How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

What do you mean ‘prepare for breastfeeding?’

Doesn’t your body just know your expecting and prepare on its own?

Technically yes! Of course. Your body is incredibly smart and will know to start making milk. However, you need to prepare yourself for the journey that is breastfeeding.

And there are certain ways you can make the transition from pregnant mama to breastfeeding mama.

You didn’t start driving your car without taking a lesson beforehand, did you?

Although we sometimes hope instinct will come in to play, being a new mom requires a lot of research and support. Before the internet, new moms had the help and support of other women, especially their own mothers to guide them.

This is just to say that you are SMART to seek help and be prepared. Being a mom isn’t a skill you’re born with, its something you have to learn and educate yourself.

How to Prepare For Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Take A Breastfeeding Class or Read A Book

Once you have the baby, you’ll probably have a nurse help you a bit breastfeeding your first couple of times.

However, your interaction with this nurse might be limited and they will be throwing words at you like ‘latch,’ ‘engorgement,’ or ‘colostrum.’

All words you’re likely unfamiliar with unless you’ve read a breastfeeding book or taken a class.

After labor, you are exhausted and not in the mindset to be learning a new skill. If your baby doesn’t latch on immediately, you don’t want to go into a panic.

Instead, when you’ve taken a class or read a book, you feel much calmer and have a couple of tips and tricks up your sleeve.

Talk To Moms Who’ve Gone Through It

Other moms are a huge source of knowledge!

Call up all your mom friends and pick their brain. Most will be happy to help a fellow mama on her journey.

Ask them simple questions about their experience breastfeeding and think about the advice they give you.

It’s especially great if you can find a mom who breastfeed recently as they will remember all the little details much better.

Get Your Home Ready For Breastfeeding

As your due date is quickly approaching, you’ll want to create a beautiful and calm nursing station for you and your baby.

It’s likely you’ll find yourself nursing anywhere at any time, but setting up a comfortable nursing station will benefit you greatly, especially during late night feedings.

A couple of items you’ll want are:

  • A Mobile Diaper Caddy – so you may breastfeed anywhere
  • Nipple Cream – for sore nipples
  • Reusable Nursing Pads – will come in handy when your boobs leak, and they WILL leak
  • Nursing Pillow – can use a regular pillow, but these are specially made for breastfeeding moms and they give extra support
  • Burp Cloths

Keeping all your breastfeeding supplies in one place is a great way to easily and quickly transition from the hospital to the home.

Freeze Some Colostrum

Colostrum is the clear yellow liquid your breast produces for the first few days of a newborns life.

However, some moms find they are producing colostrum during the last few weeks of their pregnancy.

As colostrum is extremely nutritious and gets replaced by regular milk very quickly, if you’re lucky enough to be producing in the late stages of your pregnancy, make sure to pump some and freeze it!

Don’t expect a large amount, it’s going to be tiny drops that seem like nothing, however, the nutritional impact of freezing these tiny drops can be extensive.

Stock Up

One of the biggest mistakes breastfeeding moms make is not getting enough calories.

You don’t need to double your meals, but you should be listening to your body and feeding yourself accordingly.

Making sure you have a fridge full of food is a great way to encourage eating and snacking so you can ensure you are getting enough calories.

Consider starting a meal prep so you always have enough to eat and don’t grab junk food. A meal-prep only takes a couple of hours a week and has great benefits for you and by extension your baby.

Invest In Some Nursing Wear

A great excuse to do some online shopping. You’ll need a couple of supportive nursing bras for when your baby arrives.

I typically go braless at home, however, when your milk arrives, you will want support even while sleeping!

If you plan on breastfeeding in public (and I highly encourage you to) having these while out and about will also make your life easier.

The pressure these bras provide will help avoid leaking and provide support for your sensitive breasts.

Have an Honest Conversation With Your Partner

Once your baby arrives, you won’t have time for much. You’ll be lucky if you get to shower every other day.

You’ll want to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your responsibilities when you bring the baby home.

