Breast care

When you’re new to breastfeeding, you may find it a little strange and uncomfortable at first – until both you and your baby have got the hang of good attachment.

However, if you find that your nipples or breasts are painful – or that breastfeeding is sore – do contact your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding consultant for advice.

Nursing bras and breast pads

Wearing a good nursing bra will not only give your breasts the support they need, but also make it easier for you to breastfeed, as they usually open either fully or partially at the front. And because you might find that you leak a little milk between feeds, breast pads inserted inside your bra will help to soak this up – you can buy both washable and disposable kinds.

Engorged breasts and mastitis

Both mastitis and engorgement can happen can happen any time during breastfeeding, but it is more likely to happen within the first few weeks. Baby-led feeding and making sure your baby is properly attached will help with both. If you have signs of either, speak to your midwife or health visitor straight away.


Your breasts can become engorged at any stage but it is most likely to happen if you miss feeds or your baby is not attached correctly. Your breasts will feel hot, heavy and painful and may be shiny and red. You may have a temperature and your baby will have difficulty attaching. Expressing milk will help by softening the breast.

Engorgement can also be helped by gently hand massaging the breast with strokes towards the nipple, while ensuring free milk flow. It is sometimes helpful to massage one breast, while the baby is latched on to the other breast, as the let-down reflex can help relieve the engorgement.


This is most common two weeks after your baby is born, when a small plug of milk can block one or more of your breast ducts, causing your breast to feel painful and swollen. You may also feel flu-like symptoms, and your breast may be tender and have a red, wedge shaped area. It is important to remove milk from the affected breast by frequent feeding and/or expressing. This is the best way to remove the symptoms Seek advice from your midwife, health visitor or other breastfeeding support. If you don’t improve within 6-8 hours you may need an antibiotic from your doctor.

Eating for mum!

You can now eat all of the things that you weren’t able to eat when you were pregnant. However, avoid large amounts of caffeine as this may make your baby irritable. Try to eat a healthy and varied diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables, starchy foods such as bread and pasta, and plenty of fibre, protein and dairy foods. Also, remember to drink lots of water as breastfeeding can make you feel thirsty. Visit our section on Eating well for further advice.

You should also take 10 mcg of Vitamin D supplements per day while you are breastfeeding. You may be entitled to these free through Healthy Start, speak to your midwife or health Visitor to find out.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding gives your baby the best possible start in life and it’s unlikely that an occasional drink will harm either of you. We know that very small amounts of alcohol pass into your breast milk therefore it is best to keep your drinking to no more than one to two units once or twice a week.
If you regularly drink more than this amount it can affect your baby’s development and reduce
your milk supply. Small amounts of alcohol pass into breast milk, making it smell different, which may affect your baby’s feeding, sleeping or digestion. If it’s a special occasion and you know you are going to be having a drink, consider expressing your milk in advance. To be on the safe side you may want to avoid alcohol altogether while you are breastfeeding.

Last Updated: 30 July 2013
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