Breastfeeding shouldn't require manuals and equipment, support groups or lactation consultants, right? It's a natural thing. If it was so hard, how is it that all the lower mammals don't have a La Leche League chapter in their habitats? Trust me, I found out.
Like the first time my firstborn daughter latched on greedily, and at not the exact right spot and I was fighting tears. Should it hurt worse than contractions? I wondered aloud. No, it should not, but the first few weeks can definitely be the hardest. And since it's so natural, why the need for pads, specialized shields, lanolin creams and pumps? As someone who has fought through mastitis, a clogged duct as well as thrush in nursing three wee ones, I can attest to the need for proper breastfeeding practices, including hygiene. Not everything that's natural just comes naturally!
Sometimes little mistakes can cause pretty uncomfortable consequences. I remember getting thrush while breastfeeding my second child via birth, Keillor. It was close to Easter and when the nurse painted the necessary solution on my beyond sensitive areas, it looked like a purple celebration. Yay! How festive, right? Knowing what to do while breastfeeding is not automatic; the handbook doesn't pop out of your uterus along with the baby, so here are 15 hygiene practices that all breastfeeding moms need to follow to avoid painful problems.
15 Wash Up!
This should probably be good advice before doing almost anything, except perhaps making mudpies. However, many a mama neglects this practice. But if she would take a moment to reflect on everything she's touched, or has touched her hands since her last hand-washing session, she might be disgusted to think about exposing her sweet baby to it. Did she touch a doorknob or how about the computer keyboard? Have any kids been over, like nephews or nieces?
They contaminate everything in sight with boogers, coughs and outright licking. According to the site breastfeeding.ie,
hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent illness and disease from spreading.
With a new baby, this is especially critical, since babies don't have a fully functional immune system. To wash properly, moms need to use soap and water, lather up and rub for a full 20 seconds, then rinse fully. Use a paper towel, hand dryer or clean towel to dry off. If no water is available, use hand sanitizer.
14 Baby Won't Appreciate Your Perfumed Lotion In Her Mouth
Look, lots of moms find themselves wandering the local Bath and Body Works trying to feel like a "regular woman" again, after months of being a full-time incubator. It's lovely to smell like something besides whatever that awful pregnant lady BO is, or baby lotion or infant bodily fluids. However, you do need to take care to what you slather upon your ta-tas when breastfeeding. It's probably best to make sure you use a soap when showering that is moisturizing and naturally scented rather than heavily perfumed. Then, skip the lotion on your milk dispensers, or at least the part that comes directly in contact with baby's mouth.
Not everything in cleansing and moisturizing products are that healthy or safe, but especially to mix it into your food, as in breastfeeding. Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist, Jennifer Sass states, "We don’t really know all of what’s in these products, but the fact that they are engineered to be absorbed into the skin on purpose makes us concerned." This is especially considering the fact that the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require cosmetics products to be approved before hitting the market.
13 Clean Baby Mitts
At some point, baby will be doing more than gazing into your eyes, nursing and filling diapers, oh and occasionally sleeping. She will be crawling and touching everything with her emerging hand skills. He will be starting on solids and trying to self-feed. They will discover the dog's dish, the grimy undersides of everything and possibly suck on the soles of Daddy's shoes. Stuff like this happens daily with growing babies.
So when a breastfeeding mama settles into the recliner for a nursing session, after washing her hands, she should consider all that was just mentioned and wash off baby's hands and face as well.
According to the National Institutes of Health, baby's hands should be washed with soap, wiped with a wet towel, then dried off with a dry clean towel to avoid spreading germs, even and especially to himself.
12 A Clog You Can't Call The Plumber To Fix
A clogged duct makes you sound like you have a faulty HVAC system in your body, or maybe some true plumbing issues. Nope. It's just that milk ducts produce that lovely milk for baby, and when you don't completely empty your breasts during nursing, the duct can become clogged. This does not require a tiny plunger, but rather other types of care. Specifically, a nursing mom needs to do what she does best; nurse!
