Breast care and support
Good breast care and adequate support can prevent many common problems.
Wash your breasts and the surrounding area carefully. Dry them thoroughly, especially the folds underneath
Clean inverted nipples with cotton wool buds to prevent secretions collecting there. Don’t squeeze your nipples – this may increase these secretions
Don’t squeeze any spots which may develop on your breast, especially near the nipple. This could lead to an infection or even a breast abscess
Don’t use irritant creams or lotions on your breasts or anything which states it shouldn’t be used on the face
Remove hair from around your nipples with tweezers not a depilatory cream. Permanent hair removal by electrolysis should be done by a trained professional
A rash under your breasts may be caused by:
not drying the folds under your breasts properly
Treat with hydrocortisone cream, available from chemists. Don’t use talcum powder until the rash has cleared.
Wear a cotton bra or one with a cotton lining. Check your cup fitting if you wear an under wire bra – there should be a gap between the underside of your breast and the wire.
Sometimes rashes may be caused by fungal infections such as Candida (“thrush”). These can be treated with an anti-fungal cream.
Sunbathing can cause skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. If you sunbathe topless, and whenever you spend any length of time in the sun, follow this advice:
never allow your skin to burn
protect your skin with a suncream of factor 15 or above. Apply the sunscreen regularly as stated on the bottle
stay in the shade as much as possible, especially around midday. The sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm
remember you can burn on days when there is light cloud or a cool breeze, and when you are swimming. Take note of the exposure times given on weather forecasts
increase the time you spend in the sun gradually. If you do want to get a tan, always use a sunscreen
don’t use sunbeds – they can also cause skin damage
Ideally when you’re in the sun you should cover up.
wear a T-shirt or other loose clothing which is tightly woven to block the sun’s rays
wear a wide-brimmed hat which protects your nose, ears and neck
wear sunglasses which carry the British Standard label BS2724:1987 to protect your eyes
Check any moles regularly for changes. If they become bigger, darker or start to bleed, go to your family doctor or health clinic straight away. Your doctor will probably advise you to have these moles removed.
If you have other moles in an awkward position, such as under a bra strap, you might wish to ask your doctor if these can be removed too.
Breasts contain fat and glands but no muscle. Therefore it’s important to prevent the ligaments, which provide natural support, from overstretching. Good support, especially during exercise or when playing sports, prevents the breasts from drooping.
A well fitting bra with the correct cup size provides good support. Go to your local department store and ask if you can be measured. Many lingerie departments have experienced staff who can measure you and fit you with a comfortable bra in the right size.
Leaflets which explain how to measure yourself are also available. Remember though that measurements are only a guide – you should always try a bra on to be sure it fits well.
When you’re trying on a bra practice some normal movements, like bending and stretching, to make sure it doesn’t ride up or become uncomfortable. If you have a well fitting bra, it will prevent common problems like strap marks on your shoulders.
You may not always take the same bra size – styles and makes vary. Cup sizes range from AA (small) to DD (large). Some specialists make bras up to a GG fitting.
Most women have one breast larger than the other. Always fit the larger breast when choosing a bra. Hide any differences by adding light padding or taking in the bra on the smaller side.
If your breasts are a different size or enlarge just before your period, stretch bras may be more comfortable.
Under wire bras
Be particularly careful to choose an underwire bra which fits correctly. A badly fitting underwire bra can cause pain and discomfort if the wires dig into the upper part of the breast.
More expensive underwire bras tend to have softer, more flexible wires.
Don’t wear an underwire bra if you’re pregnant or have recently had a mastectomy.
Midwives advise on breast and nipple care, breast support and breast feeding during pregnancy and after childbirth. Remember, your breasts may go through many changes which are entirely normal at this time.
Always ask your midwife or family doctor if you have any questions or are worried about anything.
It is possible to have an operation to enlarge or reduce the size of the breasts. These are usually only available privately. Breast reduction may be done on the NHS but not normally for cosmetic reasons alone.
Always consult a specialist plastic surgeon – your family doctor may be able to advise you.
Enlargement or reduction may not be recommended if you are planning to have children as problems may arise if you want to breast feed.
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