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  • Writer's pictureChardá Bell, IBCLC, CBE, CD

Roughening the nipples “preparing” for chest/breastfeeding…y’all still doing that?🤨

I’m always amazed by the many different rationale behind reasons for or against breastfeeding.

A few things I’ve heard this week alone:

  • “I was told to toughen or roughen up my nipples to prepare for feeding”

  • “I need to start drinking more milk so I can have enough”

  • “I‘ll endure the pain if I have to because I know it’s going to hurt!”

What’s most shocking to me is that old myths are still going hard, like the age old “gotta toughen those nipples up before the baby comes”…But why Grandma?! I love your grandma dearly but she is not giving you sound evidence based medical advice and in fact it could potentially be harmful to your breastfeeding journey.

Here‘s the real real, breastfeeding hurts some people but it shouldn’t. If it does, something is wrong and you need to seek professional help of an IBCLC or someone you trust trained in lactation.

If you start doing things like abrasively rubbing or scrubbing your nipples, you may not only one put yourself into premature labor, by inducing contractions through nipple stimulation, but two, cause nipple discomfort and/or injury leading to cracks and tears that may be microscopic that can develop into an infection causing unnecessary pain and suffering. This may also affect your future breastfeeding relationship by getting it off to a bad start if you go into it with damaged nipples. Sometimes women even scrub their breasts after birth which washes away the natural oils and scents for the baby from the Montgomery glands—little bumps—on the areola. This oil protects you from illnesses and helps guide your baby to the breast before they can fully see in the days and weeks after birth.

This is why latch and positioning are so important, and often the first place to start when overcoming a breastfeeding challenge. If your baby has a good latch, you should have no pain. If you have pain, it’s likely indicator you need to check the latch. A baby’s mouth is designed to hold the tip of the nipple deep in the back of the mouth, the rest of the breast and areola fit and mold comfortably into the shape of the baby’s palate.

If all looks good with latch and you are still having pain, get your baby checked by a lactation consultant for structural abnormalities and/or oral restrictions aka tongue tie, lip or cheek ties. Not all pediatricians will be able to identify this as most are not properly trained in lactation. An IBCLC will do a suck assessment, check latch and help find an optimal position that feels good, comfortable and natural for you and baby.

So, what CAN you do to prepare for breastfeeding? Sit back relax have a cup of tea and read some breastfeeding books, watch some breastfeeding videos, go to a breastfeeding support group, have a prenatal consult. All of which are things I can help you with, so check out my website and Instagram for more info!

Happy Birthing & Feeding!

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