If you think you’ll need some help around the home, this is the time to talk about it and perhaps even start looking for a maid or nanny to help out.

Any little bits of responsibilities your partner could help you with will be of tremendous help.

Also, knowing who will do what will save you headaches and fights down the road.

Get Your Free BreastPump

By law, insurance companies have to provide (or reimburse) pregnant mamas with a double electric breast pump.

Give your insurance company a call to check out how the process works since not all insurances offer the same steps.

Depending on the company the process can be any of the following:

  • the insurance company will send you the breast pump in the mail
  • they will provide a ‘prescription’ for a breast pump and will be given the breast pump at the hospital after labor
  • they will ask you to purchase one and once you send in the receipt, reimburse you for your purchase

Mentally Prepare Yourself

Breastfeeding hurts! And it’s a job.

The first couple of weeks are going to be tough. Newborns eat every two hours and you’ll be lucky if your nips aren’t in complete pain by day three.

You need to be prepared for the realities that is breastfeeding. It’s hard work and there are days you won’t want to do it.

However, you will also probably come to cherish those moments. Your baby won’t be a baby forever, and breastfeeding is such an incredible way to bond with your child.

You are your babies source of nourishment.

Although it might be painful and hard (no one here is promising rainbow and sunshine), always remember how it is completely worth it.

Rest

Although you’re nesting and there are over 100 things you want to do, resting should be a high priority at this time.

Once the baby arrives, you’ll be lucky to get three straight hours of sleep at a time.

Be greedy with your time and get some sleep while you still can.

You will feel much better and have higher energy for labor and birth.

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Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but prepping before the birth can help.

By Teresa Pitman July 20, 2015

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

Twenty years ago, pregnant women were told to “toughen up” their nipples to prevent soreness when they started breastfeeding. Research shows that wasn’t actually helpful—so no more rubbing your chest with a rough towel.

New mom Rachel Palmer of Barrie, Ont., says better advice is to get good breastfeeding info before you give birth. “I wish I’d known more about what was normal and when I should seek help,” she says. “I had pain but didn’t want to complain.” Palmer’s grin-and-bear-it approach is common among new moms—but rarely necessary. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy.

Learn about the process: Leah Mae Johnston of Whitby, Ont., watched videos on Dr. Jack Newman’s website when she was pregnant, and observed friends nursing, so she’d know what a good latch looked like. Halifax lactation consultant Cassie Kent says that early feedings may go more smoothly if you get in a comfy, semi-reclined position and snuggle your baby against your chest, letting him latch on by himself, with support. “Doing this early and often helps the baby get a good latch and primes milk production,” she says. Lactation consultant Sue Arsenault of Elmfield, NS, adds that it’s useful to read up on the process of breastfeeding, including how to recognize and manage the engorgement that often happens around the third or fourth day when your milk “comes in.”

Know Your body: Some physical or medical factors might cause breastfeeding challenges, so it’s worth discussing them with an expert ahead of time. Kent mentions previous breast surgery, hormonal imbalances or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), difficulty getting or staying pregnant, lack of breast growth during pregnancy, late or uneven breast growth during puberty, having very different-sized or widely spaced breasts, or having diabetes or thyroid issues. “None of these mean a woman can’t breastfeed, but discussing any issues with an expert prenatally can help you develop a plan.” Ask about learning to hand-express colostrum while you’re still pregnant so you can store some in case the baby needs supplementation.

Set up support: Connecting with community resources before the birth means that if problems crop up, you’re not scrambling for a phone number or discussing your breasts with a stranger. Edwina Hoffmann, of Fredericton, had just moved to Canada from the United Kingdom when she became pregnant, and had no family to turn to for help. “My midwife suggested I go to a La Leche League meeting while I was pregnant. I felt at home right away,” she says. “When I needed help breastfeeding, I felt comfortable asking for it.”

Johnston asked her friends and family to offer support, not suggest formula, if she was struggling, and mentioned things she thought would be most valuable postpartum, like cooking and cleaning, so she could focus on nursing.

