Breastfeeding is great for many reasons: it helps you bond with your baby, keeps your baby healthy, and saves you money.
However, if you choose to breastfeed, there are certain things to keep in mind for keeping your breasts – and your baby – healthy. And when the time comes to wean your child from breastmilk, there are also important points to consider.
- Getting your baby to latch on properly from the beginning, and feeding often (every 2-3 hours) will help prevent breastfeeding complications like sore nipples, breast engorgement, blocked ducts, and mastitis.
- Make sure you keep your breasts and nipples clean by rinsing with clean water after every feed.
- If you are using breast pads, change them often.
- After breastfeeding, you can moisturise your nipples by rubbing nipple cream, or some of your breast milk on them and letting them dry.
- Do not use soap, alcohol, or various moisturisers and lotions on your nipples. They could cause your nipples to become dry and crack, clog your milk ducts, and cause skin irritations or a rash. They could also make your baby sick.
- Keep perfume, deodorants or powders away from your nipples.
- Wear cotton bras to give your breasts room to breathe.
- Eat and drink healthily, and stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
- Use gentle, circular motions to massage your breasts while weaning, to prevent your milk ducts from becoming blocked.
- Keep your eye out for lumps, redness, and sore breasts. This usually means you have a clogged milk duct. Massaging the lump, or standing under a warm shower can help unclog the milk duct.
- If you can’t manage to relieve the pressure, and the lump doesn’t go away, go to your doctor or clinic for help. It could mean you have developed mastitis.
- Put a warm facecloth on your breasts if they are sore. A cold facecloth is often better for some women, so try them both and see which works better for you.
- Get a full night’s sleep. Resting is very beneficial in helping your body adapt to changes and heal.
- Take a painkiller, such as Panado, to help reduce aching breasts.
- Do not pump milk from your breasts as it will signal them to start producing more. Drain very little at a time (just enough to prevent the breast from becoming engorged), and lie in a warm bath or warm shower to help the milk flow out naturally.
- Restrict friction against the nipple, as this could also signal the breast to produce more milk.
- Place clean cabbage leaves between your breast and bra – this could help relieve the pain, and help your milk dry up.
If you are HIV-positive, please discuss options with your clinic nurse BEFORE breastfeeding.