Breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging (yet rewarding!) aspects of new motherhood. I knew that one of the projects we needed to offer in DIY Mama, The Kitchn's spring series of little luxuries for mama and baby, was a balm for the nursing mother — one made with olive oil, cocoa butter, and other good ingredients familiar to the home cook.
The nipple takes a beating with breastfeeding. Meeting the demands of a little one can leave a new mama a little worse for wear. Lactation consultants and nurses know that a good balm for tenderized buttons, applied after every feeding, can help soothe and smooth the way into a long-term breastfeeding relationship.
What's in Nipple Balm?
The most commonly recommended nursing balm is made from lanolin, a traditional ingredient that soothes and protects irritated skin. Lanolin is made from the oil of a sheep's sebaceous glands. But lanolin can irritate those with wool sensitivities and some mothers prefer to avoid it. Plus, often heavy chemicals are used to scour the wool, so those who look for organic remedies also often choose to avoid lanolin.
In place of lanolin, this recipe uses all edible ingredients — many of them familiar to cooks — and all can be purchased organic if that is an important qualifier for you. Calendula addresses sore and inflamed skin, acting as an anti-inflammatory and superlative skin soother. It is a member of the marigold family and was also used as a culinary ingredient in the Middle Ages to flavor soups and stews. Olive oil is a powerful humectant that penetrates the skin barrier to seal in moisture and help the skin repair. Cocoa butter is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants that act to protect the skin as it also soothes and heals.
How to Use Nipple Balm
As with any nipple balm, let nipples dry after nursing, and then apply the balm. All of the ingredients here are edible, but some mothers always wipe off any residue of balm before nursing again.
The cheapest and easiest source for most of these herbal ingredients is often your natural health-food store, where you can usually buy these specialty herbal ingredients in bulk. Buy just what you need (not a whole bag) for less.
How To Make a Soothing Nipple Balm for Nursing Moms
Makes about 1 1/2 cups balm
What You Need
1 cup dried calendula flowers
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cocoa butter
1/2 cup grated beeswax
Airtight glass container or tin
- Steep the calendula flowers in olive oil: Add the calendula flowers to a glass Mason jar and cover with the olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, thoroughly fold the petals into the oil so that all parts are coated and submerged into the oil.
- Steep for 2 weeks: Label the jar with the date and ingredients and place it in a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks so that all the plant goodness can be absorbed into the oil. (If you're crunched for time, skip this step heat the oil and calendula for a bit longer in the next step.)
- Warm the flowers and oil: After your infusion has been sitting for two weeks, place the herbs and oil into your double boiler. Gently warm the oil to allow the calendula to release more of its goodness into the oil. Take care to warm the oil without it getting too hot. Warm for 1 hour. (If you're just starting the project and didn't steep the flowers in olive oil for two weeks first, continue this process for at least 3 hours, making sure the oil stays warm and not hot.)
- Strain out the flowers: Place your cheesecloth over a bowl and pour the calendula oil mixture over the cheesecloth to strain out the petals. Squeeze the remaining oil out of the cheesecloth and return the oil to the double boiler.
- Add the cocoa butter and beeswax: Warm the oil again and add in the cocoa butter. The cocoa butter will melt into the oil mixture. Stir together and gradually add in the grated beeswax. Stir until blended, increasing the heat slightly if the wax is not melting.
- Transfer to storage tins and cool: Transfer the mixture to a measuring cup, then pour into your glass jars or tins. Allow the salve to cool on a countertop for at least six hours. The consistency when cooled will be slightly creamy and moisturizing.
- Store the salve away from direct sunlight for up to six months.
20 Homemade Luxuries for Mama & Baby
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