Free up time: Kent thinks Johnston was on the right track. “I tell women they shouldn’t expect to do anything in the first two weeks except breastfeed,” she says. “If you’ll feel awkward asking for help, create a list of jobs that can be done by visitors and post it on the fridge.” She also suggests the “frozen food baby shower” where each guest brings a meal to stock your freezer. Hiring a postpartum doula or cleaning service for the first few weeks can also help.

Once Palmer called a lactation consultant, she was able to improve her baby’s latch and she got a doctor’s prescription for a cream to treat her sore nipples. “I always tell pregnant women to speak up when they have questions and use the resources available to them,” she says.

A huge learning curve arrives alongside your bundle of joy, and breastfeeding is one of the things that can be tricky at first. A little advance knowledge can reduce some stress in those hectic early days.

TIP: Lactation consultant Sue Arsenault recommends setting up nursing stations around the house with snacks, diapers, water and pillows to support you in a comfortable position anywhere your baby gets hungry.

A version of this article appeared in our August 2014 issue with the headline “Nursing know-how,” p. 43

Limiting medications and interventions during labor and birth (whenever possible) is a great first step in helping your newborn learn to breastfeed. Take some time to discuss your wishes with the person who will be delivering your baby.

Research shows that babies who are put skin to skin at birth learn to breastfeed faster. Let your healthcare provider know you’d like to have your baby skin to skin immediately after birth for at least an hour, uninterrupted.

If you are delivering in a hospital consider creating a card for baby’s bassinet saying: “I am a breastfed baby… no formula or pacifiers please!”

Keep your newborn near you, rather than in the nursery, so you can respond to baby’s earliest hunger cues.

Babies are typically awake and alert for the first hour or two after birth. They quietly take in their environment and begin to show interest in feeding.

After this first alert period, babies become drowsy and will remain this way for about 24 hours. They may even need reminders to feed.

But around 24 hours of age, a newborn’s behavior dramatically changes. The baby will begin to feed often. 10, 12, 14, 16 times or more in 24 hours is not unusual! It is easy to misinterpret baby’s frequent feeding as a sign of not having enough milk. Feeding responsively, every time baby shows interest (while continuing to monitor baby’s diaper count – see chart below ) will signal your body to begin making a larger volume of milk.

Frequent feeding is important in developing an abundant long term milk supply. Studies show that mothers who feed 13 – 16 times during baby’s second day of life have more milk at 6 weeks than those who feed 10 – 12 times and even more than those who feed 8 – 10 times a day.

Breastfeeding is time consuming. Newborns feed often! Both you and your baby will be learning. Having the time and privacy to learn is essential.

Take some time before baby arrives to make a plan for visitors in the first couple of weeks after birth. Too much company can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted.

You will NEED support people to help you with housework, meal preparation and dog walking. You will NOT NEED the extra work of entertaining or feeding guests. Planning ahead will help to save your time and energy for the important task of breastfeeding.

Take a pen and paper and spend few minutes making a list of the people who may want to visit in baby’s first couple of weeks. Who will be a ‘visitor’ and who could potentially be a ‘helper’? Beside each helper’s name, list specific tasks you could ask of them. Consider asking the ‘visitors’ to postpone their first visit.

Begin to surround yourself with other mothers who have had positive breastfeeding experiences. Watch them feed, ask them questions, and recruit them to be part of your support team once baby arrives. There is nothing like being able to ask questions of another mom who has gone through similar experiences.

La Leche League is a mother to mother breastfeeding support organization. Check to see if they have a group in your area and if possible, attend a meeting prenatally.

If you prefer online mom-to-mom support, join our Simply Breastfeeding Moms Facebook group. It’s a great place to ask questions of new moms just like yourself.

This is one thing you can strike off your preparation list! There is no physical preparation you must do for breastfeeding. Your body is already doing the work for you. You may have noticed that your nipple and areola (the colored area around your nipple) have become a darker brown. This is believed to help your your baby find where to latch.

