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Keeping breasts healthy while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a natural, cost-effective and healthy way to provide sustenance to a growing baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Health Canada advise that mothers should breastfeed their infants exclusively until around six months of age. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says eight in 10 American women initiate breastfeeding right after childbirth (the Canadian Women’s Health Network says nine in 10 Canadian mothers do so), many mothers do not make it to six months.

Breast health and overall health may affect mothers’ abilities to continue breastfeeding. Women who want to make sure they continue breastfeeding for six months or longer can learn about the various ways to facilitate breastfeeding, including how to care for the breasts and body.

Some of the more commonly cited reasons women give up on breastfeeding include problems with milk supply and difficulty with breastfeeding techniques. According to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 95% of breastfeeding problems are reversible with adequate support.


Massaging the breasts can help clear milk ducts and cause milk to flow more freely. This helps empty the breasts and trigger a higher milk production. Breast massage may also improve skin tone of the breasts by increasing blood circulation within.

Wash and moisturize

Use warm water in the shower or bath to keep breasts clean. Baths and showers also can help with any breast discomfort. Do not use soap, as this can remove the natural oils produced by the Montgomery glands located in the areola. These oily secretions keep the areola and the nipple lubricated and protected. Compounds in these oils may also spark a newborn’s appetite.

After washing or nursing, apply lanolin or a little breast milk to keep nipples supple. Breast pads can help control leaking breasts, but pads should be changed regularly.

Eat plenty of healthy foods

Many breastfeeding women report feeling more hungry than usual. The Canadian Women’s Health Network says to choose the higher end of serving sizes and select nutritious foods to help boost energy. The body needs extra calories to make breast milk. Also, drink plenty of fluids to replace the liquid the baby has nursed.

Proper latch and positioning

Make sure the baby is well positioned and latches on correctly to alleviate nipple soreness. Vary positions throughout the day. Allow the baby to empty each breast sufficiently. Break the suction of the baby’s mouth by placing a finger in the corner of his or her mouth before removing the infant from the breast. Speak with a doctor or lactation consultant for tips on promoting proper latch and positioning.

Breastfeed regularly

It’s good to feed babies between eight and 12 times per day so that breasts have a chance to empty fully. Both breasts should be fed upon equally. Regular feedings can help prevent plugged milk ducts, engorgement and an infection called mastitis.

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