Prenatal Preparation for Breast Feeding

There is so much misinformation about preparing to breast feed. Let’s discuss and correct some…….

Forty years ago, when I was a new nurse, I went to a conference and one of the workshops was about breast feeding. I learned later that the workshop was sponsored by a formula company. The speaker told us some interesting things – all would cause a new mom to fail at breast feeding. 

  • Pregnant woman need to toughen their nipples to prepare for breast feeding. Suggestions on how to do this were to hang a wet washcloth to air dry and then use the washcloth to vigorously rub nipples twice a day. Also, to brush nipples with a toothbrush. OUCH!!!  We know that this is, of course, unnecessary and dangerous. This rubbing removes natural oils and dries out nipples. And, nipple stimulation can cause uterine contractions (nipple stimulation causes releases of oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions). 
  • Another suggestion – pump twice a day with a manual pump to “pull out nipple”. Again, unnecessary and dangerous. 

There is only one thing that I suggest – check for flat or inverted nipples. Very simple. In your last trimester, stand in front of a mirror. Gently pinch your areole, behind your nipple. Your nipple should protrude out. If it retracts or flattens, that may cause a problem when our baby tries to latch on. The fix: buy nipple shells ( not shields). Shells have detachable back, one with a small hole, one with a large hole. Put the one with the large hole away – you might use it after the baby is born. 


Wear the shell with the small hole (your nipple will fit through the hole) a couple of hours a day, inside your bra. The gentle pressure will break the adhesions that cause flat/retracted nipples. When the problem is fixed, stop wearing the shells. Check weekly and if the problem returns, start wearing the shells again.
One last thing, if you have flat or retracted nipples when you start breast feeding, no problem. There is a fix then too – using a pump before you feed to pull nipple out, or temporarily using a nipple shield while nursing to have baby help pull out the nipple.
I hope this information is not too confusing. Please contact me with questions:


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