NIPPLES/BREASTS


Physical preparation for breastfeeding requires no intervention on your part. Throughout pregnancy, under the influence of certain hormones, your breasts will naturally undergo their final development that will prepare them for lactation. Outwardly, you may notice these changes as a general increase in breast size and darkening of the areolae.

IT IS NOT NECESSARY, NOR IS IT ADVISABLE, TO « CONDITION » YOUR NIPPLES IN ANY WAY, REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKIN TYPE OR COLOUR.

Why not?

The main argument for the « conditioning » of the nipples (including rubbing them with a rough cloth, and rolling or stretching nipples between the fingers, etc.) is to « toughen » them to avoid abrasions and cracks. However, we know that these are caused by incorrect positioning and latch, and have nothing whatsoever to do with nipple « conditioning » or « preparation ». Women with a fair complexion or with sensitive skin are no more at risk of damaged nipples than those with a darker complexion.

Another argument for nipple preparation is to help erect flat or inverted nipples. Flat or inverted nipples (the latter being much less common than we think) are not a contraindication to breastfeeding. There is no evidence that any form of nipple preparation for this type of anatomical variance is effective. One could argue that this practice actually gives the mother a negative perception and causes her to doubt ability to breastfeed. This indeed may be the real obstacle to a rewarding breastfeeding experience. The mother feels as though there is a problem before she has even begun breastfeeding! The mother's confidence is key to a positive breastfeeding experience. Remember : the baby feeds at the breast, not on the nipple.

So-called nipple preparation can actually damage nipple and areolar tissue, and even cause premature labour. The Montgommery glands, situated all around the areola, secrete a lubricant that protects the skin. Rubbing or washing with harsh soap can make the skin more vulnerable.

Anyone who recommends this practice is unfortunately not up-to-date in their breastfeeding knowledge, and may hinder you, rather than help you.

HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Meet and share with breastfeeding mothers, to learn and understand the normal breastfeeding course and breastfed babies' behaviour. These are often very different from formula-fed babies' behaviour, which are unfortunately what our society considers « normal ». For breastfeeding, like all other aspects of life with a new baby, it is important to have realistic expectations, so that you are not needlessly surprised, worried or even disappointed and frustrated.

ENTOURAGE

Surround yourself, as much as possible, with people who respect and support your choice to breastfeed. Your spouse is your most important source of support and encouragement. Whenever possible, as you would do to prepare for childbirth and family life, prepare for breastfeeding together. Your spouse, even though he will not himself be breastfeeding, will also reap the benefits of breastfeeding and has an important role to play in your breastfeeding goals.

GET TO KNOW AVAILABLE RESOURCES

One of the best ways to prepare for breastfeeding is to find out about existing resources in your area (mother-to-mother support groups, breastfeeding clinics, Lactation Consultants, etc.) You can even benefit from these resources before the birth of your baby, to form relationships with other mothers, obtain information, and get to know specialists who will be able to help you if you need it.

See our Resources page to find out which ones exist in your area.

THE 3 GOLDEN PRINCIPLES OF BREASTFEEDING

Remember these 3 fundamental principles for « smooth sailing » breastfeeding:

1. Breastfeeding should never be painful

If breastfeeding hurts, this is a sign of an underlying problem. Seek help from a skilled professional. The most common cause of painful breastfeeding is incorrect positioning and/or latch, which can be easily corrected.

2. The more your baby drinks, the more milk you make

The inability to produce an adequate milk supply is rare. Breastfeeding should be done on demand of the baby, avoiding pitfalls such as unnecessary supplementation and artificial nipples, especially during the first weeks. Milk supply problems are most often caused by sub-optimal breastfeeding management.

3. Breastfeeding is rarely contraindicated, and there are very few medical reasons to give formula to a breastfed baby

Breastfeeding is possible even in situations of mother/infant illness, prematurity, genetic disorder, multiple births, medications, etc. Artificial baby milks are never a first-choice intervention for breastfed babies, and they most often compound breastfeeding problems, rather than solving them.

In short, with good support and skilled help, breastfeeding is rewarding and enjoyable, and rarely contra-indicated!