Nursing Breast Care

When breastfeeding a baby, your breasts will require extra attention and care to maximize comfort for both mother and child.

Nursing a child is one of the greatest pleasures a mother can experience. Few feelings provide the sense of exhilaration and satisfaction that nurturing new life does. However, as your breasts are serving this vital function, it is important to provide quality attention and care to them during this period.

Start by preparing your nipples before childbirth. Shower daily to keep your body clean and free of germs as you prepare for the baby's delivery. When you get out of the shower, gently rub your nipples with a terrycloth towel to toughen them for breastfeeding. Some women apply lanolin to the nipples afterward to keep them from becoming raw after the invigorating rub.

As the delivery date draws closer, your breasts may begin to secrete milk. They will enlarge and feel tight and firm. You might want to start wearing breast shields or pads to protect your bra and clothing at this time. In fact, you should purchase two or three nursing bras, with tops that unclasp for ready breastfeeding, and launder them before the baby arrives.

When your little one finally arrives, the doctor or nurse may hand the infant to you for nursing soon after birth. At first this feeding phase may be difficult for both mother and child. Your breasts will be tender and full, and the baby's sucking response may need to be stoked while the mouth is guided to latch properly onto your breasts. Around the time of birth your breasts will secrete colostrum, a pre-milk substance that is rich in nutrients. After a few days your regular milk will come in.

As the baby learns to attach to your breast, your nipples may become cracked and tender from wet milk drying the area after each nursing effort. When the baby finishes breastfeeding, use a warm washcloth to wipe the nipples and breast area clean. Then dry them carefully before covering with the bra. It is important to keep the nipples clean while nursing, as bacteria can enter through the milk glands and cause an infection, which is not uncommon in new mothers, and must be treated with an antibiotic.

If your breasts ache with fullness from milk that the baby is not yet drinking, apply warm compresses for about ten to fifteen minutes to each of them to help soothe discomfort. You will want to do this while weaning your child several months later as well, as your breasts will contain unused milk that can produce a heavy, full feeling.

Remember that between nursing times your breasts can "let down" milk in response to your baby's cry or even thoughts of the child. If you notice off-white spots on your clothing or feel a dripping sensation in your bra, be sure to clean up and change nursing pads so that your breasts remain clean and free of bacteria as well as preventing dried milk from causing the nipples to crack. Change nursing bras each day, and keep them washed and fresh. You and your baby will enjoy this bonding experience more readily when nipple pain does not come between you.

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