How to Prepare Your Nipples for Successful Breast-feeding

Written by sandra ketcham
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How to Prepare Your Nipples for Successful Breast-feeding
Preparing to breast-feed (newborn image by Valentin Mosichev from

If you have never breast-fed a baby, the idea of it might seem scary and overwhelming. Breast-feeding is often challenging for new moms, but it can be a great experience for both mother and baby if a little preparation is done before the end of the pregnancy. To help minimise nipple soreness during breast-feeding, expectant mothers can do a few things before the baby comes to prepare their nipples.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Nipple shields (shells) for flat or inverted nipples
  • Moisturising cream

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  1. 1

    Learn all you can about breast-feeding and its effects on your nipples and body before your baby arrives. Speak with nursing moms, read books about breast-feeding, talk to a lactation consultant or call your local chapter of La Leche League International. Most hospitals offer breast-feeding classes you can take during your third trimester. The more you learn about breast-feeding, the more comfortable you will be and the more likely you are to succeed.

  2. 2

    Ask your doctor to examine you to determine if your nipples are flat or inverted. For your baby to nurse effectively, she must be able to properly grasp the nipple and pull it upward against the roof of her mouth. Flat or inverted nipples may prevent your baby from properly latching on, and may make it difficult to successfully breast-feed. If your nipples are flat or inverted, you have the option of using breast shells during the end of your pregnancy to encourage your nipples to protrude. Breast shells are plastic cups that gently exert pressure on the areola and help to break the adhesions that prevent the nipples from taking a shape necessary for breast-feeding. Shells should be worn as much as possible during the third trimester, but should be removed before going to bed.

  3. 3

    Desensitise your nipples by exposing your breasts to air or spending time without a bra on underneath your clothing. Do not rub your nipples to "toughen" them up, just allow them to become used to friction and increased stimulation.

  4. 4

    Keep your nipples moisturised. During pregnancy, your body produces oil in the glands on your aureoles that moisturises and cleanses the nipples naturally in preparation for breast-feeding. Avoid washing your nipples with soap, as this can remove the oil from your nipples and cause significant drying. If your nipples are sore or unusually dry, you can apply moisturising lotion to them as often as needed. Lanolin moisturisers are typically very soothing.

  5. 5

    Massage your breasts daily to increase your familiarity with them and your overall comfort level with the idea of breast-feeding. Massage is an easy way to practice the proper way of handling your breasts during breast-feeding. Gently cup your breasts from underneath and rub out from the chest wall toward your nipples. Manually expressing milk can be good practice for breast-feeding, as well.

Tips and warnings

  • Contact your local hospital to inquire about breast-feeding classes for new mothers. Many hospitals offer classes to expecting mothers to learn about the art of breast-feeding.
  • Washing your nipples with soap and other harsh chemicals can lead to cracks and sore nipples.

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