Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. It is great for your babies health and a beautiful way for Mother and Child to bond.
Breastfeeding can seem overwhelming at first, especial if you have never done it before. Here are some regularly asked questions and tips to help you on the right path to nursing success.
How does breastmilk work?
It usually takes about three to four days for new Mothers to get their milk. If you’ve had a baby before, it can happen even earlier. Before the milk comes in, you will produce something called colostrum, which is the early, concentrated milk. This is often referred to as “liquid gold” as it is full of nutrients and disease-fighting antibodies. The Colostrum provides everything your baby needs in the early days after birth.
You’ll be able to feel when your milk is coming in by these symptoms:
• Breast fullness (your breasts may feel heavy, warm and even tingly)
• Your baby may react differently at your breast once they are able to get more from your breast
• Visibly, your breastmilk will start to look thinner and whiter
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby?
1. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It is a great mix of vitamins, proteins and fats which are exactly what your baby needs to grow.
2. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
3. Breastmilk lowers your babies risk of having allergies, respiratory illnesses and asthma. It also helps to reduce ear infections and diarrhoea.
4. Sucking promotes sleep.
5. Breast milk is a lot easier for your child to digest than formula milk.
6. Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby and an opportunity to give warm, soothing cuddles and lots of love. In your arms or snuggled alongside you, your baby is nurtured by the warmth of your body and comforted by your familiar scent (pheromones). Your baby hears the beat of your heart and the sound of your voice. This is an indescribable nurturing bond which is very powerful for Mother and Child.
When do I start breastfeeding?
This may seem like an unusual question but a lot of Mums get confused on when to start. It is recommend to try to nurse your baby 1-2 hours after they are born. This will not be a big official feeding session but it is a chance to have skin to skin contact with your baby and a chance for your child to get familiar with the process. You can let your baby put its mouth on your nipple to try and latch.
Don’t use a bottle at first
It is ok to introduce the bottle at a later stage but don’t do it as soon as your baby is born as they may get nipple confusion. You want your baby to nurse exclusively from your breasts to get most familiar with you and to increase the bond.
Breast Feeding Positions
Breast-feeding can be awkward at first. Experiment with various positions until you feel comfortable. Don’t forget each Mother and child is different, so work out what is best for you both.
The cross-cradle hold is ideal for early breast-feeding. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Bring your baby across the front of your body, his/her stomach on yours. Hold your baby in the crook of the arm opposite the breast you’re feeding from — left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support the back of the baby’s head with your open hand. With the other hand, support your breast from the underside in a U-shaped hold. Guide the baby’s mouth to your breast. Don’t bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast.
The cradle hold is similar to the cross-cradle hold, but you support the baby with the arm on the same side as the nursing breast, rather than the opposite arm. As with the cross-cradle hold, sit up straight. Cradle your baby in an arm, with your baby’s head resting comfortably in the bend of your elbow while he or she faces your breast. For extra support, place a pillow under the baby.
This position might be a good choice if you’re recovering from a C-section or you have large breasts.
Hold your baby beside you, with your elbow bent. With your open hand, support your baby’s head and face him or her toward your breast. Your baby’s back will rest on your forearm. It might help to support your breast in a C-shaped hold with your other hand. For comfort, put a pillow on your lap and use a chair with broad, low arms.
Side Lying hold
A lying position might be a good choice when you’re tired but able to stay awake. However it is very important to move the baby once the feed is over.
Lie on your side and face your baby toward your breast, supporting him or her with one hand. With the other hand, grasp your breast and touch your nipple to your baby’s lips. Once your baby latches on, use one arm to support your own head and the other to help support the baby and bring him or her close.
Breast Feeding Problems
1. Difficulty Latching On
You’ll know your baby is having trouble latching on if your nipples feel sore and your baby always seems hungry without gaining weight.
To avoid: It’s all about positioning. Make sure your baby’s head and body are aligned, rather than at an angle to each other. With your free hand, support the feeding breast and stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple to stimulate the feeding reflex. When he/she opens their mouth wide, gently bring their head to the breast, so they get as much areola (pigmented skin surrounding a nipple) into the mouth as possible.
