Preparing to Breast Feed Your Baby

You know breastfeeding is healthiest for baby and for you, and you look forward to the closeness nursing brings. Here things you can do to prepare to breast feed your new baby.

Were you told to prepare your nipples? My mother told me that her doctor advised her to rub a towel across her nipples daily to “toughen them up!” Doctors and lactation consultants today agree that “toughening up” is not necessary to prepare your nipples for nursing.

mother reading a book as she's preparing to breast feed

What To Use – and What Not To

Let warm water run over your nipples in the shower. Soaps can be harsh and drying. Your body produces an oil in the glands (Montgomery glands) on your areolas that cleanses them gently.

Some moms like to use a moisturizer on their nipples and have found it helps in the early days as they breast feed. You can do this daily during pregnancy but you don’t have to (I’ve never gotten around to it!).

Use a natural moisturizer if you want to make this part of your routine. Lanolin moisturizer (Lansinoh and Pure-Lan are ultra-purified brands) is one choice. Another, non-lanolin, choice is baby-safe body butter made especially for nursing mamas.

Knowing Yourself

Breast massage can be helpful during breastfeeding. Massage by gently cupping your breasts from underneath and rubbing outward from the chest wall towards your nipples. It’s good practice for learning to manually express milk.

It’s good to learn this during pregnancy if you have flat or inverted nipples.

You can check for yourself to see if you have flat nipples. To try and draw them out, push your thumb and forefinger gently together around the base of the nipple. You’ll feel where your breast tissue ends and the nipple begins. Hold the nipple and gently draw it out, carefully pulling it up and down.

Some experts feel that doing this a couple of times a day throughout pregnancy helps flat nipples. Others don’t think it helps much. You decide if you want to do it.

The Hoffman Technique

Dr. J. Brooks Hoffman also developed a technique for drawing out flat nipples that some women find helpful. To do the “Hoffman” technique place your thumbs on either side of your nipple. You want them to be right at the base of the nipple, not on the outside of the areola. Then press your thumbs firmly into your breast tissue while you pull them gently apart from each other.

Hoffman recommends doing this every morning. Work your way around each nipple. This technique may help loosen the tissue bands in your nipple.

Inverted Nipples

If your nipple sinks down into your breast tissue when you gently pinch either side of the areola you may have inverted nipples.

There’s disagreement about whether inverted nipples need treatment or not. Some experts think a baby can pull out the nipple on their own; other experts recommend treating the nipples during pregnancy and between nursing sessions.

Wearing breast shells in your bra is one option. They’re comfortable to wear and nobody else can tell you’re using them. They have a ring that applies gentle pressure around your nipple to encourage it to stay out. A small dome keeps your bra material off of your nipple.

Start off wearing them for short periods every day and build up gradually. Please contact a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League Leader if you need help with inverted nipples.

Relax, Read, and Get Support

Your body is already doing the hard work for you. It’s preparing your breasts and your nipples to breastfeed your baby. Your hormones, milk ducts, and everything else involved in are also getting ready. You can sit back and relax during your pregnancy!

When you decide to breastfeed pick up good guide – or two! The more you read the better. You may also find it helpful to take a breastfeeding class at your local hospital. Your birth center, midwife, or doula may also offer a class on learning to breastfeed. Make plans to attend a La Leche League meeting. LLL meetings are mother-to-mother support groups and they’re invaluable to the pregnant and nursing mom.

Want step-by-step tips and natural techniques for nursing your baby? Click Here for our 7 Steps to a Great Latch quick-reference guide and our How to Boost Milk Supply Naturally report (plus get our email mini-course on natural baby health, conscious parenting, and enjoying motherhood!). Opens in a new tab.

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