Years ago, pregnant women were encouraged to prepare their nipples by rubbing them with a rough towel. Thankfully this is no longer recommended; it was found to damage nipple tissue.

Nipples come in many different shapes and sizes. A breastfeeding baby latches to the breast, not to the nipple. Unusually shaped nipples are rarely an issue that preclude breastfeeding. If you have concerns about the shape of your nipples for breastfeeding, speak to your doctor, your midwife or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

Over 90% of new mothers report having at least one breastfeeding problem in the first 3 days after baby’s birth. Most of these problems could have been avoided if the families had been aware of the basics of breastfeeding and newborn behavior.

There is an overwhelming amount of breastfeeding information available both online and in print. Unfortunately, not all of it is good information supported by evidence.

If you’d like to learn how to avoid some of the most common breastfeeding challenges, take our 12 video online course, Simply Breastfeeding From Day One . We will guide you through what you need to know to get a confident breastfeeding start. If you’d like to get a feel for the course, the positions video is available for free. You can check it out here . Simply scroll to the bottom of the page.

Your body is an amazing! You are growing a tiny human being. Believe in your body’s ability to provide the right food at the right time and at the right temperature for your baby.

Best wishes as you prepare for your breastfeeding journey.

References:

“Breastfeeding Your Newborn – What to Expect in the Early Weeks • KellyMom.com.” KellyMom.com, 13 Jan. 2018, https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/newborn-nursing/

Brown, A. (2015). Milk supply and breastfeeding decisions: the effects of new mothers’ experiences. NCT’s Journal on Preparing Parents for Birth and Early Parenting.

Daley, S.E., & Hartmann, P.E. (1995). Infant demand and milk supply. Part 1: Infant demand and milk production in lactating women. Journal of Human Lactation, 11, 21 – 26.

Pin for later reference:

About the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have helped over 30,000 families.

How to Prepare for Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Your body will do most of the work in preparation for breastfeeding; your nipples increase in size, your milk ducts increase in number and become mature during pregnancy.

YOU can also do a few things to prepare for a great breastfeeding relationship.

Many breastfeeding problems can be avoided with just a bit of extra info…

Things That You Can Do to Prepare for Breastfeeding

1. Visualize yourself breastfeeding your baby. Believe in yourself! You were perfectly made for this.

2. Have a natural birth, if possible; medical interventions can cause breastfeeding problems. Most Doulas and Midwives are breastfeeding friendly. My VBACK natural birth story here.

Women who have had c-section births are less likely to breastfeed their babies. The drugs used during a c-section can take a toll on breastfeeding.

If you do find yourself having a c-section.

3. Try to breastfeed immediately after birth or at least 2 hours after birth. Let the doctors and nurses know about your plans beforehand.

How to prepare the breast for breast feedingPhoto by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Save this crib note to your PC and print it to place on your baby’s crib in the hospital.

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

4. Find as much info on breastfeeding as possible. The more you know, the more confident you will be.

5. If you are going into hospital, request in writing that you don’t want your baby given any formula or supplements. Download the crib note above.

6. During the last six weeks of pregnancy, you can start massaging your breasts to clear the ducts. Also, use the breast shells (mentioned below) to draw out your nipples, if your nipples are flat or inverted.

7. The best way to prepare for breastfeeding is to attend a breastfeeding class; ask at your hospital.

Things You Might Need, When You Prepare for Breastfeeding

1. A good breast pump: This is for mothers who will need to increase milk supply or store breast milk for later.

2. A comfortable nursing bra for convenience and support. (Buy your bras after 36 weeks of pregnancy, so that you don’t get one that’s going to be too small)

3. Get a proper breastfeeding pillow for support and comfort.

4. Get breast shells, if you have inverted or flat nipples, which can be used from five months pregnancy to draw out your nipple in preparation for breastfeeding.

5. Set up a nursing station in a quiet room with a comfortable chair and plenty of pillows for support.

6. A sling can help keep you on the move while you breastfeed on demand. This promotes bonding, skin to skin contact and increased breast milk production.

