Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience. Besides providing the best food to your baby, it also helps you bond with him. But like with any baby feeding session, breastfeeding too can be quite messy. Spit-up milk and wet t-shirts are just two of the messier side-effects. So what are the hygiene rules for breastfeeding you should follow?
The good news is that your breasts can pretty much keep themselves clean, with just a few added hygiene rules for breastfeeding followed fom your side. The Montgomery’s Glands, which are the pimple-like protruding bumps surrounding the nipples, secrete a “natural, oily substance that cleans and lubricates the nipple and areola.”
According to experts, this oily substance is antibiotic in nature and protects the nipples from infection or accumulation of microorganisms. So it is not necessary to wash your nipples post- and pre-breastfeeding.
However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash or clean them. Because when you do not clean yourself properly, you risk infections to your baby. These infections could result in the following:
- Gaseous abdomen
- Loss of appetite
In addition, if your nipples are sore and cracked, and you do not practice good breastfeeding hygiene, then you are at risk of suffering from infections like mastitis. Germs can enter your system via the cracks in your skin.
By simply adopting the following hygiene rules for breastfeeding, you can protect yourself and your baby from unnecessary pain and hassle.
7 Hygiene Rules for Breastfeeding: Mistakes and Solutions
Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes new mums make when it comes to breastfeeding hygiene — and ways to correct them. These are the hygiene rules for breastfeeding you should always follow.
1. Avoid using scented soaps, lotions and alcohol on your nipples
Even though it’s not necessary to clean and wash your nipples after each feed, you can rinse them with warm water and a clean towel after every three feeds if you feel the need to do so. It is still best to wash them once a day when you shower.
Mistake: However, it will be a mistake to clean them using scented shower gels, lotions and soaps.
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Try using herbal and natural soaps without any fragrance. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Solution: When you do wash your nipples, avoid using scented soaps and shower gels. Don’t use wet wipes that contain alcohol too. These products can make your nipples excessively dry and cracked, making it difficult to breastfeed.
Instead, use natural, herbal soaps, or a gentle, unscented body wash.
2. Change your nursing pads often
Nursing pads fast become an essential must-have of any nursing mum. These are absorbent and removable pads that are placed between the nipples and the bra.
They act as a shield, and do not let milk flow onto your clothes, especially while you are away from the baby and experience strong letdown.
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Change your nursing pads. Better yet, use disposable pads. | Image courtesy: stock image
Mistake: Nursing pads need changing every few feeds; otherwise they can become a hotbed of germs. Remember, a warm, wet and sugar-laden environment makes for the perfect place for the growth of bacteria and yeast. So don’t make that mistake.
Solution: Make sure to wear a fresh and clean nursing bra each time you change your nursing pads. Your bra too can get soiled fast, and when they soak up leaking breast milk, they can cause various skin irritations, even contributing to infection.
3. Avoid tight and restrictive clothing
As you may have experienced, your breasts undergo a dramatic change after pregnancy. This means your size will increase, and you may no longer be able to fit into your underwear and bra.
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Restrictive and tight clothing can make it difficult for the skin to breathe. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Mistake: Wearing excessively tight clothes, especially a tight bra can constrict your mammary glands and make you feel uncomfortable. Both are naturally a big “No” for a new mum.
Solution: Instead, you need to wear well-fitted and perhaps slightly loose bras to allow for air flow as well as absorbency. Also make sure the bra is made of cotton. This natural material lets the skin breathe and will let the air flow properly.
You may also have to insert some nursing pads. So purchase bras that fit properly but also have room for your nursing pads.
4. Clean your breasts after an exercise session
Your baby may not like sweaty and salty breasts. It can put him off, making breastfeeding difficult for you.
Mistake: In fact, trying to breastfeed a child while you are a sweaty betty could be the worst mistake you are committing.
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Clean your breasts immediately after your workout. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Solution: The best way to avoid this situation is to clean your breasts with warm water and a towel if you have to feed your baby immediately after your workout session. Otherwise, as you know, taking a shower is the best solution. If all else fails, carry some fragrance- and alcohol-free wet wipes with you, and use these to clean your breasts and nipples.
This prevents accumulation and growth of bacteria. It also reduces the risk of the infection being passed on to your child.
5. Change your nursing bra each day
The rule-of-thumb for washing a bra that most women use is: If you travel a lot and have been out on a hot day, you’ll want to wash your bra. And that’s perfectly fine. But, if you’ve only thrown it on for a couple of hours then that might not count as “wear.”
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Your nursing bra needs changing as well, so make sure you regularly wash it. | Image courtesy: stock image/ YouTube
Mistake: However, this doesn’t necessarily hold true in the case of a nursing bra. Your nursing bra gets dirty faster and creates an environment for bacteria accumulation. Plus, because of leaky breasts, you may even have to change it twice or thrice a day.
Solution: Your bras do not need aggressive cleaning if you change them often. However, if your bra label has specific instructions on cleaning, follow them to a tee. In addition to cleaning your bra properly, it will also increase its shelf-life.
6. Clean your breast pump after each use
It’s not just your breasts that need cleaning. The equipment you might be using for breastfeeding need care too — in this case, your breast pump.
Mistake: As mentioned in our previous article, when it comes to cleaning your breast pump, there shouldn’t be any kind of sharing of cleaning equipment.
This means you do not use the brush or sponge that you use to wash kitchen dishes, or other children’s bottles, to clean your breast pump accessories.
Hygiene rules for breastfeeding: Breast pumps can get quite dirty and filled with dried breast milk. | Image courtesy: stock image
Solution: If possible, have a dedicated washbasin for washing your pump parts. The regular kitchen sink may have a host of germs lurking around unbeknownst to you! This is another crucial breastfeeding hygiene tip you should keep in mind.
To be extra safe — for you can never be too safe when it comes to your baby — boil or steam the parts in a sanitiser.
7. Maintain proper hygiene
It’s not just about your breasts. Even your hands need proper cleaning and washing when you are about to breastfeed. It is another crucial breastfeeding hygiene tip to bear in mind. Most women often hold their breasts and bring the nipple close to the baby’s mouth with their hand.
Make sure to wash your hands and maintain proper hygiene before and after breastfeeding. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Mistake: If your hands are dirty, you pass on bacteria and dirt onto your breasts and nipples. And that in turn passes to your baby, whose immune system is still developing and vulnerable to infections.
Solution: It’s best to maintain proper hygiene, and wash your hands. Keep sanitisers and clean wipes around you so even if you cannot get up to wash your hands, you can at least disinfect them.
We hope we managed to clear all your doubts about breastfeeding hygiene. Share this knowledge with another breastfeeding mum you know!
Sources: Romper, Very Well Family, Monitor
ALSO READ: The basics of breastfeeding – top 10 questions for new parents
Nursing pillow can make your breastfeeding journey comfortable for you and your baby. Read to find out the best nursing pillows in Singapore.