Changes happen to a woman’s breast after pregnancy. If you are currently pregnant or just have given birth to your child, you might be experiencing pain and discomfort due to such changes in your body. When you are about to start breastfeeding, take care of your breasts, ensuring the health and comfort of you and your baby.
What are the changes that would happen to your breasts after pregnancy? What are the aftercare steps you need to follow to ensure your comfort while recovering?
Breast changes after birth
There are a few changes that happen in a woman’s body once she becomes pregnant, more specifically in her breasts. It becomes bigger as your body is preparing for lactation. The color of your areola also changes, as it tends to get darker. Also, expect yellowish breast milk called colostrum to leak from your breasts during the initial stages of lactation and breastfeeding. This is completely normal and is actually the healthiest form of breast milk for your child, which will nourish your baby until he’s 2-3 days old.
However, there are also change that can cause you pain and discomfort, such as the following:
- Sore Nipples: During breastfeeding, your nipples will be tender or cracked because of the vigorous sucking by the infant. The baby tends to suck the hardest at the beginning of a feeding.
- Engorgement: As you start to produce milk, your breasts will become heavy and swell, which can cause a painful sensation.
- Mastitis: When your breast is not emptied during feeding, the dried-up milk can cause your milk ducts to clog, which leads to inflammation. Symptoms can include a fever, soreness, red streaks on your breast, and a hot sensation in the breast.
Breast care during breastfeeding
Milk production usually starts on the third or fourth day after you have given birth. Though there are two ways of how a woman can go on with feeding her child, it can be either through breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Each has specific methods of preparation and care.
For women who opt to breastfeed, you need to be careful because there are many periods where you can experience discomfort and chances of being infected with bacteria. To ensure a problem less breastfeeding, you can follow the following tips:
- Keep your breast and nipples clean. Wash them every day with warm water, though avoid using soap on the area, as it causes dry, cracked, and irritated skin. Also, make sure you have washed your hands before touching them.
- Wear a nursing bra that fits well, not too tight. Make sure there is no underwire in the bra and it is made of cotton to allow your skin to breathe.
- Use breast pads or cotton squares inside your bra to soak up the leaking breast milk, and make sure to change them once wet.
- Moisturize your nipples after nursing your baby. You can apply natural oils on your nipples and areola, then let them dry.
- If your breasts become overfull, hard, or swollen, you can use a cold compress to reduce inflammation and ease the pain.
- Nurse your baby at least every 2 to 3 hours. Every time you do, make sure your baby latches appropriately to your breasts to prevent developing painful breast problems. At the same time, when you’re done, do not pull your baby off your breast. Place a finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth to break the suction between the mouth and your breast.
- You can also opt to bottle-feed your child using your own breast milk, by using a pump to extract the milk from your breasts. This gives you the option to use a bottle to feed your child, but still use your own natural breast milk.
Bottle-feeding with baby formula
Even if you decide to opt for bottle-feeding your child with baby formula instead of breast milk, you will still continue to produce breast milk for a few weeks or even months before the breast milk dries up in your breast.
A few of the procedures for women bottle-feeding are the same as the ones for those who opt to breastfeed. You still need to wear a supportive nursing bra that is not too tight and place breast pads or cotton squares in them to soak up leaking breast milk. Also, you can use a cold compress to ease the swelling of the breasts.
However, here are some tips specifically for women who are bottle-feeding their child:
- Use a pump or manual express a little bit of breast milk, when you feel pain because of the fullness of your breast. Though, do not do this often as it prompts the breast to continue producing breast milk.
- Avoid touching your nipples of breasts because regular stimulation is a signal for your body to make more breast milk.
- Consult your doctor if you can take medications to relieve the pain in your breasts.
Consulting the doctor after birth
It is vital always to be vigilant about the negative changes happening to your breasts after giving birth. Consult your doctor immediately once you notice any of the following:
- Fever or chills
- Extreme fatigue and body aches
- Burning or painful sensation in one or both breasts
- Red streaks on the breast
- Hard or lumpy spots in the breasts
- A feeling of warmth or heat in the breasts
- Swollen breasts that your baby cannot latch on to the nipples
- Cracked or bleeding nipples
- Low milk supply or if your milk does not flow freely