Maybe you are someone who wants to be proactive and prepare for breastfeeding during your pregnancy. You are committed to the idea of breastfeeding and want to be sure you and your little one get off to a good start, that's amazing! Good for you, Mama! You might start asking others for advice or personal experiences. You might be Googling and following online groups and forums to see what others are doing or have done. While any advice you receive, whether it is solicited or unsolicited, is typically meant with the best of intentions, it isn't necessarily always good or evidence based advice.
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?
Arm yourself with knowledge and support. And please---don't rough up your nipples.