How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

What do you mean ‘prepare for breastfeeding?’

Doesn’t your body just know your expecting and prepare on its own?

Technically yes! Of course. Your body is incredibly smart and will know to start making milk. However, you need to prepare yourself for the journey that is breastfeeding.

And there are certain ways you can make the transition from pregnant mama to breastfeeding mama.

You didn’t start driving your car without taking a lesson beforehand, did you?

Although we sometimes hope instinct will come in to play, being a new mom requires a lot of research and support. Before the internet, new moms had the help and support of other women, especially their own mothers to guide them.

This is just to say that you are SMART to seek help and be prepared. Being a mom isn’t a skill you’re born with, its something you have to learn and educate yourself.

How to Prepare For Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Take A Breastfeeding Class or Read A Book

Once you have the baby, you’ll probably have a nurse help you a bit breastfeeding your first couple of times.

However, your interaction with this nurse might be limited and they will be throwing words at you like ‘latch,’ ‘engorgement,’ or ‘colostrum.’

All words you’re likely unfamiliar with unless you’ve read a breastfeeding book or taken a class.

After labor, you are exhausted and not in the mindset to be learning a new skill. If your baby doesn’t latch on immediately, you don’t want to go into a panic.

Instead, when you’ve taken a class or read a book, you feel much calmer and have a couple of tips and tricks up your sleeve.

Talk To Moms Who’ve Gone Through It

Other moms are a huge source of knowledge!

Call up all your mom friends and pick their brain. Most will be happy to help a fellow mama on her journey.

Ask them simple questions about their experience breastfeeding and think about the advice they give you.

It’s especially great if you can find a mom who breastfeed recently as they will remember all the little details much better.

Get Your Home Ready For Breastfeeding

As your due date is quickly approaching, you’ll want to create a beautiful and calm nursing station for you and your baby.

It’s likely you’ll find yourself nursing anywhere at any time, but setting up a comfortable nursing station will benefit you greatly, especially during late night feedings.

A couple of items you’ll want are:

  • A Mobile Diaper Caddy – so you may breastfeed anywhere
  • Nipple Cream – for sore nipples
  • Reusable Nursing Pads – will come in handy when your boobs leak, and they WILL leak
  • Nursing Pillow – can use a regular pillow, but these are specially made for breastfeeding moms and they give extra support
  • Burp Cloths

Keeping all your breastfeeding supplies in one place is a great way to easily and quickly transition from the hospital to the home.

Freeze Some Colostrum

Colostrum is the clear yellow liquid your breast produces for the first few days of a newborns life.

However, some moms find they are producing colostrum during the last few weeks of their pregnancy.

As colostrum is extremely nutritious and gets replaced by regular milk very quickly, if you’re lucky enough to be producing in the late stages of your pregnancy, make sure to pump some and freeze it!

Don’t expect a large amount, it’s going to be tiny drops that seem like nothing, however, the nutritional impact of freezing these tiny drops can be extensive.

Stock Up

One of the biggest mistakes breastfeeding moms make is not getting enough calories.

You don’t need to double your meals, but you should be listening to your body and feeding yourself accordingly.

Making sure you have a fridge full of food is a great way to encourage eating and snacking so you can ensure you are getting enough calories.

Consider starting a meal prep so you always have enough to eat and don’t grab junk food. A meal-prep only takes a couple of hours a week and has great benefits for you and by extension your baby.

Invest In Some Nursing Wear

A great excuse to do some online shopping. You’ll need a couple of supportive nursing bras for when your baby arrives.

I typically go braless at home, however, when your milk arrives, you will want support even while sleeping!

If you plan on breastfeeding in public (and I highly encourage you to) having these while out and about will also make your life easier.

The pressure these bras provide will help avoid leaking and provide support for your sensitive breasts.

Have an Honest Conversation With Your Partner

Once your baby arrives, you won’t have time for much. You’ll be lucky if you get to shower every other day.

You’ll want to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your responsibilities when you bring the baby home.

If you think you’ll need some help around the home, this is the time to talk about it and perhaps even start looking for a maid or nanny to help out.

Any little bits of responsibilities your partner could help you with will be of tremendous help.

Also, knowing who will do what will save you headaches and fights down the road.

Get Your Free BreastPump

By law, insurance companies have to provide (or reimburse) pregnant mamas with a double electric breast pump.

Give your insurance company a call to check out how the process works since not all insurances offer the same steps.

