Breast Care for the Breastfeeding Mother.

Introduction.

Breastfeeding just like baking cakes or a photo shoot has some ‘per-event’ preparations to be made. In it’s case, there is no need to create long shopping lists (you might need one though) or book for sight seeing of avenue! It is what a mother has to regularly do, and even adopt as a routine in  her time of breastfeeding. The ultimate goal of breastfeeding is a healthy fulfilled mother and an all round thriving infant. Known to many is the fact that many mothers “get sent a way” with a flee in the ear due some bad experiences during breastfeeding.  Therefore, it’s imperative to have in place means to minimize and possibly eliminate some of this problems as well as avoid the once beaten twice shy phenomenon. In this discussion, we will thus share on how a mother should take care of her breasts at respective periods and circumstances to preserve health and maintain nursing.

The conditioning of the nursing breast…

As all are aware, the nursing breast is very different from the non-nursing even in the same woman. So, lets’ pay attention to some of the “new events”. During pregnancy, both breasts nicely and uniformly enlarge as well as get more responsive to touch (at the nipples). Birth and the onset of lactation come with a daily variation of breast size, consistency and a generally heightened level of tactile perception. The expulsion of the placenta sets in course a series of events which doctors fancy to label lactogenesis phase 2. The breast is one of the major hosts of these events with the first being a rapid rush of blood into the breast. This results into amplified milk production, ‘hardening’, and commonly engorgement, occurring at about the third to seventh day of delivery. Once breastfeeding is fully established, the mother will start experiencing a cycle of soft/light just after emptying (by breastfeeding and/or pumping)  to a sense of fullness, discomfort and leaking (known as “milk rush in” or turgescence). This is reinforced by ‘maternal instinct’ in which breast milk starts to drip when around an infant (the let-down reflex). All nursing mothers can count on that “daily metamorphosis” for the time they’ll be breastfeeding. Amidst those changes and fluctuations, structurally, the breasts will have some lamps both painless and painful. we will thus relate breast care to this patterns of a nursing mothers “breast cycle”.

Brest care in stages…

Before a feed…

Hygiene is paramount, and so, a mother should endeavor to clean her breast area before feeds. Since we are in the modern era, I understand mothers do take regular showers (at good intervals of course). A simple wipe with a damp towel can be good enough. If sweaty or “not fresh”, a washing should be done using plain water. Should a mother insist on using soap, a mild flavor and thorough rinsing are encouraged. A simple and brisk breast-self exam can be done at this point, targeted at identifying new lumps and areas of pain. Try expressing and observe the appearance of what discharges, correlate with normal or abnormal as discussed in breastfeeding problems (a stitch in time saves nine).  She should then dry her self up. Conditioning specific to some circumstances can be done at this stage eg  warm soaks before expressing or a cold soak for the engorged breast before suckling. In special situations and where it’s permitted, appropriate nursing creams (some of them can be used during suckling)  and other aids like nipple shields can be applied.

During a feed…

The “fresh and clean” mummy after gearing up as appropriate can then sit comfortably in a good posture, express a few drops of milk and smear around the areola of the breast to be suckled (if no creams have been recommended). It’s better to start with one not suckled previously or the first to be fed on in an earlier session.

Again you’ll hear about proper latching. You must be bored by the word by now if you’ve read a lot on breastfeeding, and it particularly seems misplaced here. Not so? Nothing could be far from the truth! Good latching alone can help a mother prevent >50 % of the problems associated with breastfeeding. Therefore proper latching deserves mega attention during the feed. Watch out for bad habits from the infant which can cause hurt. If they’ve biting tendencies (common during teething), a mother can gently shove a clean finger at the edge of the child’s mouth to temporarily discontinue suckling before resuming. Some mothers suggest exclaiming and frowning at the infant when they perform such unwanted acts. They say it helps imprint negative feed back, thus encouraging them to steer clear of such practices (that is if it really works). In case the infant suddenly hurts the nipple; temporarily discontinue breastfeeding as described above. Avoid rapidly withdrawing the nipple as this can cause greater hurt and damage as well as poor bonding with the infant. Feed systematically by allowing for exhaustion of one breast before shifting to the next. Allow breastfeeding to spontaneously end by watching for cues of satisfaction.

After a feed…

When the session is done, the remaining breast milk should be pumped out. The mother lets the breasts to dry spontaneously (warm  blow for 3 mins, ~20 cm away from a hair dryer is some times used for sensitive nipples). Some nipple gels or creams (especially steroids) are applied at this stage and washed off  before the next feed. She then wears acomfortable bra with nursing pads for sanitary reasons. Accessories like nipple shields or shells should as well be cleaned and safely stored.

If the nipple feels sore, soothing oils like aloe Vera with or without peppermint and other herbal infusions (lansinoh or plain Aloe Vera gel) mixtures are applied. Petrolatum or lanolin containing ointments are discouraged because of less efficacy and possibility for toxicity. Healthcare professional recommendations should be adhered to if on such care.

For mothers with engorgement, on top of the above, cabbage gel and/or cooled cabbage leaf therapy is very helpful. The sub-species Brassica oleracea L var. capitata,  is stressed to be the active one (breastfeeding for the health professionals). Other encyclopedia do not make emphasis in regards to this. The leaves are applied after 4 feeding sessions over the whole breast sparing the nipple for 20 mins or till they wilt.

The monthly breast self-exam should be continued. Much as the nursing period is theoretically the safest for breast cancer, there are reports of diagnoses at this time. Pay attention to habits like unilateral breast rejection or “nursing strikes”. They might herald such eventful issues of health. There is a report of a woman getting diagnosed with a cancerous lump following her ‘stubborn’ infants refusal to suck from that breast!

Any other special forms of care should be in line with what ones healthcare provider has designed. Other wise, one with already existing breastfeeding problems should seek appropriate advice.

 

Common recommendations for breast care during breast feeding.

The use of cabbage; is celebrated in the area of nursing;…

Aloe Vera, one of the celebrated ‘magic’ herbs has useful extracts  for the nursing mother.

 

 

 

 

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