This 'thing' is actually a couple things all having to do with nursing, while I have a lot to say about nursing in general (regading the fact that this is a lot different in practice than it was in theory) but I'm going to remain focused for now on one issue in particular. Once I started breast feeding, the nurses and doctors all were very concerned with the condition of my nipples, but no one really said anything about WHY they were concerned. I assumed it was just for my comfort and didn't realize there was so much more to their concern than that.
We had a really scary experience with Colin while Sean's family was visiting. Randomly, he spilt up a blood clot, the front of his shirt was splotched with blood and he had a little clot just sitting there on the colar. It was absoluetly TERRIFING! We called the pediatricain, of course it was after hours so we had to wait for the on call doctor to call us back. It seemed like it took 2 hours for them to call back but it was probably no more than 10-15 minuets, but in the meantime we are getting everything ready for a trip to the ER. The doctor calls back and very non-chalately says 'oh thats nothing to worry about its probably from your nipples'. I'm thinking 'WHAT?' Apparently what I thought were just blood blisters were more actively bleeding during nursing causing Colin to ingest blood which subsequently came back up when he spit up. The doctor made me wake him up and make him nurse and she said if he nursed he was fine. Well the kid never has trouble eating so once we woke him up (not always easy) he ate like a champ, so he was obviously fine but it was very very scary. I don't know why if this was no big deal why it wouldn't have been mentioned somewhere?!? Just FYI babies spitting up blood is not necessarily an emergency.
The other real 'nipple health' issue that is important to be aware of, that I feel like I only narrowly avoided, is thrush. It is a yeast infection that occurs on the nipple and in babies mouth. It is a pretty nasty little problem not only because the treatment has to go on for weeks and weeks and baby and mom can juts keep re-infecting each other but it is painful! I took a preventative measure and started rinsing in a very mild vinegar solution which is supposed to discourage yeast growth. So far so good! There are also a couple good products that are like chap stick that you don't have to clean off before nursing and that discourage cracking.