Depending on the company the process can be any of the following:

  • the insurance company will send you the breast pump in the mail
  • they will provide a ‘prescription’ for a breast pump and will be given the breast pump at the hospital after labor
  • they will ask you to purchase one and once you send in the receipt, reimburse you for your purchase

Mentally Prepare Yourself

Breastfeeding hurts! And it’s a job.

The first couple of weeks are going to be tough. Newborns eat every two hours and you’ll be lucky if your nips aren’t in complete pain by day three.

You need to be prepared for the realities that is breastfeeding. It’s hard work and there are days you won’t want to do it.

However, you will also probably come to cherish those moments. Your baby won’t be a baby forever, and breastfeeding is such an incredible way to bond with your child.

You are your babies source of nourishment.

Although it might be painful and hard (no one here is promising rainbow and sunshine), always remember how it is completely worth it.

Rest

Although you’re nesting and there are over 100 things you want to do, resting should be a high priority at this time.

Once the baby arrives, you’ll be lucky to get three straight hours of sleep at a time.

Be greedy with your time and get some sleep while you still can.

You will feel much better and have higher energy for labor and birth.

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How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

If you’re planning to breastfeed, there are some things you can do in your last month of pregnancy that may make the process easier. I tell my patients that while breastfeeding is totally natural, it’s also the hardest thing I ever did. Some preparation can make the learning curve easier.

Here’s how to get ready.

Get your breast pump.

Most health insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps. Insurers usually require a prescription from your ob-gyn and may cover only certain pump models.

The last month of pregnancy is the time to do your research, make sure you have your prescription, and order your breast pump. (But most pumps have limited-time warranties, so there’s no reason to use up that time by ordering the pump any earlier.)

Choose a lactation counselor.

Hospitals have lactation counselors that help moms get off to a good start. But I also recommend that women find a lactation counselor who they can see soon after coming home. (It can take a while to figure out how to breastfeed.) The month before birth is the time to choose a lactation counselor and to check into health insurance coverage.

Most insurers cover lactation counseling, but you need to know who is in your network. Then, identify the counselor you want to work with and find out how to make an appointment.

Your ob-gyn can refer you to a lactation counselor, or you can use the online directory from the International Lactation Consultant Association. I advise my patients to choose consultants who are certified by the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners). They have the most training.

With the spread of the coronavirus, you may not be able to see a lactation counselor in person. But they still may be able to give you advice over the phone or on a video call. When you research lactation counselors, you can call them and ask how they handle virtual visits.

Talk with your ob-gyn about breastfeeding challenges – and ask if you have any health conditions that could make it harder.

If you’ve had challenges with breastfeeding in the past, or if there’s anything you’re worried about, this is the time to discuss it with your ob-gyn.

There also are certain medical conditions that make it more likely that a woman will have difficulty with breastfeeding. Having a history of diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example, increases the risk of having a low milk supply.

When patients are at risk for a low milk supply, I talk with them about hand expression before birth. Hand expression is a technique where you use your hands to get the breast milk out of your breasts. When you try it in the final few weeks of pregnancy, the goal is to produce colostrum – the fluid that’s made at the start of milk production. This technique may improve milk supply for some women.

Plan for skin-to-skin contact right after delivery.

Holding your baby directly against your bare skin right after birth is called “skin-to-skin contact.” Ask about how this is done where you’ll be giving birth. In my hospital, this is done with moms whenever possible. Skin-to-skin contact helps establish the bond between mom and baby. It’s also one of the first signals to your body to start making milk.

Free up time for breastfeeding.

You can free up more time for breastfeeding when baby is here by doing some household prep in this last month. Stock the freezer with meals now so you don’t have to do a lot of cooking later. If friends and family ask how they can help, suggest they make some freezer meals for you.

Painting the baby’s bedroom is a task you can skip in the last month. Patients often feel they have to get this done. But for the first few months, the best place for the baby to sleep is in their own crib or bassinet in mom’s bedroom.

Know that not every woman is able to breastfeed, even with careful preparation.

Breastfeeding is one of the biggest challenges that new parents face. Some women or their babies may have health conditions or other challenges that make this feeding method unworkable.

If you want to breastfeed and are having trouble, work with your ob-gyn or lactation counselor. They can help address your baby’s latch, any issues with your pump parts and pumping technique, and other ways to increase your milk supply.

