It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve encountered as a new mum; a gummy, sucking and wide open mouth, launching itself at my sore, bleeding and cracked areole. I’d heard that your breasts got sore when breastfeeding, but the chasm that stretched itself across my nipple was not what I was expecting. It hurt. It really hurt.
I spent a lot of time prising Little Miss on and off the breast trying to get the ‘right’ attachment. She would get so cranky and hungry, and who could blame her – “here’s your dinner…now it’s gone…here it is…nope not yet…” If someone pulled that kind of trick with me and chocolate, they’d be in danger of losing an arm!
Eventually I’d just let her have the breast even with poor positioning and a shallow latch. It took about 6 months and an appointment with a lactation consultant before I could finally feed her without feeling stressed and apprehensive.
Whether you breastfeed, express or use a combination of both, your breasts are the main source of nutrition for your baby during the first 12 months and beyond. So you should probably take pretty good care of them – for bubs benefit and your own comfort.
Whichever method you choose to feed your baby, your nipples are going to cop a beating. They’re going to get sore and red as you adjust to becoming the 24 hour milk truck…with no penalty rates. There are a few things you can do to ease this transition and minimise the likelihood of cracked nipples. Breastmilk contains antibacterial lauric acid and Antibody IgA, which is an antiseptic, so express a little after you feed your baby and put it on your nipples.
Then leave your boobs out to air dry – and no your partner did not pay me for this! This will allow any moisture to dry and the healing process to begin. Finally you can put some soothing and healing nipple cream on your nipples to soften and protect them. Make sure you choose a baby safe and natural nipple cream that contains no hidden nasties.
It is so important to have a supportive and properly fitted nursing bra. You’ll possibly have to adjust to a new breast size or shape, deal with sensitive nipples and be juggling nursing pads . You’ll need a good quality bra that is soft, supportive and has good clips to make accessing your breasts for feeding or expressing easy. The last thing you want is an impatient baby pulling at your $4 nursing singlet, snapping the clasp and leaving you to do the grocery shopping with it all just… um…bouncing there!
It’s worth investing in several quality bras that can be worn with a variety of tops and dresses. A product that works really well with nursing bras is the Breastvest, it scoops under the bra, meaning that you can wear a singlet under your clothes without giving up easy access for feeding or expressing. This is a great idea for mums who don’t want to expose their tummy while breastfeeding in public.
If a sore lump appears in your breast, but you don’t feel sick, then you probably have a blocked milk duct. Make sure you feed often and offer the affected breast first. Have a hot shower or use a warm compress to soften the lump and massage it gently to help break it up. You can also hand express the milk gently to help clear the passages. If you can’t remove the blockage within 12 hours, or you start to feel unwell then you need to contact your doctor as you might have mastitis. Mastitis can make you quite sick if left untreated.
Taking good care of your health and your breasts will help ease any difficulties you may encounter while feeding or expressing, making the experience far more enjoyable for you and your baby.
*Note: If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your child then contact your GP immediately.
Leave your own breast care remedies in the comments section below.