So here it is - someone, somewhere may just end up recommending that you toughen up your nipples in preparation for breastfeeding.
And here I am to ask, beg, PLEASE- please do not rough up your nipples. Not only is it a myth that this is even necessary, there are potentially harmful consequences in trying to desensitize your nipples.
Nipple stimulation is a wonderful tool during labor to help bring on and strengthen contractions. During the course of a normal pregnancy, you may not put yourself into labor by roughing up your nipples, especially if your body and baby are not ready. However, if you are someone who is at risk for preterm labor, use extra caution for this reason.
Just like the rest of our skin, our nipples produce oil which protects and lubricates. This oil has a unique scent that helps your little one to find your breast and latch after birth (if you haven't already, look up the newborn breast crawl!). Not only will you be removing these important natural oils, you may also experience soreness and cracking nipples. Isn't that what you are trying to avoid in the first place?! With self inflicted sore and cracked nipples, it may be even more difficult for you to know whether you are having breastfeeding discomforts that should be explored with a lactation professional.
So what are some best practices for prenatally setting yourself up for breastfeeding success?
- Find your village, your tribe. Get your support in place now. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to have a support system and people who understand your breastfeeding journey, challenges and triumphs.
- Find a local chapter of La Leche League and attend some meetings, meet some mamas, ask some questions or just sit back and soak it all in.
- Attend a prenatal breastfeeding education class.
- Read some books.
- Find local resources and lactation professionals and keep their information on hand. Even though breastfeeding is natural, that does not always make it easy. Should you experience some adversity on your breastfeeding journey, you will know exactly who you can turn to for help.
Arm yourself with knowledge and support. And please---don't rough up your nipples.
Deanna is our resident yogi and veggie-loving mama! She is the beautiful mother of 2, and is an avid adventurer of the outdoors. She loves birth, and in addition to being a doula, is also a yoga teacher who regularly teaches prenatal and postnatal yoga classes. She has also recently become a Certified Lactation Counselor!