But if you still can’t breastfeed or you decide not to, it’s OK. Formula feeding can supply the nutrition your baby needs. You will find the feeding method that is best for you, your baby, and your family.

[Have more questions about breastfeeding? See Breastfeeding Your Baby.]

Published: December 2020

Last reviewed: December 2020

This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.

Dr. Holly Cummings

Dr. Cummings is an obstetrician–gynecologist who serves as assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Breastfeeding provides an infant with essential calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for optimal growth, health, and development. Breastfeeding is beneficial to both a mother and her infant and also offers an important opportunity for the pair to bond. NICHD supports many areas of breastfeeding research, including studies of the benefits of breastfeeding and breast milk, the social and cultural impacts of breastfeeding, and the nutritional components and mechanisms of disease related to breastfeeding and breast milk.

General Information

About Breastfeeding and Breast Milk​

Breastfeeding, also called nursing, is the process of feeding a mother’s breast milk to her infant, usually directly from the breast.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Research shows that breastfeeding offers health benefits for mothers and infants, such as protection against infections, and potential economic and environmental benefits for communities.

What are the recommendations for breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding only breast milk for the first 6 months after birth, then slowly introducing solid foods while still breastfeeding until age 1 year.

How do I breastfeed?

Many mothers’ groups, health organizations, and health care provider associations provide detailed information on breastfeeding, including when to feed your infant and signs of a good latch.

What is weaning and how do I do it?​

Weaning is the process of switching an infant’s diet from breast milk or formula to other foods and fluids. Deciding when to wean is often influenced by many factors, such as a return to work.

When breastfeeding, how many calories to moms and babies need?

New mothers do not need to consume more calories during breastfeeding. The estimated calorie requirements for infants are based on their age, size, and sex.

Are there any situations in which I shouldn’t breastfeed?

Women may be advised not to breastfeed when they are taking certain medications or drugs, when they have been diagnosed with a specific illness, or when other specific conditions apply.

How do I pump and store breast milk?

Removing breast milk is important for mom’s health even if she doesn’t breastfeed. Moms can express/pump breast milk by hand or with a breast pump, then store it appropriately or discard it.

Do breastfed infants need other nutrition?

Infants may need additional vitamin D, and they may need supplementary feeding in certain situations.

If you’re planning to breastfeed, there are some things you can do in your last month of pregnancy that may make the process easier. I tell my patients that while breastfeeding is totally natural, it’s also the hardest thing I ever did. Some preparation can make the learning curve easier.

Here’s how to get ready.

Get your breast pump.

Most health insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps. Insurers usually require a prescription from your ob-gyn and may cover only certain pump models.

The last month of pregnancy is the time to do your research, make sure you have your prescription, and order your breast pump. (But most pumps have limited-time warranties, so there’s no reason to use up that time by ordering the pump any earlier.)

Choose a lactation counselor.

Hospitals have lactation counselors that help moms get off to a good start. But I also recommend that women find a lactation counselor who they can see soon after coming home. (It can take a while to figure out how to breastfeed.) The month before birth is the time to choose a lactation counselor and to check into health insurance coverage.

Most insurers cover lactation counseling, but you need to know who is in your network. Then, identify the counselor you want to work with and find out how to make an appointment.

Your ob-gyn can refer you to a lactation counselor, or you can use the online directory from the International Lactation Consultant Association. I advise my patients to choose consultants who are certified by the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners). They have the most training.

With the spread of the coronavirus, you may not be able to see a lactation counselor in person. But they still may be able to give you advice over the phone or on a video call. When you research lactation counselors, you can call them and ask how they handle virtual visits.

Choose a lactation counselor.

If you’ve had challenges with breastfeeding in the past, or if there’s anything you’re worried about, this is the time to discuss it with your ob-gyn.

There also are certain medical conditions that make it more likely that a woman will have difficulty with breastfeeding. Having a history of diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example, increases the risk of having a low milk supply.

When patients are at risk for a low milk supply, I talk with them about hand expression before birth. Hand expression is a technique where you use your hands to get the breast milk out of your breasts. When you try it in the final few weeks of pregnancy, the goal is to produce colostrum – the fluid that’s made at the start of milk production. This technique may improve milk supply for some women.

Plan for skin-to-skin contact right after delivery.

