Baby's First Year · Breastfeeding

Caring for your breasts

Asian baby drinking breastmilk

Your breasts do not need any special care while breastfeeding.  However sometimes breast and nipple problems can develop.  Learning how to properly position and latch your baby can help prevent these problems.  Here are some tips to help you care for your breasts and to prevent some common breastfeeding problems.

General Breast Care

  • Rinse your breasts with water only and air dry.  Do not use soap on your nipples.  Soap may dry your nipples and cause them to crack.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and is not too tight.  Do not wear a bra with underwire.
  • After breastfeeding, express some breast milk onto your nipples and the dark area around them to help protect the skin.  Let the breast milk dry before putting on your bra.  This is only recommended if your nipples are not cracked.

Caring for breasts that are hard

Apply cold or warmth to your breasts, use whichever feels best.

How to apply cold

You can put a cold compress on your breast for a few minutes.  This can help to decrease swelling.

Cold compress can be a:

  • Gel pack wrapped in a cloth
  • Bag of frozen peas
  • Frozen wet towel

How to apply warmth

You can put warmth on your breasts for a few minutes.  This can help to promote the letdown reflex and relaxation.

Warm compress can be:

  • Heating pad on low
  • Hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth

Next gently massage your breasts and express some breast milk until the area around your nipple feels soft. Breastfeed your baby often until your breasts are no longer hard.

Get help right away if you:

  • Have too much nipple pain to latch your baby
  • Cannot soften your breasts or are having problems breastfeeding
  • Have a red and painful area on your breast
  • Have a fever
  • Are feeling sick

Having your baby breastfeed well and often in the first 6 weeks will help you to build a healthy breast milk supply.  As you continue to breastfeed your breasts may feel softer.  You will still make enough breast milk.

Chat with a Toronto Public Health nurse at (416) 338-7600 if you have any questions about breastfeeding.

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