioning their chin against your breast, check for signs of efficient latching like:
- The latching doesn’t pinch you
- You see little to no exposed areola
- Your baby’s lips turn outward like a fish
Latching incorrectly could result in numerous uncomfortable situations for both mom and baby. Your baby might suck on parts of the breast that aren’t the nipple, leading to cracked skin and irritated, red patches.
5. Invest in cold compresses
Inflammation can occur even if you wash your hands and breasts before feeding your infant. When that happens, apply a cold compress to the affected area.
Cold temperatures constrict blood vessels, reducing circulation to the site and decreasing inflammation. You can use a bag of veggies from your freezer or frozen compresses designed for breastfeeding.
6. Fit your breast pump securely
You might also be among the many moms pumping their breast milk between or in place of breastfeeding.
No matter how little or often you use your pump, misusing it can cause skin irritation, so ensure you’ve read the directions before using it.
The flange should have the correct size to accommodate the diameters of your nipples and cover your areolas. You may also want to keep a few flange sizes on hand since nipples can widen or shrink as new moms breastfeed and wean their babies.
7. Change nursing pads frequently
New moms often wear nursing pads throughout the day. They catch any leakage and reduce how often you need to change your bra.
However, they grow moist when used for hours. The warmth from your body and moisture from your breast milk or sweat leads to optimal conditions for bacterial growth.
You’ll minimize your chances of getting an infection by changing your nursing pads frequently. Switch to new ones when you notice they’re wet. Checking your pads once an hour may keep you comfortable during your breastfeeding experience.
8. Learn signs of nipple or breast infections
Even if you do everything possible to prevent infections, they may happen anyway. Study the symptoms of a nipple infection to get medical help when necessary.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your breasts for the early warning signs of mastitis and know when to call your doctor for proper care.
Before feeding your baby, do a quick inspection for signs like:
- Warmth around or beneath the nipple
You may feel sick because a fever begins as your body tries to fight the infection.
Your doctor can prescribe medication and treatment options to soothe your breasts if you have burning while breastfeeding or struggle to produce milk. You’ll get back to breastfeeding faster and eliminate any risk of passing an infection to your baby.
Thrive while breastfeeding
There are many things to keep track of as a new mom. Remember to care for yourself by learning nipple and breast care tips. You’ll know how to keep yourself – and your baby healthy – as you navigate life together.
Other articles on breastfeeding you might enjoy
Mia is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for health and wellness and over 3+ years of experience. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, an online healthy living publication.