Holding your baby directly against your bare skin right after birth is called “skin-to-skin contact.” Ask about how this is done where you’ll be giving birth. In my hospital, this is done with moms whenever possible. Skin-to-skin contact helps establish the bond between mom and baby. It’s also one of the first signals to your body to start making milk.

Free up time for breastfeeding.

You can free up more time for breastfeeding when baby is here by doing some household prep in this last month. Stock the freezer with meals now so you don’t have to do a lot of cooking later. If friends and family ask how they can help, suggest they make some freezer meals for you.

Painting the baby’s bedroom is a task you can skip in the last month. Patients often feel they have to get this done. But for the first few months, the best place for the baby to sleep is in their own crib or bassinet in mom’s bedroom.

Know that not every woman is able to breastfeed, even with careful preparation.

Breastfeeding is one of the biggest challenges that new parents face. Some women or their babies may have health conditions or other challenges that make this feeding method unworkable.

If you want to breastfeed and are having trouble, work with your ob-gyn or lactation counselor. They can help address your baby’s latch, any issues with your pump parts and pumping technique, and other ways to increase your milk supply.

But if you still can’t breastfeed or you decide not to, it’s OK. Formula feeding can supply the nutrition your baby needs. You will find the feeding method that is best for you, your baby, and your family.

It’s hard to know how breastfeeding will go as there are so many mixed messages about breastfeeding floating around. For every person that states breastfeeding is “natural and easy,” there’s another who will share sentiments such as, “It’s really, really hard and you should expect the worst.”

The reality is that every mother-baby dyad has a unique breastfeeding experience. For some new moms breastfeeding initiation does go rather smoothly. Other moms encounter breastfeeding challenges, such as a baby with difficulty latching, low milk supply, tongue tie, and/or pain and discomfort while feeding.

Preparing to Breastfeed while Pregnant

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

One of the best ways to prepare for your first time breastfeeding is to meet with a lactation consultant during your pregnancy. They can review your medical and pregnancy history and help to anticipate any breastfeeding problems that might occur. Certain groups of women are at a higher risk of breastfeeding problems, including those with a history of previous breast surgery, infertility, hormonal problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism, and pregnancy-related complications, including pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

It’s important to know ahead of time if you are in one of these “high risk” groups so that you can be sure to get appropriate breastfeeding help after you deliver.How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

It’s also helpful for pregnant women who plan to breastfeed to spend time with and talk to family members and friends who have breastfed. You might learn that some mothers who end up breastfeeding the longest and seem to be the most “successful” at it actually struggled and needed a lot of help with breastfeeding at first.

There are many helpful books and internet resources to read through as well, including the American Academy of Pediatrics book ” New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding ” or kellymom.com .

Breastfeeding Supplies

Breastfeeding planning includes researching and choosing which supplies and equipment will be needed. Breastfeeding supplies to consider include nursing bras, breast pads, nipple cream, and nursing pillows. Moms who know they will eventually need to pump should also research breast pumps and accessories ahead of time, so that they can have a good idea of which pumps will suit their needs.

Mothers who work outside of the home will often need a double electric breast pump to use during their longer periods of separation from their babies, while those who plan to only occasionally pump, i.e. for an evening out, might only need a hand pump or a portable battery-powered pump.

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

Preparing for breastfeeding also includes locating and creating a comfortable breastfeeding space in your home. This might end up being a cozy living room couch filled with pillows and blankets, or a rocking chair and footrest in a quiet corner of your bedroom.

Having a peaceful and soothing location to breastfeed your baby mapped out ahead of time can be very helpful in the days and weeks after birth as you and your baby get to know each other and learn to breastfeed. A friend of mine who is a lactation educator calls this “preparing your breastfeeding nest.”

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

Preparing for the Fourth Trimester

Most parents set up their baby’s nursery, make sure that they have all necessary baby equipment on hand, and work out their birth and delivery plans ahead of time. However, many couples neglect to prepare for new mothers’ unique needs during the postpartum period. The “fourth trimester,” which refers to the weeks and months following delivery, are a major physical, mental, and emotional transition for new mothers. Nurturing and taking care of new moms during the fourth trimester promotes healing from labor and delivery, mother-newborn bonding, and the establishment of successful breastfeeding.

Fourth trimester preparation can include asking family members, friends, and neighbors to help with cooking, cleaning, and other chores and errands during the postpartum period. It can also include being prepared to set limits on the numbers of visitors during the first few weeks after delivery until breastfeeding is established. In addition, some couples will arrange fourth trimester visits with support figures, such as doulas and lactation consultants.

