Breast Care for the Breastfeeding Mom
During your pregnancy, hormones stimulate the development of the milk producing tissue in your breast to get ready to make enough milk for your baby. Your breasts may have become fuller, and you may have noticed some leaking of colostrum (early milk) from your nipples as you approach your baby’s due date.
After your baby is born, your hormones cause your breasts to start making milk within the first two to five days, and you may experience engorgement. The more often you breastfeed your baby in the early days the sooner your full milk production will occur.
During the early days of breastfeeding your baby, you may feel uterine cramps, increased feelings of thirst or drowsiness which are signs that your breastmilk is “letting down” or flowing to your baby. After the first week, the uterine cramps will most likely be gone but you may start to feel a tingly sensation in your breast or notice the opposite breast leaks while your baby breastfeeds.
Your breast will make as much milk as your baby drinks. The more often you breastfeed your baby, the more breastmilk your body will make.
Leaking Breast Milk
This "letdown" or breast milk leaking may happen when you are not ready to feed your baby. Sometimes this happens when you hear a baby (any baby) cry, when you think about your baby, or when you have sex. Nursing pads can be worn inside your bra to soak up the milk. These should be changed often, to keep your nipples clean and dry. You can use a cotton handkerchief or other cotton squares inside your bra or you can purchase pads that are specially made. Some are disposable, and some can be washed and used again. Avoid pads that are lined with plastic.
Breast Care for the Bottlefeeding Mom
Whether or not you choose to nurse, your body will still prepare to breastfeed you new baby. After your baby is born, your hormones will cause your breasts to start making milk. When your baby sucks, these hormones are stimulated to make more milk, and to continue to make milk as long as your baby needs it.
During this time, wear a good support bra. If your breasts leak milk or feel heavy (2-5 days after the baby is born), wrap a snug towel or cloth around your chest. This will help to stop production of breastmilk. Do not touch your nipples, as this will stimulate your breasts to produce more milk. You may use ice packs on your breasts if they are full. Continue this care until your breasts are soft. Call your doctor if you have painful, warm lumps in your breast, feel tired and achy, or have a temperature over 100 degrees.