[picture of a mother discreetly nursing her infant while talking with a friend]Taking Care of Yourself

Breast Care

Bras
If you wear a bra, dry your nipples before closing the flaps after feedings. Most women wear the same size bra at the end of pregnancy as they need while they are breastfeeding. If you want to buy new bras, wait until your baby is at least two weeks old and the early swelling is gone.

Washing
Wash your breasts with clear water once a day when you bathe. The small bumps on the areola make an oil that keeps the nipples clean and soft. Soap will wash away that oil.

Creams
Creams can block the natural oil your body makes. You do not need any cream around the nipples. If your nipples feel dry or if your nipples crack, rub breast milk on them to help them heal.

[picture of a mother with her arms crossed against her chest]Leaking Milk
During a feeding, the breast the baby is not nursing may start to leak. Press straight in on the nipple for several seconds to stop the leaking, or use a cup to collect milk for storing.

If you start to leak when you are not nursing, fold your arms across your chest and push in on your nipples for a few seconds. This will stop the milk flow.

You can wear breast pads in your bra if you need them. Change them whenever they are wet. Do not use pads with plastic liners. They may keep your nipples wet and that can make you sore. Many mothers never leak and do not need breast pads.

Some mothers find their breasts leak milk when they have sex. If this is a problem, try nursing right before, so your breasts are fairly empty.

Some mothers never leak milk. Most mothers leak less after the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

Nutrition, Exercise and Rest

Nutrition
As a breastfeeding mother you do not need to watch what you eat and drink the way you may have when you were pregnant. Your body will change naturally to make you hungrier and thirstier. If you eat enough to feel full and drink enough so you are not thirsty, your milk will have everything your baby needs to grow and be healthy.

You will feel your best if you eat a balanced diet whether you are breastfeeding or not. Fruits and vegetables, cereals and grains, dairy products, and protein foods like dried beans, peanut butter and meats, are needed for good health. If there are days when you do not eat right, you will still make healthy milk.

You do not need to drink a special amount because you are breastfeeding. If your urine is dark and smells strong, or if you are constipated, drink more liquid. Eating soups will also add liquid to your diet.

Caffeine will be in your breast milk if you drink a lot of fluids with caffeine, like coffee, tea or soft drinks. Caffeine causes some babies to be very active and have trouble sleeping. If your baby is fussy, cut back on drinks with caffeine in them.

Weight Loss
Many breastfeeding mothers can lose weight easily. Making breast milk uses calories. If you want to lose weight:

Exercise
You can run, do aerobics or play sports while you are breastfeeding. If you nurse just before exercising, your breasts will not be as full and you will be more comfortable. You may find that you feel better if you are wearing a bra with good support.

Rest
Many mothers get tired taking care of a new baby. Lying down to nurse is one way to rest. Try not to do everything at first. Having visitors and cleaning can wait. When people want to help, let them cook, get groceries, do laundry or play with your other children while you and your baby rest together.

It is not a good idea for the baby to have a bottle while you sleep. Your full breasts will hurt and wake you up. Your breasts may get too hard for the baby to nurse easily.

If someone wants to help with the baby, they can give the baby a bath, change the diapers or take the baby for a walk.

Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs

Smoking
If you smoke, the health of you and your baby is at risk. Babies and young children raised in homes with cigarette smoke get ear infections and colds more often. Now may be a good time to think about quitting. If you cannot quit smoking, you can still breastfeed.

Nicotine can slow your milk let-down and production. Quit smoking or smoke after a feeding instead of before or during a feeding.

Nicotine in breast milk may cause some babies to have gas and be fussy. Quit smoking or cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.

Never smoke in the same room as a baby. Smoke is bad for all babies' lungs.

Alcohol
The alcohol in beer, wine and liquor goes into your milk and to your baby. Breastfeeding mothers should have no more than one beer, one glass of wine or one mixed drink in a day. If you want a drink, time it so you are drinking just after a breastfeeding.

Medicines
Medicines can go through your milk to the baby. Check with the baby's doctor before taking any, even over-the-counter medicines. Tell the doctor you are breastfeeding. If you are sick and need medicine, the doctor can usually find a safe one for you to take and continue breastfeeding.

Street Drugs
Street drugs go through your milk to your baby. They are dangerous for both you and your baby. If you are using drugs, get help to stop. If you are going to use street drugs, DO NOT BREASTFEED.

Sex and Birth Control

Having a baby may make you feel differently about sex. Some women feel sexier, but some women are not interested in sex at all for awhile. It is normal to have changing feelings. When you are ready for sex again, there are some things you will want to know:

Some women leak milk when they have sex. If you nurse the baby first, your breasts will not be as full, and this may not happen as much. It is okay for your partner to play with your breasts. You will still have milk for the next feeding.

Your vagina (birth canal) may be dry after your baby is born. Using extra contraceptive foam or a special lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Lubrifax may help. If using condoms, do not use a petroleum-based lubricant like Vaseline.

Many women with new babies do not feel ready for another pregnancy. Waiting at least a year before you become pregnant again may be better for your health. Waiting may also improve your chance of having a healthy baby.

You can get pregnant while breastfeeding. It is important to use a birth control method if you do not want to get pregnant.

Birth Control Choices
Tell your health care provider you are breastfeeding. Talk to her or him about the effect of different birth control methods on breastfeeding. If you have concerns, ask questions. Together, you and your health care provider can decide on the right birth control method at the right time for you.

Many breastfeeding women choose condoms, a diaphragm, foam, or foam and condoms. Other choices are contraceptive sponges, natural family planning, cervical cap, an IUD or sterilization. These methods of birth control do not affect breastfeeding.

Birth Control Pills, Depo Provera and Norplant
Forms of birth control made only with progestin hormones, can be used. These include some birth control pills, Norplant, Depo Provera. Small amounts of hormones in birth control pills and Norplant pass to the baby through breast milk. These hormones have not been shown to be harmful to babies.

Some health care providers say that pills made with both estrogen and progestin (combined pills) may be used. Women who take combined pills may not make enough milk. If you take combined pills, you can be sure you are making enough milk if your baby has six wet diapers a day and is gaining weight. If your baby is not gaining weight, check with your baby's health care provider. Make sure she or he knows your method of birth control.

 

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