In conclusion, the best way to prepare for and support breastfeeding is to recognize that the needs of the mother-baby dyad should be prioritized over everything else during the first weeks to months after birth. Learning about breastfeeding, anticipating risk factors, and researching equipment and supplies are helpful. Also, having a breast pump is an essential part of preparing to breast feed. To see if you can get a free breast pump through insurance, fill out our qualify form!

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.

Although breastfeeding is good for you and your baby, it can be hard on your nipples! Read our advice and tips on nipple care to help keep soreness at bay

“Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt” is a mantra new mums often hear. But many find the reality is rather different in the early days.

For starters, during pregnancy most women’s nipples become larger and more sensitive. And when your newborn starts feeding from them he creates pressure and suction unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before (well, if you’re a first-time mum at least).

Breastfeeds can take a long time too – sometimes up to an hour – and your baby may feed up to 13 times a day. 1 All this new suction, pressure and saliva can result in sore nipples.

Think about lips that get sore or cracked from the wind or sun. The more you wet them by licking them, the more dry and damaged they get – so you moisturise to soothe and protect them and to help them heal. It’s the same with your nipples.

However, soreness shouldn’t last long as you and your baby should become accustomed to breastfeeding during the first couple of weeks. Treating problems promptly is essential for preventing further damage. So if your nipples crack, start bleeding, or are excruciatingly sore, speak to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist as soon as you can. 2

However, prevention is better than cure – so read my troubleshooting tips below.

Check your baby’s latch

The key to pain-free breastfeeding is a good latch. When your baby is latching on, aim your nipple towards the roof of his mouth. This should help him latch on to the nipple, as well as some of the areola (the circle of darker skin around the nipple) beneath it. Having both the nipple and some of the breast tissue into his mouth like this will help him feed properly. 3

Get your baby’s latch checked by a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist in the first few days. They’ll give you advice on overcoming any problems and may suggest alternative breastfeeding positions to help you feed your baby as painlessly as possible.

Watch out for tongue-tie

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) affects 4 to 11% of newborns. 4 It means the strip of skin that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, called the lingual frenulum, is too short. A tongue-tied baby may not be able to open his mouth wide enough to take in plenty of your breast when he feeds, and his tongue probably won’t cover his lower gum while he sucks. The result can be sore nipples for you and frustration for him.

A healthcare professional, lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist needs to assess your baby to confirm a tongue-tie. It can be treated with a simple procedure called a tongue-tie division if necessary. Carried out by a healthcare professional, this doesn’t usually require anaesthetic and may help resolve feeding problems immediately. 5

There is a similar, but rarer, condition called a lip-tie, where the frenulum attaching the upper lip to the top gum is too short. Tongue-ties and lip-ties aren’t always picked up in neonatal checks, so if you think one of these could be causing your nipple pain, seek advice quickly. 4

Breastfeeding nipple care tips

  • Only wash your breasts with water when you bath or shower. The little bumps (Montgomery glands) on your areolae produce an oil that moisturises and protects your nipples. Soaps and shower gels can strip this natural oil, causing dryness and irritation. 6
  • Air-dry your nipples or dab them gently with a towel. Women used to be told to rub their nipples to toughen them up, but this isn’t advised any more – thank goodness!
  • There’s no need to clean the breast or nipples before breastfeeding. In fact, bacteria from the surface of your breast can help develop your baby’s gut microbiome. 7
  • Fresh breast milk can help heal damaged nipples, 8 so try massaging a few drops into them before and after feeds.
  • Change nursing pads frequently if they become damp to reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal infections, including thrush. 6
  • Avoid increasing the gap between breastfeeds to ‘rest’ your nipples. Your baby needs to feed on demand to stay healthy and grow well. Remember, frequent feeding builds and maintains your supply, so keep feeding through any soreness. 9

Useful nipple care products

  • Nipple cream made from ultra-pure lanolin – a natural product obtained from sheep’s wool. This moisturises and supports healing. It’s harmless for your baby, so there’s no need to wash off lanolin before breastfeeding.
  • Hydrogel pads can be placed on sore nipples to offer instant breastfeeding pain relief, as well as creating ideal conditions for healing. You can even keep them in the fridge for cooling comfort.
  • Breast shells fit inside your bra. They’re great for stopping clothing rubbing against sore nipples, and have holes in so air can still get to your nipples to help them heal.
  • Nursing bras made from either a breathable material like cotton, or a fabric that dries quickly and wicks excess moisture away from damaged nipples.
  • Nipple shields are silicone covers that fit over your nipples, with small holes for your breast milk to flow through as you breastfeed. They protect the skin underneath and can give a baby with a poor latch something firmer to attach to. In general nipple shields should be considered a short-term solution. If problems or pain occur, consult your lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist.

