Breastfeeding: the cabbage trick
Your breasts will need some TLC, too, especially if you experience sore nipples or engorgement. “Engorgement is a loose term,” says Mary Jane Chase, R.N.C., M.N., an international board-certified lactation consultant. “There’s engorgement — the rock-hard, painful breasts that make it difficult for the infant to latch on — and then there’s breast fullness, characterized by breast tenderness and firmness. Engorgement is not normal; breast fullness is.”
For relief from breast discomfort, Christine Ballew-Gonzales from Springfield, Mo., suggests this: “Try saturating a washcloth with water; then put it in the freezer until it’s stiff. Place the washcloth inside your bra — it’s very soothing.” True engorgement should be taken seriously. “Engorgement can decrease milk production if not taken care of. It also increases the mother’s risk for a breast infection,” explains Lisa Lamadriz, R.N.C., I.B.C.L.C. So treat engorgement early. Her solution? Frequent feedings, application of heat and hand expression before a feeding.
And cabbage leaves. “I know it sounds strange, but there’s a chemical in cabbage that works like magic to decrease swelling in the breast tissue,” says Lamadriz. “Nick the veins on the cabbage and place the leaves in your bra.” It’s important to identify the cause of the soreness, which often can be due to the baby’s position on the breast,” says Chase. Once that adjustment has been made, healing can be aided by applying breast milk to the affected area and then letting it dry in the open air.
Hey, that’s my hair!
It’s common to lose some hair in the first few months after childbirth as your hormones return to normal, although some women don’t start losing hair until they’ve stopped nursing. Treat your hair gently during this time: Shampoo only when necessary, use conditioner and a wide-toothed comb, and postpone chemical treatments. Continuing to take your prenatal vitamin and eating a healthful diet won’t hurt, either.
Between microtears in the perineum from birth and vaginal dryness due to lowered hormones (not to mention nurturing the baby all day), lovemaking probably won’t be high on your priority list. When you are ready to resume sex (with your doctor’s permission, of course), take it slowly and know that it may be uncomfortable the first few times. An over-the-counter lubricant can help ease the discomfort. And unless you want your six-week postpartum checkup to turn into another prenatal checkup, use birth control (not the pill, though, as it can interfere with breastfeeding).