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Breast Care While Nursing

We know you have a lot to think about as you start breastfeeding, but don't forget to take care of your breasts! Why is breast care so important? In addition to ensuring a comfortable and effective nursing experience, it can help you avoid engorgement, plugged ducts, and the dreaded mastitis. From warm compresses to lanolin to breast massage, there are simple solutions to most nursing problems.

Why Is Breast Care Important?

Mothers who decide to breastfeed will quickly learn the importance of why breast care is so vital when nursing. By knowing what to watch for ahead of time, you won't have to learn these lessons the hard way. And if you can prevent a problem from becoming worse, you can help avoid painful breastfeeding sessions with your little one.
During pregnancy and after birth, your breasts go through many changes to prepare for providing milk for your newborn. Once you begin breastfeeding, problems can develop. It is important to get into a routine of taking the time to check your breasts, particularly the nipple area. Breastfeeding should not hurt, so any pain you experience is a red flag that something is going on.

Nipple Soreness

Of course, it is no surprise that women who breastfeed on a continual basis will start to experience some nipple soreness at some point. Some nipple pain will likely occur the first few times you breastfeed as your baby begins to nurse and your nipple stretches to the back of your baby's mouth. While a small amount of nipple pain is normal, more serious pain may indicate other problems.
Nipple pain can occur if your baby is not latched onto your breast correctly. If your baby is not latched on the right way, it will continue to hurt and may cause your baby to not get enough milk. If you are having problems getting the right position for your baby to nurse, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation specialist, as this can be a simple fix with a minor adjustment.
Other than an incorrect latch, there are several other reasons why your nipples might feel sore or tender. If you need to use nipple shields (see Ins and Outs of Nipple Shields) in the early weeks of breastfeeding, it can affect the way your baby sucks. After you no longer need the nipple shields, it may cause some nipple pain, as your baby is used to breastfeeding with the use of the shield.
Also, if you or your baby develops thrush (a fungus that grows in moist places), it may cause intense breast or nipple pain, itching, or burning.
Simple chapping and cracking of the nipple area is a common problem. Although it is a simple problem, it can be extremely painful -- to the point that you don't want to breastfeed! To treat and help prevent this problem, it is a good idea to have lots of lanolin on hand. This substance can be applied before and after each nursing session, and there is no need to wash it off, as it is safe for babies. Other nipple creams and ointments may need to be removed before you can nurse.
Most problems that occur while breastfeeding are generally easy to treat. For sore nipples, try using warm compresses. If you are using warm compresses and lanolin and you are still having nipple soreness, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation specialist.
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