When to seek medical help

Once your baby and your nipples are used to breastfeeding, it’s true it shouldn’t hurt. It’s worth reiterating that the number one cause of sore nipples is a poor latch. If one breastfeeding expert hasn’t been able to resolve your nipple pain, try another, and another if necessary.

If your nipple pain persists or you notice unusual symptoms, see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. White spots or flakiness on your nipples could be thrush, whitish or blueish nipples could be caused by a circulatory disorder such as Raynaud’s disease (vasospasm), and pus or hot redness are signs of infection. 2

2 Berens P et al. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol# 26: Persistent pain with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2016;11(2):46-53.

8 Mohammadzadeh A et al. The effect of breast milk and lanolin on sore nipples. Saudi medical journal. 2005;26(8):1231-1234.

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If you’re breastfeeding and have sore or cracked nipples, Medela hydrogel pads support healing and offer instant, soothing relief. .

How to prepare the breast for breast feeding

A woman’s breasts start getting ready to make milk when she becomes pregnant. Breast changes are caused by four main hormones. These hormones cause the ducts and glandular tissue (alveoli) to grow and increase in size (see the anatomy of breastfeeding in the image to the left). Your breasts start to make the first milk, colostrum, in the second trimester. Colostrum is thick and clear to yellow in color. Once your baby and the placenta are delivered, your body starts to make more milk. Over the next few days, the amount of milk your breasts make will increase and the color will change to appear more watery and white.

Hormones of Lactation

The complex physiology of breastfeeding includes a delicate balance of hormones. There are four hormones that help your breasts make milk: estrogen, progesterone, prolactin and oxytocin. Your body naturally knows how to adjust the level of these hormones to help your breasts make milk, as seen in the drawing.

Estrogen and progesterone prepare your breasts to make milk. These hormones are released by the placenta during pregnancy. They have two major roles. They increase the size and number of milk ducts in your breasts. They also keep your body from making large amounts of breast milk until after your baby is born. Once your baby is born and the placenta is delivered, these hormones decrease. This decrease signals your body that it is time to make milk.

Prolactin helps your breasts make milk. After the birth of your baby, prolactin levels increase. Every time you breastfeed or pump, your body releases prolactin. With each release, your body makes and stores more milk in the breast alveoli. If the level of this hormone gets too low, your milk supply will decrease. This is why it is important to breastfeed or pump right after delivery and then at regular time frames.

Oxytocin releases milk from your breasts. When your baby (or breast pump) begins to suck and draw your nipple into her mouth, this hormone is released. This release causes milk to be squeezed out of the alveoli, into the ducts and out of your nipple, into your baby’s mouth. This process is called letdown or milk ejection reflex (MER).

This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different. If in doubt, contact your physician or healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish your infant. With a few precautions, you can nurse your baby without ending up with painful nipples.Here are several ideas for preparing your nipples for breast feeding.

  • Rub moisturizer on your nipples. An organic moisturizer such as lanolin can keep your nipples supple without harming your feeding infant. Or simply leave on the natural oils produced by the breasts. Avoid washing your nipples with soap, which can dry out the skin, remove the oils and aggravate its sensitivity. Avoid using alcohol or petroleum jelly as well, as these will lead to cracking.
  • Train your nipples to point outwards. Flat or inverted nipples can hinder your child’s ability to latch on. You can coax your problem nipples to poke outwards by pressing them between your thumb and forefinger several times a day during pregnancy. You can also wear breast shells for the entire day, only to remove them at night.
  • Perform the Hoffman technique. Developed by Dr. J. Brooks Hoffman, this procedure is supposed to train your inverted or flat nipples to come out. Gently squeeze both sides of the nipple with thumb and forefinger repeatedly five times a day. After a couple of weeks, your nipples will tend to come out of the breast.

Take note that nipple stimulation during pregnancy can lead to labor. Your body may take it as a signal to begin uterine contraction. Leave your nipple alone when you are experiencing anything resembling contractions or body changes.