Things That You Should Not Do When Preparing for Breastfeeding

1. Do not toughen your nipples. Your nipples need to be supple for breastfeeding, toughening them will cause them to crack. Wash your nipples with water alone, no soap is necessary.

2. Don’t listen to just anyone’s opinion on what you should do. Uncover the infamous breastfeeding myths.

3. Do not keep formula nearby. Your breasts need stimulation and giving your baby a bottle will cause you to produce less milk.

Comments

Breast Leaking While Pregnant
by Angel
(Oregon)

I’m a month away from having my third child. I’ve breastfed the first two. I’m a working mom, so I also pumped.

I had pain in my right breast and couldn’t figure it out. I told my husband about it. The best way to describe it was when I’d get a clog when I nursed, it hurt, it was kind of hard, and nothing was making it better. So he said try pumping.

Thinking nothing would happen, I tried. I got over an ounce of milk. Very yellowy milk. But milk. And I haven’t had a baby yet. Everything I’m finding says you can’t have milk before baby, but I do. Have you ever heard of it before? Can I save it and store it for when the baby arrives?

Milk before baby
by: Katelin Granados

I always leaked breast milk with both of my children when I was pregnant. It started around 6-7 months along. I would say it’s fine to store for your baby; it sounds like a very early form of colostrum.

Normal
by: Tracy

Yes, this is normal, many moms start leaking before they have given birth; some moms breastfeed right through their pregnancies.

There is nothing wrong with expressing breast milk while you are pregnant.

Some believe that if you have a risky pregnancy with the possibility of a miscarriage that nipple stimulation might be a bad idea, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, you don’t need to worry about that.

How to Prepare for Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Your body will do most of the work in preparation for breastfeeding; your nipples increase in size, your milk ducts increase in number and become mature during pregnancy.

YOU can also do a few things to prepare for a great breastfeeding relationship.

Many breastfeeding problems can be avoided with just a bit of extra info…

Things That You Can Do to Prepare for Breastfeeding

1. Visualize yourself breastfeeding your baby. Believe in yourself! You were perfectly made for this.

2. Have a natural birth, if possible; medical interventions can cause breastfeeding problems. Most Doulas and Midwives are breastfeeding friendly. My VBACK natural birth story here.

Women who have had c-section births are less likely to breastfeed their babies. The drugs used during a c-section can take a toll on breastfeeding.

If you do find yourself having a c-section.

3. Try to breastfeed immediately after birth or at least 2 hours after birth. Let the doctors and nurses know about your plans beforehand.

How to prepare the breast for breast feedingPhoto by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Save this crib note to your PC and print it to place on your baby’s crib in the hospital.

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

4. Find as much info on breastfeeding as possible. The more you know, the more confident you will be.

5. If you are going into hospital, request in writing that you don’t want your baby given any formula or supplements. Download the crib note above.

6. During the last six weeks of pregnancy, you can start massaging your breasts to clear the ducts. Also, use the breast shells (mentioned below) to draw out your nipples, if your nipples are flat or inverted.

7. The best way to prepare for breastfeeding is to attend a breastfeeding class; ask at your hospital.

Things You Might Need, When You Prepare for Breastfeeding

1. A good breast pump: This is for mothers who will need to increase milk supply or store breast milk for later.

2. A comfortable nursing bra for convenience and support. (Buy your bras after 36 weeks of pregnancy, so that you don’t get one that’s going to be too small)

3. Get a proper breastfeeding pillow for support and comfort.

4. Get breast shells, if you have inverted or flat nipples, which can be used from five months pregnancy to draw out your nipple in preparation for breastfeeding.

5. Set up a nursing station in a quiet room with a comfortable chair and plenty of pillows for support.

6. A sling can help keep you on the move while you breastfeed on demand. This promotes bonding, skin to skin contact and increased breast milk production.

Things That You Should Not Do When Preparing for Breastfeeding

1. Do not toughen your nipples. Your nipples need to be supple for breastfeeding, toughening them will cause them to crack. Wash your nipples with water alone, no soap is necessary.

