Sensitive breasts: Can you still nurse?

I am expecting my first baby and have a great deal of anxiety about breastfeeding. My breasts are very sensitive and I don't like to have them touched. However, I am 100 percent committed to breastfeeding and would not consider any other option. Can you recommend any options -- both physical and emotional -- to prepare my sensitive breasts for feeding?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It's great to hear that you are so committed to nursing your baby. I have spoken with many other nursing moms-to-be who have had a similar concern, so you are not alone. Breastfeeding can work for you.

Special breast preparation is generally not recommended. I do, however, feel that it is important for women who are uncomfortable with any touch to their breasts to begin preparation during pregnancy.

You're right -- it is an emotional preparation as well as physical. You have taken one huge step toward successful nursing by acknowledging your 100 percent commitment. Congratulations! Our thoughts are powerful and your statement of commitment will help lead the way toward a satisfying breastfeeding relationship.

Even though at this time you are not comfortable with your breasts being touched, with your "can-do" attitude, your response to this type of touch can change. Begin by taking baby steps.

Start out by becoming more comfortable touching the outer portions of your breast yourself. When in the shower, gently let your hands glide over your breasts. After showering you can massage lotion or oil on your breasts, avoiding the nipple and areola area. Take your time, relax, go slowly and allow yourself to become comfortable with this new sensation.

Once you become comfortable with this, you can begin to touch your more sensitive nipples and areolae while bathing. Relax to your touch. Think about your baby and how wonderful it will be to feed him at your breast. Let the warm water help to dissolve any discomfort or fear that might come up for you. After your shower you can use a pea-sized dollop of Lansinoh with a drop of water added to it and begin gently massaging you nipples and areolae. Notice how you feel and allow your feelings to surface. You might want to affirm to yourself or out loud, "I am comfortable touching my breasts."

When at home, go without a bra. This will help you to become more comfortable with nipple stimulation.

If you are now becoming used to touching your nipples and areolae, you might want to invite your partner to begin (slowly) participating in breast play. Be sure to let him know that you need to be in control of this session in order to relax thoroughly. Lie down, enjoy some relaxing music and allow him to slowly massage your breasts with a natural oil, such as almond, olive or safflower. Ask him to take his time and follow your lead. You will probably want him to begin on the least sensitive areas -- show him where and how you want to be touched. As you relax you can guide his hand to your more sensitive nipples and areolae. Breathe in slowly and deeply and allow yourself relax to his touch. You might want to let this proceed to lovemaking. If so, orgasm can be a powerful reinforcer of positive feelings -- if this session goes well.

Include either solo or partner breast touch/play each day in the last trimester of your pregnancy. By moving slowly but surely toward your goal, you may find that by the time your baby is born you are much more comfortable with your breasts being touched and stimulated. And, along with the love you feel for your newborn and the infusion of mothering (and relaxing) hormones, breastfeeding your new baby can be pure bliss. My very best wishes in mothering!

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