In this article we celebrate the challenges and joys of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization recommends starting breastfeeding within the first hour of a baby’s life and continuing as often and as much as the baby wants. However, the initial period of breastfeeding may be challenging.
Breastfeeding reflexively activates contractions of the uterus, which encourages it to shrink back to its normal size. This contraction of the uterus is due to the release of hormones, specifically the hormone oxytocin. In addition, there are several studies that prove that breastfeeding mothers lose more weight than those who do not breastfeed (1).
Moreover, exclusive breastfeeding among parous women reduces the risk of breast cancer compared with parous women who do not breastfeed exclusively (2).
Regarding the infant, breastfeeding provides a multitude of benefits to the child, including fewer episodes of diarrhea, ear infections, and lower rates of respiratory infections as well as a lower risk of sudden infant death, diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity (3).
Since the practice of breastfeeding is done approximately every two hours, especially at the beginning, proper nipple care should work to emulate the missing hydrolipid film.
Constant suction can lead to trans-epidermal water loss, which stresses the skin barrier. It can also cause sore nipples. This condition is characterized by dry, painful nipples with redness, flaking, and cracking of the skin.
In general, women should wash their breasts only with water and let them air dry. Applying breast milk can help heal damaged nipples before and after feeds, as well as frequently changing nursing positions.
Concerning topical treatment, nipples need special care, which means that the ointment base should be oily. Good nipple care contains plenty of fats. Natural products like shea butter and cocoa butter are very suitable because they contain many valuable fats which mimic those produced by our bodies, therefore keeping the nipples smooth and supple. Ingredients like Aloe vera and Portulaca olearacea may also have beneficial effects on nipple fissures (4).
However, the star ingredient is lanolin. A balm containing ultra-pure lanolin, a natural product obtained from sheep’s wool, moisturizes and supports healing. Therefore, the application of sheep’s wool, so called “healing wool”, containing this valuable fat on the nipples also has healing properties.