2. Don’t listen to just anyone’s opinion on what you should do. Uncover the infamous breastfeeding myths.

3. Do not keep formula nearby. Your breasts need stimulation and giving your baby a bottle will cause you to produce less milk.

Comments

Breast Leaking While Pregnant
by Angel
(Oregon)

I’m a month away from having my third child. I’ve breastfed the first two. I’m a working mom, so I also pumped.

I had pain in my right breast and couldn’t figure it out. I told my husband about it. The best way to describe it was when I’d get a clog when I nursed, it hurt, it was kind of hard, and nothing was making it better. So he said try pumping.

Thinking nothing would happen, I tried. I got over an ounce of milk. Very yellowy milk. But milk. And I haven’t had a baby yet. Everything I’m finding says you can’t have milk before baby, but I do. Have you ever heard of it before? Can I save it and store it for when the baby arrives?

Milk before baby
by: Katelin Granados

I always leaked breast milk with both of my children when I was pregnant. It started around 6-7 months along. I would say it’s fine to store for your baby; it sounds like a very early form of colostrum.

Normal
by: Tracy

Yes, this is normal, many moms start leaking before they have given birth; some moms breastfeed right through their pregnancies.

There is nothing wrong with expressing breast milk while you are pregnant.

Some believe that if you have a risky pregnancy with the possibility of a miscarriage that nipple stimulation might be a bad idea, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, you don’t need to worry about that.

How should I prepare for breastfeeding?

Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding even before your baby’s born. Talk to nursing moms, read books to familiarize yourself, call your local La Leche League International chapter, and consider taking a breastfeeding class (offered by most hospitals) some time in your last trimester. The more you know about how to get started and the benefits of nursing, the more likely you are to succeed at it.

Whether you think about it or not, your pregnant body is preparing itself for breastfeeding. That’s one reason your breasts get so much bigger during pregnancy — your milk ducts and milk-producing cells are developing, and more blood goes to your breasts than before. (Learn more about how your breasts produce milk.) But breast size has nothing to do with your ability to nurse successfully: For example, it’s not true that smaller-breasted women make less breast milk.

Do I need to toughen my nipples?

“No,” says Kathleen Huggins, author of The Nursing Mother’s Companion. The hormonal changes pregnancy brings to your breasts are sufficient preparation for most women. Don’t rub or scrub your nipples — this will only hurt you and make breastfeeding difficult. Teaching your baby the right way to latch on to your breast from the beginning is the most effective way to prevent soreness.

You may be noticing some small pimple-like protrusions around your areola, the darker area around the nipple. These are called Montgomery’s glands, and they secrete oil that fights bacteria, lubricates and softens the skin, and adjusts the pH balance. Avoid washing your nipples with soap, as it removes this beneficial oil and may dry the tissue. A daily rinsing with warm water is all that’s necessary.

Talk to a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) if you have flat, inverted, or dimpled nipples or anything else you’re concerned about, such breast implants or a previous breast reduction surgery or lumpectomy. These issues usually don’t mean that you can’t breastfeed.

What products should I buy?

These products can make breastfeeding more comfortable and convenient:

Nursing bras: These bras are comfortable and provide the extra support your larger-than-usual breasts need. They come with flaps that you can easily undo at feeding time. See which nursing bras won our Love It Awards.

It’s best to wait until the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to shop for nursing bras, when your breasts will be closest to their postpartum size. That said, once your milk comes in your breasts will be bigger. They may even grow another size or two! So keep that in mind when buying nursing bras, and when shopping in person look for a salesperson who’s knowledgeable about fitting.

Nursing tops and camisoles: These tops have convenient flaps that allow you to breastfeed easily and discreetly. Some of the camisoles are very supportive and can work as a bra and top in one.

Nursing pillows: Specially designed to support your baby while you’re nursing, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They’re more convenient — and better at keeping your baby in position — than regular pillows. See which breastfeeding pillows won our Love It Awards.

