Breastfeeding - Breast Care or Diet

By Maureen Thorpe, RN on March 14, 2007
Engorgement
Engorgement usually happens around the third day. It is normal to feel a sense of fullness in your breasts as the milk increases in volume. There is also extra blood and other body fluids moving into the area which adds to the feeling of fullness.

The best thing you can do is feed your baby as much as possible over the next couple of days. This prevents your 'plumbing from backing up'!

Important: If your breasts feel really full, it makes it hard for your baby to latch on to the areola. You may need to get help to express some milk in order to soften the area around your nipples.

If, for any reason, you cannot put your baby to the breast, use the electric pump to keep your breasts soft. Pump every two to three hours. Ask for help to use the pump properly. Save the breast milk for your baby.

Sometimes, some mothers really get engorged no matter what they do. It's not fun when your breasts become rock hard. Now you need to put warm compresses on them, massage gently and then try and put baby on, or express.

Be prepared for feeling weepy too. It's those hormones. The very best treatment is to get into a warm bath and put your breasts under the water. You will soon be having a milk bath!

Breast Pain
We have talked about nipple pain and the reasons. If you feel pain in your breast tissue it may be due to a blocked duct. This is the result of milk remaining in a duct. If you feel the painful area with your fingers you may notice a lump. This is the milk which is blocking the duct.

Warm compresses, massage and feeding often on that breast should clear it. Make sure your positioning and latch are good. You may need to ask for help.

If you see redness in your breast and start to have 'flu' symptoms and what you are doing isn't working, call your doctor or a lactation consultant.

Pain felt deep in the breast during let down or after a feed is often due to the muscle lining of the ducts being stretched as the milk passes through. Warm compresses may help. This pain often goes away as time goes by.

Call your doctor: Burning pain in the breast or nipple may be due to thrush.

If you see small white spots in your baby's mouth that do not move when you touch them, it may mean that your baby has thrush and has passed it on to you. See your doctor and ask for cream for your nipples as well as getting treatment for your baby.

Sometimes you may not see anything in the infant's mouth, but if you suddenly get sore nipples when all was well before and there is a burning feeling, it still may be thrush.

Daily Care
You do not need to do anything special to your breasts when breast feeding. A daily shower is enough. Try to avoid putting soap on your nipples, as it may make them dry. Special creams and lotions are not needed. If your nipples are tender, massage a little breast milk on at the end of the feed. It contains healing substances...and check your latch.

Memo: Don't wear a tight fitting bra and if you are more comfortable at night without one, go bra-less.

Expressing Milk
This means removing milk from your breasts by some means other than the baby. You may want to keep a supply of breast milk in the freezer for when you are not with your baby.

This is something you can think of doing once you are comfortable with breast-feeding.

You can learn to express milk using your hands or by buying one of the many breast pumps on the market. Using your hands is cheaper and easier for some women, other women prefer a pump. It's a matter of learning the skill. Talk to your friends or phone your health department, La Leche League or a lactation consultant for advice.

Memo: You may see a pump for sale which has a rubber bulb at the end. These are not good. They don't work well and can't be cleaned.

Mother's Diet
It can be hard to find time to cook properly for yourself when you come home with a new baby. Healthy eating takes some planning. Some women make it harder on themselves by avoiding certain foods. There are no foods you need to avoid because of breast-feeding.

Memo: If you find that your baby gets fussy each time you eat a certain food, avoid it for a while, then try it again in a few weeks.

Some women think they have to drink a lot of milk when breast-feeding. If you enjoy drinking milk, three to four glasses a day is enough. If you don't like drinking milk, don't force yourself. To supply the energy and nutrients needed for breast-feeding, choose extra servings from Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating. (See action chart.) It will give you an idea of what we mean by 'a balanced diet'.

Memo: Drink water and other fluids according to how thirsty you are. Don't feel that you have to force yourself to drink.

Mother's Medication
Most medicines can be taken when you are breast-feeding. If you are not sure, check with your doctor or drug store.

Recommended Reading
Breastfeeding: Getting Breastfeeding Right for You. Renfrew, Fisher, and Armes (In most book stores).
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. La Leche League, International.

Breast Feeding Support
  • Public Health Nurses
  • La Leche League
  • Lactation Consultant Association
  • Community Health Centres
  • Breastfeeding Clinics
Video
There are many videos about breast-feeding. Ask at your public health department or library. BCCE

By Maureen Thorpe, RN| March 14, 2007

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