Breastfeeding can look, to the casual observer, like the easiest and most natural thing in the world. Once you start doing it, however, you realise that it’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s the latch, your letdown, engorgement, and supply to worry about. But one thing many people — even lactation consultants — often don’t talk about is breastfeeding hygiene. Let’s get into it.
What are the possible complications of breastfeeding?
Aside from all the benefits, there are also some potential complications when breastfeeding your baby. Milk is created by glands in the breast, and letdown through multiple ducts that all lead to the nipple.
The breast should be well-drained at each feed, with milk being taken from all glands equally. But that’s hard to communicate to a few-day-old baby. Many moms experience issues like thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis and abscesses in the breast, which can range from merely uncomfortable to dangerous.
How can hygiene combat these issues?
Firstly, it’s best to be aware that they can happen. That will help you catch any issues before they get worse. Next, many of them occur as a result of the build-up and growth of bacteria.
Think about it: for the first time, there’s someone suckling on your breasts throughout the day and night. This can result in sore, cracked skin, and the warm, wet environment caused by the interaction between your baby’s saliva and your breast milk is an ideal environment for bacteria.
What should I do to maintain hygiene?
In the first few days and weeks of having a baby, it can be hard to find the time to do even small things, like take a shower. But keeping yourself clean is more important than it might feel when you’re exhausted. Let’s look at some things you can do to keep things clean.
- Shower every day. Remember to clean your breasts with non-scented, moisturising body wash.
- Change your breast pads. They’re great for absorbing any extra letdown but can create a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Wear a comfortable bra. Choose a well-fitting, soft, breathable and non-restrictive bra. This is not the time for your push-up-and-plunge bra. It will cause blocked ducts and more.
- Keep your nipples clean. It might seem like an unnecessary extra step, but try to remember to wipe off and dry your nipples after each feed. It will remove traces of milk and saliva and keep that bacteria growth situation under control.
- Use your own breast milk. If you are suffering from sore or cracked nipples, your own breast milk can be extremely helpful. Once your breasts are clean, express a small amount of milk, spread it out over the sore area and allow it to air-dry. Breast milk has many anti-infective qualities, but you want to ensure that your baby’s saliva is gone and that the area dries properly.
- Feed on demand. When breastfeeding, it’s important to feed your baby whenever they want to feed. Feeding regularly helps to ensure that your supply is stable, and regularly emptying your breast will help to keep issues like blocked ducts and engorgement at bay.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it isn’t always easy. We hope these tips help to guide you through the early, confusing weeks of breastfeeding and smooth your journey. Even the most experienced moms can suffer through breastfeeding complications. Remember to give yourself a lot of patience, grace and reassurance if you feel wobbly. You’re doing an incredible job and keeping you and your baby alive! We couldn’t be more proud of you.
- Breastfeeding Hygiene Tips: https://www.milknursingwear.com/blog/breastfeeding-hygiene-tips/
- Self-Care for the Breastfeeding Mother: https://www.verywellfamily.com/taking-care-of-the-breastfeeding-mother-431683
- Nipple care for breastfeeding mums: https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/nipple-care
- Breastfeeding problems: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/problems-breastfeeding/