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Breast Care if You Choose Not to Breast-Feed

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KEY POINTS

  • If you decide not to breast-feed, there are several things that you can do to be more comfortable.
  • Wear a well-fitting supportive bra, apply ice packs, and avoid massaging your breasts or rubbing your nipples.
  • Washed and dried, crisp, cold, green cabbage leaves applied to your engorged breasts may help lessen discomfort.

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Breast-feeding is a natural and convenient way to feed your newborn baby, but it may not be right for you, or possible. If you decide not to breast-feed, there are several things that you can do to be more comfortable.

How do my breasts change during and after pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your body makes many hormones to help prepare to deliver a baby. A hormone called prolactin helps your breasts to produce milk.

Within several days after your baby is born, your breasts will stop making milk if you do not breast feed or express your milk. However, you may have other symptoms during this time, such as:

  • Your breasts may feel firm and tender. This is a normal process called breast engorgement. It usually goes away in a couple of days.
  • Your breasts may leak drops of milk for several weeks after you give birth.

How can I take care of myself?

Here are some ways to help relieve discomfort while your breasts stop making milk:

  • Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra. Sleep in the bra.
  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on your breasts for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours while you are awake.
  • Use a towel or stretch bandage to bind your breasts. The hospital staff or a lactation consultant can help you learn the correct way to do this.
  • Do not pump your breast milk, massage your breasts, or rub your nipples. If your breasts are stimulated or emptied, they will keep making milk and your breasts will stay painful.

Nonprescription pain medicine may help. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use any medicine to be sure that the medicine is OK for you to use.

Some breast-feeding experts recommend using cool cabbage leaves to treat painful breast engorgement. Many women who have tried cabbage leaves claim the treatment brings relief from discomfort. Why this works is not known. Here is how you can use cabbage leaves for engorgement:

  • Put washed and dried, crisp, cold, green cabbage leaves on your engorged breasts. You can wear the leaves inside your bra or use them as compresses covered by a cool towel. You can cut holes in the leaves to keep your nipples dry.
  • Leave the cabbage leaves in place for about 20 to 30 minutes or until they have wilted. You may need to apply leaves several times a day for several days while you are trying to dry up your milk.

In the past, certain medicines were used to stop milk production. These medicines are no longer given to women who choose not to breast-feed.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-11-23
Last reviewed: 2015-11-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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