I’ve heard of mothers getting thrush, mastitis, lumps and other breast infections.
Personally, I've experienced cracked nipples, engorgement, and clogged ducts during my six years of breastfeeding.
I strongly believe that if we give our breasts the proper space, not only will they be able to heal any problem, but our breasts will be able to protect themselves from future issues.
Thus, here are some helpful hygiene practices I’ve personally used for healthy breasts.
1. Let Baby Latch Themselves
The first latch is key in our breastfeeding journey.
Baby needs to be alert, healthy and interested in nursing --don’t force them.
Birthing is just as tiring for mom as it is for baby. They too are exhausted from squeezing, tossing, turning and pushing through the birth canal. When they are ready they will latch to the breast.
When babies do it themselves - they are able to do it properly. Meaning, it’s less painful and should minimize future injuries for mom.
Baby has to position the breast properly in their mouth, while sticking their tongue out and sucking. It may sound complicated to us (try it). Leave it to them - they were born to do this.
How you can help is by making sure their delivery is drug-free so that our children are born healthy and alert.
2. Wash Hands
There is a lot of fondling with the breast.
Just as we wash our hands before we eat. It’s a good habit to wash our hands before baby eats - In the event we have to lift our breast out of the shirt, or put nipple in their mouth.
We don’t want unnecessary bacteria getting in baby’s mouth via dirty hands.
3. Sterilize All Breast Pump Accessories
By sterilize, I mean boil them in hot water every day.
The bottles, the tubing, the flanges, the valves, the membranes -- everything.
Breastfeeding (via having baby feed directly from the breast) is the safest way to feed baby, because it does not require all of these external parts that are susceptible to contamination.
But in the event that a breast pump is needed - it's essential to make sure the equipment is as sanitary as possible.
This may seem laborious, but I think it’s crucial in preventing any kind of yeast or other microorganisms from causing harm to you and your baby.
Side note: check with your insurance to see if you can get a free breast pump.
4. Wear Nursing Pads (only if needed)
There are disposable and reusable breast pads on the market now.
If you leak, I would recommend them because they collect the milk and keep the breast dry.
At night I would wake to a soaked shirt and bed. Because my milk production increased at night, she didn’t nurse as frequently as she did during the day, and the pressure from me laying on my breasts -- caused them to leak.
Give night bras a try. They are very thin, flexible and pretty comfortable (this is coming from a mom who prefers to be braless). They don’t provide any support, but they do have a space to hold nursing pads.
Hopefully, the leaking won’t last long and you will be able to sleep braless again.
I find being bare chest and allowing baby to sniff and find breast on their own is easiest.
But do what works best for you.
5. Wipe Off Breasts
In addition to washing hands, I strongly recommend wiping off breasts. If you are anything like me, I rarely had time to shower in the first couple of months. I felt baby was constantly attached and didn’t allow that.
When I did have a moment to myself, I honestly preferred to sleep.
If this is your situation, definitely consider washing up (instead of the full shower). Our breasts sweat, are working hard to produce milk and need to be kept clean for us and baby.
6. Avoid Engorgement
Engorgement may naturally occur when your milk first comes in - your body is trying to figure out how much milk to produce to meet baby’s needs.
But after that first time, try not to get engorged.
Engorgement can cause milk ducts to get clogged - which is not only painful but can lead to infection.
So pump if you know you will be away from baby and will miss a feeding. Breastfeed or pump through the night.
7. Avoid Putting Non-Edibles On Breast
Breast milk works miracles in healing any injuries on the breast. You can hand express some milk and rub it on your breast, if you have a cut. For moisturizing and keeping the skin healthy - I would strictly use oils (olive oil is our fave) and shea butter.
Remember breast milk is baby’s first natural food. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your breast.
8. Let Them Breathe
Your breast will be working really hard - so let them breathe. I find thin layers to be the best, go braless if you can. If you can’t, I would totally just go braless at night when you are in your own home.
9. Support Group
Join a local breastfeeding group. You can find them by entering your zip code here, and if you are local to Boston, check out the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition or you can always sign up for a one-on-one with me.
You will get to hear first hand what moms are experiencing and how they are dealing with their breast health.
And if you don’t experience any of these, it’s still helpful to be around other moms.
Even if you do develop one of the issues above, it is helpful to have peers who can relate and offer advice, some groups also have licensed lactation consultants who can help you on your journey.
10. Breastfeeding Is The Healthiest Thing You Can Do For Your Breast Health
When something isn’t used for what it was created for - problems occur.
Your nipples, areolas, muscles, milk ducts, montgomery glands, breast tissue and other breast cells will thank you.
If possible, don’t rush the process. Get to know your girls, study them, and find out what they like.
Did you experience any health issues while breastfeeding? What practices do you do to keep your breasts healthy?
Until next time.
Peace & Love,
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