Pregnancy is an experience that is different for every mom-to-be. That is equally true for one pregnancy to the next for the same woman. There are similarities, however, and for every account of it being an easy, joyful nine months, there will be dozens of others that talk about out-of-control weight gain, midnight cravings, swelling feet, never-ending bathroom calls and mood swings that change by the millisecond. This is a lot to ask of someone for such an extended period of time, but once that baby is placed in mom’s arms after delivery, there’s no question it was worth it.
Everything during pregnancy was about doing what was best for the baby growing inside the womb. Not much really changes after birth. Most of what a new mother will do for quite some time will revolve around what is best for the baby, and that includes mom making sure to take care of her own health. It is still best to maintain a good diet, drink plenty of fluids and, impossible as it may seem, get adequate rest. It is also important to avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine and be cautious with medications while breast feeding.
Caring for Breasts While Breast Feeding
A mother who chooses to breast feed will want to take special care of her breasts to avoid some of the more common issues, such as, sore or cracked nipples, blocked milk ducts and mastitis, which is a painful infection of the breast tissue. Some good practices are:
- Hygiene – practice good hygiene by washing your hands before touching your breasts and keep breasts and nipples clean by washing them each day with warm water. Using soap should be avoided as it can remove natural oils, which can result in cracking.
- Wear a Nursing Bra – wear a nursing or supportive bra that is not overly tight or restrictive.
- Correct Latching – prevent soreness and other issues by having the baby well positioned at the breast to ensure easy and proper latching.
- Change Breast Pads – Clean and dry nursing pads can help to prevent soreness and mastitis.
- Moisturize Nipples – try rubbing breast milk on your nipples and areola after nursing to help keep them from getting dry and cracked.
- Disengage Properly After Nursing – do not simply pull baby away from breast, which can quickly lead to soreness. Instead, break the suction by placing your finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth before gently pulling away.
- Avoid Breast Engorgement – ensuring proper latching and draining breasts as much as possible during each feeding, or by following up with pumping, will help prevent engorgement, which can be painful and lead to infection. If breasts do become engorged, you can try a cold compress for 15 minutes every hour to reduce swelling. Just remember to place a thin cloth between the breast and the cold pack to protect skin.
If you have questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare professional about any issues, such as soreness, dry or cracked nipples, painful engorgement or other problems. Get recommendations about what products are safe to use and which to avoid. This is especially good advice for first time mothers who may have read all the manuals but are still anxious about what are the best practices.