Breastfeeding is the most beautiful way to bond with your precious baby. While babies are a natural at breastfeeding, new moms need to be prepared for the drill. Breastfeeding is an acquired skill and takes little practice to master it. You might feel some tenderness at first when your baby latches on, but you will get used to it soon.
Doctors usually suggest breastfeeding within minutes after birth just so you can bond with your child. When it comes to breastfeeding a newborn, expect 12 or more feedings per day.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, babies are to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Solids should be introduced as added nourishment only after six months. It is important to continue breastfeeding for at least a year.
We have put together a guide just to make things easier for you.
Why Is Breastfeeding Really Important?
- For the few hours after delivery, your breast secretes colostrum, a thick yellow milk, supposed to be a super food for your newborns. This milk is rich in all nutrients, antibodies, and provides immunity for your baby. It also acts as a gentle laxative and helps in clearing the black meconium from baby’s intestines.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than any formula, as the proteins in most formula are made from cow’s milk and takes time to adjust.
- Babies fed with breast milk have stronger immune system than formula fed babies. Formula fed babies are prone to allergies, cold, obesity etc.
How do Mothers Benefit from Breastfeeding?
- Newborn feel secure and comfortable when in physical contact with mother. The skin-to-skin contact boosts oxytocin levels in mothers, which is a hormone that helps milk flow. The hormone also helps breastfeeding mothers to calm down. Breastfeeding is also effective in contracting the uterus.
- The risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, postpartum depression, and ovarian cancer are much on mothers who do not breastfeed. Research also suggests breat feeding helps in weightloss.
- Once you have a set routine of breast feeding for your baby, your life is a whole lot easier. There is absolutely zero sterilization of nipples or bottles required. No fuss about buying, measuring and mixing of formula.
- Well, think about how much you are going to save on baby products, we all know how much they cost. Formula and feeding supplies don’t come cheap. Breastfed babies fall sick less often so that is another saving on healthcare costs too.
How to Breastfeed?
- Your maternity nurse or pediatrician would be ready to help you out in your first feed.They would also advise on how long to breastfeed and the different breastfeeding positions. This learning experience could be a little stressful, but you would be fine with practice.
- Find a position comfortable for you and support your back and arm with pillows.
- Support baby’s neck and shoulder with one hand. Gently hold your breast while breastfeeding your baby. Place your thumb on top of your breast and the other four fingers should be positioned underneath. Make sure the fingers are not touching the areola.
- Adjust baby’s head a bit to make it easy for suck and swallow, and make sure that his nose is not pressed against the breast. Brush your nipple gently on your baby’s lips and encourage him to open his mouth. Guide the baby to get a mouthful of breast for a deep latch.
What are the Tips of a Good Latch?
A latch is when the baby takes your nipple and areola into his mouth and establishing a good latch is extremely important.
- A good latch should not hurt or pinch the mother.
- When baby is positioned well, his mouth will be full and tongue cupped under the breast.
- Ensure baby takes in as much as areola as possible as latching to the areola stimulates milk production. Avoid latching just to the nipple, as this can cause pain.
- The baby’s nose should not be pressed against the breast. Gently press on his lower chin to keep his head slightly raised.
- Keep an ear for swallowing sounds and check if baby is really getting milk. Some babies are too quiet and a pause in their breathing is the only sign of swallowing.
- Baby’s chin touching your breast is also a sign of good latch.
What are the Different Breastfeeding Positions?
You can hold your baby in a number of ways while breastfeeding
- Cradle hold: This is the most common hold used by all mothers during breastfeeding. Hold your baby such that the head is resting on the upper arm while the baby is positioned across your lap.
- Clutch or Fooball Hold: This hold would be great for mothers with inverted nipples, larger busts, or useful in premature babies. Clutch your baby at your side with his head at the level of your breast and legs tucked under your arm. Support the baby’s head securely on your palm.
- Cross Cradle or Transitional Hold: Mother with small babies or having hard time latching on can try out cross cradle hold. Hold your baby in the arm opposite the breast you will use for breastfeeding. Ensure baby’s head is well supported and resting on your palm firmly.
- Side-lying Position: To sleep comfortable, mothers generally breastfeed in the side lying position. This involves lying on the right or left side bringing the baby close to you making sure the baby’s mouth is close to your nipple. But make sure the right head position of the baby, and not to sleep while latching.
Are you worried of too little or too much milk?
New moms worry if there is sufficient milk or worry if it is too thin. Breastmilk is full of nutrients and is never too less but sometimes your body may not be able to produce enough milk. In such casesjust make sure you drink enough fluids and avoid caffeine. Feeding frequently would build up your milk supply. Consult your doctor if you still feel you are not producing enough milk.
If you feel your breasts are full and tender and is not relieved by feeding your baby then you may have too much milk.
- You can avoid this by feeding frequently on demand. Make sure you do not skip a feed, as this could result in engorgement.
- You could try expressing some milk after the baby has finished his feed. Always use a supportive bra even while sleeping.
