Preparing the breasts for Breastfeeding?

bre_breast_detail_en_lOkay, so you may have read or heard somewhere that you need to “prep” your nipples and breasts for successful breastfeeding? Or that there is a special cream that needs to be applied to the nipples during and after pregnancy? Do you even need any special cream to begin with?

There is really no need to “prep up” the nipples for easier breastfeeding by using any nipple cream. If you’re wondering what preparation of the breasts and nipples pregnant women need to do? Well, the answer is – very little or none! J The hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy will in itself help to prepare the breasts for breastfeeding!

During pregnancy, the nipples and areola (the area around the nipples) will darken – this is part of the protective process – and the little glands you may notice on your areola (which are called Montgomery’s glands) secrete a protective lubrication.  This secretion helps to keep your nipples and areola area naturally lubricated (which is why some women notice the area to be slightly oily). You may not notice this happening, but your body is quietly preparing itself for breastfeeding. Your body it such an intelligent factory, don’t you think?  You should really avoid putting any creams or oils on the nipples. Please don’t wipe the breasts too much as well as it wipes away the natural lubricant and avoid using soap directly on them as this may cause dry skin.

Usually, when breastfeeding is going well (no pain or discomfort), creams and lotions are not necessary. If sore or cracked nipples do become a problem, the first thing to do is to determine the cause. Often, sore nipples are the result of poor positioning and latch(attachment to the breast) and when unresolved it can often lead to mothers giving up on breastfeeding.

If you do end up with sore nipples, and are certain that your baby is properly positioned and attached, express some breastmilk directly onto your nipple and areola following a feed and allow to air dry. Breast milk is very effective in helping sore nipples to heal quickly, and can also help to prevent a bacterial infection.

When considering nipple creams, ointments and oils, do keep in mind that some may delay healing, may clog nipple pores and milk ducts, and may even cause allergic reactions. Some moms with sore, cracked nipples are helped by the application of hypoallergenic medical grade anhydrous lanolin like – eg. Lansinoh, PureLan. Apply a pea-sized amount as needed, following a feed. This can provide a moisture barrier that may aid in healing and may help to reduce pain. This uses the principle of moist wound healing, and helps speed up the recovery process. It is safe for the baby to ingest, and does not need to be washed off before nursing. It is greasy, though, and if you apply it just before a feeding, the baby may have a hard time latching on correctly. If you have a negative reaction to any product, please discontinue use.

If there is ONE thing that you can do to prepare yourself — it can be helpful to check for inverted nipples. Check nipple protractability (how much they extend outwards) towards the end of pregnancy, around the last six weeks. Look at your nipples and gently roll them between the thumb and first finger to see if they stick out more or flatten with this stimulation. This is also a good way for you to get used to touching your breasts, which will help when breastfeeding starts. If a nipple inverts (turns inwards), speak to lactation counselor or a lactation consultant about breastfeeding techniques that can help. Some babies have difficulty latching on to the breast when nipples are inverted but with skilled help and assistance there are always ways to help them latch and get breastfeeding going well.

More importantly, please see a lactation consultant (IBCLC) through to assess the condition and make recommendations if you have persistent nipple pain or discomfort while breastfeeding.


Prepared by Rita Rahayu Omar, BSc, CISA, IBCLC

Lactation Consultant, Training, Consultancy & Educational Services