Breast Care

Woman breastfeeding an infant
Within a couple of days after birth, your breasts will become larger and heavier. They may be tender as they start making more milk. This fullness happens because the breast tissue swells and your body starts making more milk. The swelling will go away over time. Your breasts will keep making as much milk as your baby needs, even after your breasts begin to feel softer.

For the first few days after birth, your breasts will feel soft and will produce colostrum — a sticky, yellow fluid. Your milk usually comes in about 2 to 4 days after your baby is born.

Your breasts will feel warm, firm, and tender. If they become very full and sore, feeding your baby will help. If the baby does not want to feed when you need relief, you can express milk from your breasts. This is easy to do when you take a warm shower. You can also put warm cloths (compresses) on your breasts to ease the discomfort.

When you take a bath, wash your breasts with plain water only. Do not use soap. Pat your nipples dry. Let them dry in the air after each feeding.

You can prevent dryness and skin rashes by rubbing a small amount of breast milk onto your nipples and the dark circle around them (areola).

Wear a cotton bra that fits you well and does not have elastic straps. The bra should not have a lining made of plastic or rubber.

To learn more about breastfeeding your baby, see - Deciding to Breastfeed.

Even if you decide not to breastfeed, your breasts will produce milk. A good support bra will help you feel more comfortable. Mothers who decide not to breastfeed do not need medicine to dry up the milk. Avoid doing things that will cause your breasts to produce milk, such as:
  • Rubbing your breasts with a face cloth, your hands, or clothing 
  • Letting hot water fall on your breasts when you are in the shower. To avoid this, shower with your back to the water. 
If your breasts become sore and swollen, ice packs and pain pills may help. The milk in your breasts will be absorbed by your body. Try not to express milk.

Breast care tips if you’re feeding with infant formula

If you aren’t breastfeeding, your breasts may become engorged. They may be hard, swollen, painful and/or red. This can be uncomfortable. The pain will lessen in about 24 hours. In the meantime, you can try these comfort measures:

· Wear a supportive bra for comfort until your breasts produce less milk (within about 5–10 days). Try not to wear a bra that’s too tight or that binds your breasts.

· Put ice packs on your breasts for short periods at a time.

· Take a mild pain medicine as recommended by your health care provider to help relieve painful and swollen breasts.

· If your breasts become full and uncomfortable, express your breastmilk as needed until you feel comfortable. Talk to your health care provider or public health nurse for information about expressing your milk to lessen the discomfort of engorgement.

Medicine to dry up milk is seldom prescribed anymore. Possible side effects include headaches and blood clots in the legs.

Nipple Care

Examine both breasts and nipples after each feeding. Finding and correcting problems early can prevent nipple soreness from getting worse and make breast-feeding more comfortable for you. Mild discomfort at the beginning of feedings during the first week is normal and does not require treatment. These are ways you can prevent nipple soreness:
  • wash your breasts and nipples at least once a day using plain water for the first month; to prevent dryness and cracking don’t use soap when washing your breasts
  • always wash your hands before every feeding to help prevent breast infection
  • after each feeding express a little milk and rub it onto your nipples. The cream in your milk can prevent dryness and doesn’t have to be washed off before the next feeding.
  • leave the flaps down on your nursing bra and let your nipples air dry for 10 to 15 minutes after each feeding
  • make sure your baby has latched on correctly and has most of the areola and all of the nipple in his mouth, not just the nipple
  • nurse your baby often to prevent engorgement of your breasts and vigorous sucking by your baby
  • proper positioning and latch-on usually prevents sore nipples no matter how long a feeding lasts
  • break the suction before removing your baby from each breast
  • don’t use plastic liners inside your bra: change your bra and nursing pads when they are wet or moist. Allowing your nipples to stay wet allows germs to grow faster and causes the skin to break down.
Nursing should not be painful. If you have nipple pain while nursing, break the suction, remove your baby from your breast, and start over. If the pain is severe or continues after the first week call your baby’s doctor.
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