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Breast Care After Birth

A few days after your baby’s birth, your breasts will swell with milk. They are likely to feel tender and heavy. This is normal. To help prevent breast soreness and control irritation, follow these tips:

Woman in shower.

Coping with swelling

  • Use cold compresses or an ice pack to help reduce the ache or pain.

  • Breastfeed often to keep milk from clogging your breast ducts.

  • If your nipples are flat from breast swelling, hand express some milk. Squeeze out a few drops of milk by massaging and compressing your breasts.

  • If you have swelling with pain or fever, call your health care provider.

Preventing sore nipples

  • Make sure baby latches on to your breast correctly. The baby’s tongue should always be under your nipple, and your entire areola should be in the baby's mouth.

  • You can let milk dry on your nipples. This dried milk can protect the skin on your nipple/breasts.

  • Do not use alcohol, soap, or scented cleansers on your breasts. These can cause the nipples to dry and crack.

  • Do not wear nursing pads that are lined with plastic. They hold in moisture and can cause chapping.

  • If you experience cracked or bleeding nipples, consult your doctor or a lactation consultant. He or she will ensure that your baby's latch is correct and may suggest topical treatment, such as pure lanolin.

Choosing a good bra

Wearing the right-sized bra is especially important now. If a bra is too tight, it may cause a duct in your breast to clog and become irritated. If possible, have a salesperson help fit you for a new bra. Look for one that’s 100% cotton and comfortable. Also, choose a bra with wide straps that won’t dig into your back and shoulders. If you’re breastfeeding, find a nursing bra that allows you to uncover one breast at a time.


If you are not breastfeeding:

  • Avoid stimulation of nipples

  • Wear a tight-fitting bra

  • Apply ice packs for discomfort


Call your health care provider if you have any of the following:

  • A fever or chills

  • Extreme tiredness and body aches, as if you have the flu

  • Burning or pain in one or both breasts

  • Red streaks on a breast

  • Hard or lumpy spots in one or both breasts

  • A feeling of warmth or heat in one or both breasts

  • Breasts so swollen your baby cannot latch on to the nipples

  • Nipples that start bleeding

  • Low milk supply or your milk does not flow freely


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