Breast pads: It’s normal for your breasts to leak while you’re nursing, and another baby’s cry or the sight of an infant can bring on a gush of milk when you least expect it. Disposable breast pads (or reusable, washable ones) will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.

A breast pump: Even if you’re not planning to pump regularly, a breast pump can be a useful tool — to help relieve engorgement, for example. See which breast pumps won our Love It Awards.

Other breastfeeding accessories: Nipple cream or balm can help relieve sore nipples, and hot/cold gel packs can soothe swollen or sore breasts. Some moms also like to have a nursing cover for breastfeeding in public.

Huggins K. 2010. The Nursing Mother’s Companion. 6th edition. Boston, MA: The Harvard Common Press.

Although breastfeeding is good for you and your baby, it can be hard on your nipples! Read our advice and tips on nipple care to help keep soreness at bay

“Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt” is a mantra new mums often hear. But many find the reality is rather different in the early days.

For starters, during pregnancy most women’s nipples become larger and more sensitive. And when your newborn starts feeding from them he creates pressure and suction unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before (well, if you’re a first-time mum at least).

Breastfeeds can take a long time too – sometimes up to an hour – and your baby may feed up to 13 times a day. 1 All this new suction, pressure and saliva can result in sore nipples.

Think about lips that get sore or cracked from the wind or sun. The more you wet them by licking them, the more dry and damaged they get – so you moisturise to soothe and protect them and to help them heal. It’s the same with your nipples.

However, soreness shouldn’t last long as you and your baby should become accustomed to breastfeeding during the first couple of weeks. Treating problems promptly is essential for preventing further damage. So if your nipples crack, start bleeding, or are excruciatingly sore, speak to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist as soon as you can. 2

However, prevention is better than cure – so read my troubleshooting tips below.

Check your baby’s latch

The key to pain-free breastfeeding is a good latch. When your baby is latching on, aim your nipple towards the roof of his mouth. This should help him latch on to the nipple, as well as some of the areola (the circle of darker skin around the nipple) beneath it. Having both the nipple and some of the breast tissue into his mouth like this will help him feed properly. 3

Get your baby’s latch checked by a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist in the first few days. They’ll give you advice on overcoming any problems and may suggest alternative breastfeeding positions to help you feed your baby as painlessly as possible.

Watch out for tongue-tie

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) affects 4 to 11% of newborns. 4 It means the strip of skin that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, called the lingual frenulum, is too short. A tongue-tied baby may not be able to open his mouth wide enough to take in plenty of your breast when he feeds, and his tongue probably won’t cover his lower gum while he sucks. The result can be sore nipples for you and frustration for him.

A healthcare professional, lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist needs to assess your baby to confirm a tongue-tie. It can be treated with a simple procedure called a tongue-tie division if necessary. Carried out by a healthcare professional, this doesn’t usually require anaesthetic and may help resolve feeding problems immediately. 5

There is a similar, but rarer, condition called a lip-tie, where the frenulum attaching the upper lip to the top gum is too short. Tongue-ties and lip-ties aren’t always picked up in neonatal checks, so if you think one of these could be causing your nipple pain, seek advice quickly. 4

Breastfeeding nipple care tips

  • Only wash your breasts with water when you bath or shower. The little bumps (Montgomery glands) on your areolae produce an oil that moisturises and protects your nipples. Soaps and shower gels can strip this natural oil, causing dryness and irritation. 6
  • Air-dry your nipples or dab them gently with a towel. Women used to be told to rub their nipples to toughen them up, but this isn’t advised any more – thank goodness!
  • There’s no need to clean the breast or nipples before breastfeeding. In fact, bacteria from the surface of your breast can help develop your baby’s gut microbiome. 7
  • Fresh breast milk can help heal damaged nipples, 8 so try massaging a few drops into them before and after feeds.
  • Change nursing pads frequently if they become damp to reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal infections, including thrush. 6
  • Avoid increasing the gap between breastfeeds to ‘rest’ your nipples. Your baby needs to feed on demand to stay healthy and grow well. Remember, frequent feeding builds and maintains your supply, so keep feeding through any soreness. 9

