Your hard working girls need TLC! A guide to postpartum breast care

Your breasts will become strangers to you after having a baby. They will seem to take on a life of their own, they will grow larger, become firmer, even hard and sore, may leak, and your nipples may become damaged. You will need to figure them out all over again, it’s a bit like puberty, but worse. 🙂

Breastfeeding is normal mammal behaviour, and so for something that is normal, how much extra work do you need to do? The truth is, probably not much unless there is an issue. Here’s a good guide on postpartum breast care.

Basic care:

Wear a good supportive bra

And make sure it isn’t too tight. Avoid underwire bras if you can, as these can put pressure on ducts underneath the breast, which can lead to plugged ducts. If you do need an underwire bra, save it for occasions when you need the extra support, and work with a good supportive non underwire bra the rest of the time.

Wash with water and try and avoid soap

Soap can dry out the skin, it can also change the way your breasts smell, so in the first few days may confuse your baby who is
learning how to breastfeed. Having said that, if you feel you need a good shower with soap, then don’t hold off. Use an unscented soap and try and avoid the nipple area, but please, feel clean and good about yourself.

Lotions and potions

There are a lot of nipple creams out there. There is a lot of advice out there as to what to put on your breasts. Interestingly enough, there isn’t a whole lot of research out there on which products are more effective than others. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, mom’s reporting that they like one product over the other. Let’s look at a few:

  • Your own milk: it’s free and readily available. Breastmilk contains fats which help keep skin supple and also epithelial stem cells which theoretically should help promote wound healing if your nipples are cracked and damaged. It’s also what your baby is already eating.
  • Lanolin: it comes from sheep, and tends to be quite thick and tacky. If you like using this product, warm it up in your fingers first before applying as it will apply more easily when warm. Some lanolin products have extra ingredients in them to make them more spreadable
  • Coconut oil: a newer kid on the block, fast becoming a favourite. It’s easy to spread, super moisturizing and absorbs well
  • Nipple cream formulations from various companies: too many to list here, but there are a host of them, some mom’s love them, others don’t. Usually easy to apply, and often made from all natural ingredients and contain many different herbs.

Things to avoid

Interestingly enough, the FDA considers nipple creams as cosmetic and so there may be toxic ingredients in them. It’s worth checking out that ingredient list before applying them to your nipples. Look up any ingredients you don’t know. Ingredients to avoid: bees wax, vitamin e, antibiotic creams unless there is an infection, steroid based creams, and any non-edible ingredients to name a few. Don’t use anything without an ingredients label.

When and where to apply the product of your choice

While it is tempting to apply your nipple cream to your whole areola area, it isn’t a good idea to do so. Most lotions and creams make the areola slippery and so when your baby is trying to get a deep latch, they slide off, because of the nipple cream. Keep nipple creams to the nipples and leave the areola alone. Apply creams after feeds. Rule of thumb: if it has been longer than 30 minutes since applying, it should be absorbed by your body and therefor does not need to be washed off. If it has been less than 30 minutes, use a warm wet cloth to gently rinse your nipples prior to feeding.

Last bit of advice

What you find works for you may not work for the next mom, so play around a bit with the advice out there and see what you get the best results with. If you have any signs of nipple damage: bruising, cracks, bleeding, etc. contact an IBCLC for help – nipple damage is the sign of a latch gone wrong!


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