If breastfeeding is so natural, it must come easy, right? Yes and no. Unfortunately, almost half of all new mothers who start out nursing their babies give up within the first six weeks and miss out on all its important benefits. Let’s look at how to prepare your breasts for nursing and care for them while breastfeeding.
Why Breasts Need Care During Pregnancy
Your breasts begin preparing to nourish your baby almost from day one of your pregnancy. In the early days you probably noticed they were extra swollen and sensitive. Their increasing size during your first trimester is caused by the development of the milk-making structures within them. Your blood flow increases and veins along with stretch marks may become visible.
Your nipples and areola (area around the nipple) may double in size and deepen in color. This darkening helps a newborn zero in on your nipple for feeding. The small glands located in the areola will become more pronounces. This is important because these tubercles secrete an antibacterial lubricant that keeps the nipple moist and protected during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Be extra careful not to use a soap or cream that could remove the breasts’ natural lubricant and antibacterial functions.
By your fifth or sixth month, your breasts are ready to produce milk. Some women may notice drops of fluid on their nipple. This fluid is colostrum and will be your baby’s first food in the first days after delivery.
Why Breastfeeding Moms Need a Nursing Bra
After delivery when your milk production kicks in, your breasts will fill up with milk making them heavy and in need of supportive care. A good bra supports the ligaments in and around your breasts as they work to hold up the extra weight of your fuller, heavier breasts. Good support now will hopefully minimize breast sag later.
A nursing bra is designed with flaps or panels to easily open and provide your baby access to your breasts without having to remove your entire bra.
Tips for Choosing a Nursing Bra
Your nursing bra should be supportive but not tight. It should not leave any indentations or marks on your skin. If your bra is too tight, it could cause plugged milk ducts, mastitis or a decrease in your milk supply. Take a new measurement or have a bra specialist at your favorite lingerie or maternity store do it for you. They can also help with a bra fitting and help you choose the right bra.
A soft cup bra is preferred over an underwire bra. The wire from an underwire bra can put pressure on the tissue at the base of your breast leading to the same problems that a tight bra can cause.
Choose a bra that is made from cotton or other natural materials. Natural materials are absorbent and allow air to flow to your breasts. Synthetic materials can irritate your breasts and trap moisture.
Pick a bra that has flaps you can operate with one hand so that you can easily open and close while holding your baby. Ensure there is room for a breast pad in case you experience leaks.
It may be helpful to have at least two nursing bras so that you can wear one while the other one is in the wash. Change your bra whenever it becomes dirty or wet since moisture laying on your breasts for an extended amount of time can result in skin irritation, sore nipples, mastitis or thrush. Nursing pads or breast shells worn inside your bra can also help to keep your bra clean and dry.
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