Useful nipple care products

  • Nipple cream made from ultra-pure lanolin – a natural product obtained from sheep’s wool. This moisturises and supports healing. It’s harmless for your baby, so there’s no need to wash off lanolin before breastfeeding.
  • Hydrogel pads can be placed on sore nipples to offer instant breastfeeding pain relief, as well as creating ideal conditions for healing. You can even keep them in the fridge for cooling comfort.
  • Breast shells fit inside your bra. They’re great for stopping clothing rubbing against sore nipples, and have holes in so air can still get to your nipples to help them heal.
  • Nursing bras made from either a breathable material like cotton, or a fabric that dries quickly and wicks excess moisture away from damaged nipples.
  • Nipple shields are silicone covers that fit over your nipples, with small holes for your breast milk to flow through as you breastfeed. They protect the skin underneath and can give a baby with a poor latch something firmer to attach to. In general nipple shields should be considered a short-term solution. If problems or pain occur, consult your lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist.

When to seek medical help

Once your baby and your nipples are used to breastfeeding, it’s true it shouldn’t hurt. It’s worth reiterating that the number one cause of sore nipples is a poor latch. If one breastfeeding expert hasn’t been able to resolve your nipple pain, try another, and another if necessary.

If your nipple pain persists or you notice unusual symptoms, see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. White spots or flakiness on your nipples could be thrush, whitish or blueish nipples could be caused by a circulatory disorder such as Raynaud’s disease (vasospasm), and pus or hot redness are signs of infection. 2

2 Berens P et al. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol# 26: Persistent pain with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2016;11(2):46-53.

8 Mohammadzadeh A et al. The effect of breast milk and lanolin on sore nipples. Saudi medical journal. 2005;26(8):1231-1234.

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If you’re breastfeeding and have sore or cracked nipples, Medela hydrogel pads support healing and offer instant, soothing relief. .

January 1, 2017 by Bethanie Ryan

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

Here are some of the basics when breastfeeding is just getting started, those things that almost all new mothers have questions about:

How do I make enough milk?

Milk production is not based on how much water you drink, how much protein you eat, whether or not you are pumping in addition to nursing (in normal situations), on what you eat or drink, or on whether you are using essential oils, herbs, lactation cookies, or lactation drinks. It will be based on the frequency and effectiveness of milk taken from the breast by your baby. The foundation for a terrific milk supply is actually laid down in the first seven days after baby’s birth. Limiting or delaying breastfeeding will limit your supply next week, next month, and further down the road with this baby. Nurse your baby as often as he or she requests to nurse.

How much should my baby take in that first week?

Remember, the size of the full-term baby’s stomach at birth is the size of a small cherry or a shooter marble. By day three, it will grow to the size of a walnut or ping pong ball, by day seven, to the size of an apricot, and day 30, to the size of the baby’s fist or a large chicken egg. Your stomach is the size of your fist, or a softball. How much does each of these hold?

  • Day One: 3 to 5 milliliters per feeding, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful
  • Day Three: 22 to 27 milliliters or 0.75 to 1 ounce
  • Day Seven: 45 to 60 milliliters or 1.5 to 2 ounces
  • One Month: 80 to 150 milliliters or 2.5 to 5 ounces

What about a diaper count?

What goes in must come out, says the old adage. Breastfed babies have very frequent stools in the early weeks. Remember that breast milk is very easy for your little one to digest, and he or she will be pooping out whatever he or she doesn’t need for immediate growth. Here’s what you should expect to see:

  • Day one to day two: Black, sticky, odorless meconium
  • Day two to three: Green, less sticky, and still odorless transitional
  • Day three to four: Yellow, seedy, runny breast milkstools with a rather sweet, yeasty odor.
  • Day one: 1 wet, 1 stool (or more!)
  • Day two: 2 wet, 2 stools (or more!)
  • Day three: 3 wet, 3 stools (or more!)
  • Day four, when a copious milk supply begins: six or more wet and four or more stools.