If you feel pain after the first minute of suckling, it’s a red flag that your baby isn’t properly latched on. Break the suction by inserting a finger into the side of their sucking mouth, and try again. Keep trying and your baby will hopefully get the hang of it.
2. Sore, Tender Nipples
There can be a little pain involved due to physical changes behind breast milk production, infant suckling, and exposure to dry air.
To avoid: Try using cotton bras and breast pads. This will help to avoid trapping moisture. To help soothe nipple pain, apply breast milk or ask your doctor for some ointment.
3. Low Milk Supply
If you feel like you’re not producing enough milk or that your baby’s not gaining enough weight, don’t panic. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up breast feeding. It is very common for your milk supply to fluctuate during the first three weeks.
First get help from a lactation specialist, nurse, or family physician to solve problems.
To avoid: It’s best to feed your baby on demand, and often, to help boost your milk supply. Make sure your newborn is latched on properly, and wait until you’ve established a good milk supply to supplement.
4. Blocked Ducts
Felt as tenderness, redness, or heat in one area of the breast, a plugged duct may also appear as a small lump or show a white dot on the duct itself.
To avoid: Try not to skip feeds. Check that your bra isn’t too tight and pressing on your nipples.
When the symptoms of a clogged duct are accompanied by all-over body aches and fever, you may have an infection, or mastitis. Tell your doctor so you can be properly treated.
To avoid: It’s smart to take care of plugged ducts, engorgement, and other breast woes quickly so they don’t worsen. You can talk to a lactation consultant or doctor if you’re struggling with any aspect of breastfeeding. It is hard but try and get as much rest as possible. An exhausted Mother is at higher risk of mastitis.
This common yeast infection thrives where it’s moist and warm, like a lactating nipple and a hungry mouth. Your baby may have white patches or redness in the mouth, or diaper rash. Your nipples may turn deep pink and be tender all through and after feeding.
To avoid: Thrush is hard to prevent and usually requires treatment (for both of you) with anti-fungal medication. Keeping your nipples dry can help stem the back-and-forth spread.
How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?
This is a common concern amongst mothers new to breast-feeding as unlike bottles, you can’t see how much your baby is consuming. There are several ways to determine if your baby is feeding well:
1. Watch your baby feeding. You should be able to see sucking, swallowing and full cheeks. When your baby has finished their feed, your breast will feel softer and lighter, especially in the first few weeks.
2. By the end of the first week, a breast-fed newborn baby will often produce about six wet nappies and 3-4 dirty nappies per day. Breast-fed baby poo (stools) does not tend to smell and, typically, the stools are very soft and mustard-yellow in colour. (As a breast-fed baby gets older, it can also be normal for them to go up to a week without passing stools.)
3. If your baby is alert, usually happy when awake and making wet and dirty nappies, they are usually getting enough breast milk. It is common for breast-fed babies to lose a bit of weight initially but, by 2 weeks of age, they should be starting to gain weight.
It is important to burp your baby at each feed. When your baby drinks, he/she can’t help but swallow a little air along with the milk. Having air bubbles trapped in the stomach can make them feel uncomfortable and full before they have finished eating. Burping the baby will bring up any excess air that’s accumulated.
A couple of tips to help you burp your baby successfully:
• Protect your clothes by always keeping a burp cloth or bib between your clothes and baby’s mouth.
• A gentle pat or rub may get the burp up for most babies, but some need a slightly firmer hand.
• Focus on the left side of baby’s back, which is where the stomach is located.
• Find a position which is comfortable for both you and the baby.
• Fussing in the middle of a feed may be due to discomfort from swallowed air, and continued fussing causes the baby to swallow more air which will lead to more crankiness and possibly spitting up. If this happens, try burping the baby right away to see if it’s an air bubble that’s causing them to protest.
Breastfeeding is and will always remain the best way of feeding a baby. However some Mums do struggle. If you are struggling, don’t worry, it is normal! You have a beautiful, healthy baby so don’t over stress if its not working out. If you face problems, seek help from a lactation specialist or from your doctor. Nursing should be something that is enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your baby.