The breasts are often very sensitive, but there is no point in trying to harden the nipples before breastfeeding begins.
Preparation and inverted nipples
Most pregnant women will not benefit from or need to do anything special during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. It is an old myth that hardening of nipples during pregnancy is beneficial. Worst case you get sore nipples before you start breastfeeding.
However, if you have inverted nipples, you may want to prepare for the breastfeeding period. Only about one in 33 women has real inverted nipples. Normal breast lumps can have different shapes and sizes. They can be outward-facing, flat, partially inward-facing or (true) inward-facing. Breastfeeding works well for most people, regardless of shape and size.
If you have genuine inverted nipples, it may be difficult for your baby to breastfeed. You can check this by using your index finger and thumb to squeeze the dark area around the nipple. If the nipple then pulls completely into the breast, this can mean that it will become difficult for the baby to get hold of it. This can give less stimulation of the breast as a result, less milk production and poorer emptying.
Pregnant women with inverted nipples can talk to a health center, midwife or breastfeeding assistant before giving birth, in order to facilitate the conditions in the best possible way. In the last months of pregnancy, you can use a small cup on the nipple that creates a vacuum ("Niplette"). It is used for a few hours or all day and can be bought at the pharmacy.
Many of the problems associated with breastfeeding - such as sore nipples, insufficient milk, feeling uncomfortable when breastfeeding - can often be avoided or corrected through technique. It is about finding the right position for breastfeeding, that the baby is in the right position, that the breast presents itself in the right way, that you make sure that the baby has the right suction and breathing technique during breastfeeding, that you support the breast and ensures that the end of breastfeeding is as gentle as possible.
- The breastfeeding position. Make sure you have a good sitting position, whether you are breastfeeding lying on your side in bed or sitting upright in a chair. Build up with pillows or breastfeeding pillows so that neither you nor the baby has to strain during breastfeeding.
- The child's position. Especially early in the baby's life, skin-to-skin contact can be safe, so that the baby can wear little or no clothes while breastfeeding. The baby should lie as straight as possible, not so that it has to twist to reach the nipple. Experiment a bit with different positions, especially premature (but also many other) children may have difficulty attaching to the breast, which a new placement of the baby during breastfeeding may correct.
- Present breast. Feel free to squeeze a few drops to moisten the nipple before holding it to the baby. You can also relieve a little by supporting the chest with your own hand. This ensures that the weight of the breast does not become a burden for the baby. As the child gets bigger, this becomes less and less necessary.
- Suction and breathing technique. The baby's lips may tingle slightly with the milky wet nipple if the baby does not spontaneously start eating. When the baby opens his mouth to take the nipple, the baby is pressed a little closer so that the baby's lips enclose the dark area around the nipple and not just the nipple itself. It is important that the baby sucks on the area around the nipple, not just in the nipple itself. If only the nipple is enclosed by the baby's mouth, the breasts quickly become sore.
- Ending. Do not pull out the nipple while your baby is still sucking. Instead, slip a finger into the baby's mouth so that the suction stops before the nipple is pulled out. This is to avoid extra strain and soreness in the breasts.
The breasts become larger during pregnancy, this is due to the growth of the mammary glands that produce the milk. Breast size before pregnancy is primarily determined by adipose tissue, and not by milk-producing tissue. Mothers with small breasts therefore produce no less milk than women with large breasts. The more often the baby breastfeeds - if done correctly, the more milk the breasts produce. As long as your baby is growing normally, there is no need to worry about having enough milk.
You should preferably avoid giving bottled milk in he beginning. This is because if the baby has the wrong suction technique, it will still receive a "reward" in the form of milk from the bottle, and it will make it more difficult for the baby to learn the correct suction technique from the mother's breast. This stimulates the mother's milk production too poorly, and less milk is produced.
Breastfeeding tea with fennel content was previously used because it was said to have milk-driving properties. The use of fennel for pregnant, breastfeeding and children under the age of 4 is now not recommended because carcinogenic properties of one of the ingredients (estragole) have been proven in animal studies.
Clogged milk ducts and mastitis
It is not uncommon for the mammary glands to become clogged. You often notice this when there are small, tender balls that can be red. This is usually due to milk residues or other material that clogs the milk ducts. Failure to correct this can lead to mastitis. The best way to correct this is to increase the flow in the milk ducts. This can be done in different ways, for example you can try to breastfeed more often. Then give from the afflicted breast first. If the baby does not empty the breast, you should pump out the last residue. Make sure that there is no pressure on the breast so that the milk ducts are squeezed together, for example through the bra being too tight. Do not stop breastfeeding during this period, as it may aggravate your ailments.
An action that is often effective is to put a warm, damp towel or similar around the chest. Feel free to wrap a hot water bottle in the soft towel so that the heat stays longer. The heat leads to increased blood flow in the area, and the milk ducts can expand a little. A hot shower where you massage your breasts can also be effective.
Sometimes the baby may refuse to take milk from the tender breast. The milk can simply become a little sour as a result of the clogged milk ducts. Then pump this breast and empty it as best you can. Continue to offer the breast until the problem resolves, and the baby again breastfeeds from the problematic breast.
You should contact your healthcare provider if you develop increasing pain from the chest, fever, frostbite or sweating, increasing swelling and redness of the chest. Antibiotics may then be needed to make the infection go away. Still, continue to breastfeed as much as possible with the inflamed breast, and feel free to pump the breast in addition so that this will correct itself as quickly as possible. The same applies to the use of hot covers and hot showers, preferably more than four times a day. In some cases, a so-called breast abscess may develop that may need to be emptied.
Sore nipples should be treated as sores on the lips. The nipples are kept soft with a neutral ointment between breastfeeds. Increasing redness, heat, fluid from the wound and tenderness may be signs of infection and should be considered by healthcare professionals. Breasts should only be washed with water, not with soap or alcohol-based wipes. Avoid using perfumed products on the nipples.
What can Eyr help with?
- Eyr can advise and guide on breastfeeding
- Eyr can assess whether there is a risk of mastitis
- Eyr can in some cases prescribe medication
- Eyr can refer on to a specialist if necessary