According to pumpstation.com, breastfeeding moms trying to resolve a clogged duct should apply warm compresses or shower and let the warm water flow over the affected breast. Next, mom should nurse and empty the breast. Then she should pump to be certain to drain the duct. Other measures include pain reliever, nursing on all fours with baby beneath you, and increasing fluid intake. An untreated clogged duct will lead to mastitis.
11 Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Breast pumping is not a glamorous past time by any means. You feel like a dairy cow no matter how you set things up. However, where you pump is important, hygienically-speaking, as well as emotionally. Pumping in a less-than sanitary situation can lead to contamination of your breast milk. To avoid getting fecal matter germs into the milk, you have to be exceedingly careful with what you touch and washing your hands. Better yet, insist on a better place to pump than a restroom.
If your boss points to the potty, point them to the law.
In fact, according to the Department of Labor employers are required to provide ample break time and space for women to pump breastmilk: "The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public."
10 No Hand-Me-Downs!
Breast pumps are a boon to nursing moms. I only wish I had known it with my first two nurslings. With my third, I got a hospital grade breast pump for rent, and it made life oh so much easier. However, you can't do like you may for other things, and borrow one or look for one on craigslist or at a garage sale to save a few bucks. Nope. Not with breast pumps!
According to the FDA, "Only breast pumps that are designed for multiple users should be used by more than one person. With the exception of multiple user pumps, the FDA considers breast pumps to be single-user devices. That means that a breast pump should only be used by one woman because there is no way to guarantee the pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women. Breast pumps that are reused by different mothers can carry infectious particles, which can make you or your baby sick."
9 Chill It Out
Once you've pumped the milk, it's extremely important to store that liquid gold at optimum temps.According to the CDC, you can keep the milk out safely for 6- 8 hours at room temperature; in a cooler bag that's insulated for a full 24 hours; and in the coolest part of your frig for 5 days. That means not in the door, for instance.
You can keep it in a typical refrigerator-freezer with a separate door for the freezer compartment for 3 to 6 months, and in a deep-freeze style freezer for 6 months to a year.
Just be certain you had clean hands handling the expressed milk, the bags or containers used to store the milk and of course the baby and your breasts. Make certain to label the frozen or stored milk with the date you pumped to keep it safe.
8 Change Is Good
Breast milk is good, natural and pretty much perfect, so why worry about some spilled milk? Breastfeeding moms know the importance of breast pads for those leaky nipple spigots but do they know how often they should be changed? According to the Canadian Public Health Association, you should change breast pads when they become wet. That's right; you don't wait until you've gained a full cup size before switching those puppies out.
Why? Because wet pads are not sanitary. While milk is nature's gold, milk left out and soaking those pads will create a bacterial situation you don't want on your breasts or in baby's mouth. Good things can go bad, and that includes mama milk. The CPHA also recommends avoiding breast pads with plastic on the back, to make them more breathable and less likely to cause infection or discomfort.
7 Laundering The Girls' Holders
Laundry is at the top of every breastfeeding mom's list. Right up there with alphabetizing the spice rack and putting away the Christmas tree before 4th of July. However, it is important that you keep your nursing bras washed. According to blackdoctor.org, you should take care to keep your nursing bras laundered properly. "Looking after your nipples is essential when breastfeeding, and an important part of good nipple care is ensuring you wash your nursing bras in the best way possible. Use a non-bio detergent for sensitive skin to minimize irritation, and reshape your bras while air drying so they don’t lose their shape or comfort."
While you may only wash your regular bras every few days, or maybe even going longer if you aren't sweaty or smelly, nursing bras require more vigilance for hygiene.
Especially in the earlier months, you may be prone to leaking and sour milk, is well, sour.
