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How should I care for my breasts after giving birth?

How you care for your breasts after childbirth depends on whether or not you will breastfeed your baby.

If you are planning to breastfeed, take a breastfeeding class or talk to a lactation specialist before your baby is born. You will want to create a care plan based on your specific breast anatomy and any special needs you might have.

Here are some other things to think about:

  • Consider if you will want a nipple shield, gel pads or lanolin cream. 
  • Bring a nursing pillow with you to the hospital for support while feeding your baby.
  • Purchase nursing pads before you go, too.
  • Buy milk storage bottles or bags.
  • Obtain milk warmers and a breast pump. Most insurance plans will provide you with a breast pump. Call your insurance provider for details.
  • Buy properly fitted nursing bras and nursing shirts. 

If you are not breastfeeding, talk to you baby's pediatrician about formula choices.  Prepare to wear a supportive bra that reduces nipple stimulation.

Joan Connors
Nursing Specialist

Care for the breasts after childbirth is directly related to whether or not the mother will breastfeed. Breastfeeding care involves stimulating milk production. Nursing every two hours and allow the breasts to airdry. Making sure the infant properly "attaches" to the breast will prevent many complications related to breastfeeding.

For the woman that chooses not to breastfeed care will take the opposite approach. Wearing a snug bra continuously and avoiding any nipple stimulation. Applying cool compresses might relieve discomfort and turning away from the water while taking a shower will prevent stimulation.    

Medications used in the past to dry the milk glands are no longer used due to complications.

Whether you are breastfeeding or using formula, you should support your breasts by wearing a well-fitting bra. If you are breastfeeding, massage your breast milk into your nipples after nursing, and allow your nipples to air-dry. If you are using formula, your breasts may feel painful or engorged when they are full with milk. For relief, apply an ice pack such as a bag of frozen vegetables under your arms and along the sides of your breasts for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day. Do not apply heat or face the spray of hot water when taking a shower. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed. If there are areas on either breast that are red, hot, or tender, and you have a fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit, call your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.