6 Sterilized For Baby's Safety
Look; someone's gotta do it. And it isn't going to be baby! Sterilizing baby bottles is something breastfeeding moms may feel a bit behind the curve ball on. After all, isn't avoiding bottles at all costs one of the big perks of nursing? It is, and most of the time, you will avoid it. But there are times, perhaps going back to work, going on a trip or having a date night, when pumping breastmilk and leaving a bottle or packing a bottle will be a great option even for a hardcore nursing mom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise on their website, "Sanitizing is particularly important when your baby is younger than 3 months, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system. Daily sanitizing of feeding items may not be necessary for older, healthy babies, if those items are cleaned carefully after each use." Using a dishwasher, per the CDC, would be sufficient in most cases, though. The simplest method? Put bottles in pot, cover with water and bring to boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes and done!
5 Have A System
It's not enough to get the milk pumped and pumped in a hygienic spot but storage matters as well. Breastfeeding moms putting up a milk supply for baby need to use adequate storage containers and systems for storage. For instance, the CDC warns against using typical ziplock or storage bags for milk.
Instead, they recommend heavy-duty bags meant for this purpose or clean plastic containers with tightly fitting lids that screw on.
Moms should label the milk with the date it was expressed and put newest pumped milk to the rear of the storage area, probably the freezer, so that the oldest (but still fresh) milk is used first. Throwing everything in together unlabeled, all willy-nilly will lead to thrown out milk. That is spilled milk worth crying over.
4 Infected Ta-Tas
Mastitis sounds kind of like a chewing disorder, and well, it may seem like your baby was chewing on you when you get it. Mastitis is an infection in breast tissue that results in redness, pain and swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also be accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as chills, feeling unwell generally, and fever over 101 degrees. It most commonly strikes women with breastfeeding newborns, but it can afflict nursing moms at any time and can set in rapidly.
Usually you'll need to see the physician and will be prescribed oral antibiotics. Your milk will almost always protect baby, with its antibodies. You can get mastitis from poor emptying of breasts, which leads to clogged ducts, or from bacteria entering through the skin around the breast. That's why good hygiene is key, and also protecting your nipples from becoming cracked.
3 Dirty Faced Babies Are Dangerous
Babies are sweet, almost angelic (before they can speak), and the joy of our lives. One thing they are not is clean all the time. It's important for moms to make sure they don't create hygiene problems by ignoring baby's dirty face. After all, that face is going to be all up in your business when nursing. Babies touch everything in reach, so if you wash their hands but not their faces, you've accomplished nothing in hygiene concerns. Baby will touch his face, your breasts and spread whatever yucky-ness around.
To keep from playing germ-go-round, wash it all; baby's face and hands, your hands, and of course, find time to shower and wash up in general.
Easier said than done, I realize. Wash baby's face gently after nursing as well.
2 Sickness And Breastfeeding
When a mom is sick, she worries about being contagious and infecting her children. When her child is an infant, the worry is only more intense. However, if she only has the flu or a cold, she need not become overly concerned. Vigilance in hand washing is key, but continuing to breastfeed will only help protect baby from the illness, as mom's milk has antibodies that can protect the baby.
Other illnesses could be problematic, but that 's rare. One example would be herpes simplex virus, as moms with HSV-I or HSV-2 with active lesions must be very careful not to expose their infants to the illness. In cases like that, it's important to seek a physician's care and advice to avoid exposing the child to a potentially life-threatening illness.
1 Thrush Or Just Milk?
I remember holding my infant son, Keillor, and seeing patches of white in his mouth. It wasn't milk, I quickly realized. What he had was thrush, an oral yeast infection. One of us, I forget who now, had taken an antibiotic and
it apparently killed off too much good bacteria and thus the yeast multiplied and became a problem.
I soon noticed my nipples were red, itchy and uncomfortable.
My physician treated both Keillor and myself with an applied solution, so that we wouldn't pass it back and forth. I have learned from Dr. Sear's website that if the infection persisted, I should disinfect nursing bras, pacifiers and laundry, with white vinegar when washing. Thrush isn't serious, but it can make baby fussy and hamper feedings if left untreated.