- Try massaging your breast downwards to your nipple while in hot shower to allow some milk to flow out.
- Feed one breast completely before moving to second.
How to make breastfeed work?
- Babies are usually active when they are hungry. Some of the hunger signs to look out for are sucking motions with mouth, turning heads for the breast, put their fists or hands into their mouths. Crying is a late sign of hunger and once they are upset it is difficult to get them latched on.
- Avoid using pacifiers and bottles of formula in the first few weeks unless supplementation is needed.
- Having baby sleep near you would make breastfeed easier at night.
- In the first few weeks after birth, wake your baby every three hours for a feed.
How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?
The best way of determining the baby is fed well enough is by checking the number of diapers used in a day. It is normal for babies to use 1 to 2 baby diapers each day in the first week during which time milk production is quite low. As the baby grows older, milk production increases and use of diaper also increases. You can also keep a track of his body weight to make sure he’s getting enough milk. Make sure to visit your pediatricians within 3-5 days after birth and then as suggested by the doctor.
What are the common challenges, breast feeding mothers facing?
Cracked nipples: Sore and cracked nipples are common problems associated with breastfeeding.
Tips to prevent sore cracked nipples:
- Ensure the baby is correctly latching while feeding.
- Feed the baby frequently so he doesn’t suck hard
- After feed, gently rub on the nipples with clean hands. The natural healing property and emollients in the breastmilk helps soothe the sore nipples. Air dry after feeding could help.
- Try and avoid bras that are too tight, putting pressure on nipples.
- Applying nipple butter creams will help nipples remain mositurised, and heal fast
- You could change nursing pads frequently to avoid the trapped moisture.
- Avoid using chemicals or soaps on the nipples especially before breastfeeding. Washing with water and keep the area as clean as possible could help.
Engorgement: Breasts do get larger and heavier during breastfeeding, but sometimes breasts turn hard and start throbbing as a result of engorgement. This is the result of milk building up and causing pain and can cause plugged ducts or breast infection.
Tips to prevent engorgement:
- Breastfeed your baby as often as possible and ideally should be fed every four hours.
- Avoid pacifiers and bottles to supplement feedings, so that the baby will suck more milk.
- Do not wear a tight supportive bra.
- Express some milk to soften the breast before breastfeeding. Breastfeed the affected side or pump out some milk to prevent them from getting overly full.
- If returning to work, then try pumping your milk every 4 hours.
Mastitis: Mastitis is a soreness in the breast accompanied by fever and feeling achy all over. Some mothers experience nausea, vomiting or yellowish discharge from nipple. The breasts usually look pink or red and occurs just in one breast. Most infections do improve within 24-48 hours but if doesn’t then best to get them treated by a doctor.
Tips to prevent Mastitis
- Massaging the breast in circular motion towards the nipple could help.
- Applying heat to the affected area with warm compress might decrease pain.
- Wear a well-fitted supportive bra that is not too tight as it can constrict the ducts.
- Get enough sleep and relax, often infections are sign that mothers are tired and overworked.
Nursing Strike: Nursing Strike is generally when babies who have been breastfeeding well suddenly refuses the breast. This is a sign that something is not right but does not mean they are ready to wean.
Tips to prevent nursing strike:
- This usually occurs when babies have pain due to teething or a fungal infection an ear infection could cause pain while sucking.
- It could be a pain from certain position while breastfeeding may be from an injury or from soreness from immunization.
- A cold stuffy nose must be making breathing difficult for babies during feeds.
- Reduced milk supply is another reason for this, and the baby stops when is not getting enough milk
- Repeatedly putting off the baby when wanting a feed could be another reason
You can try to understand yourself the reason, and consult a doctor in case of infections.
- You could try expressing your breast milk and feed the baby with a spoon.
- Make sure she is getting enough milk, so keep track of those diapers.
- Keep offering the breast to the baby, if the baby refuses then try again later when the baby is sleeping.
- Focus on the comfort the baby, cuddling and touching him throughout.
- Try breastfeeding with no distractions in a quiet place.
Answers for Common Questions
Should I stick to any diet or avoid any food while breastfeeding?
It is important for mothers to eat a healthy meal to keep them healthy- both physically and mentally. Studies suggest that the food mothers eat do have much effect on the quality of milk. So try to eat healthy and natural food. It is natural for mothers to eat but not to worry about weight gain, breast feeding burns calories.
Is it safe to drink or smoke during breastfeeding?
Quitting smoking would be best for both you and your baby. Breastfeeding protects your baby from respiratory problems. But stay away from alcohol and smoking. Even if you happen to drink, avoid alcohol in large amounts and avoid breastfeeding for two hours after the drink.
Is it ok to use pacifiers while breastfeeding?
Avoid pacifiers for first month as it hinders the capability to learn breastfeeding. It is okay to use once the baby has got the hang of breastfeeding.
Is it okay to start baby food for my baby after 3 months?
It is best to focus on just breastfeeding for the first six months, as breast milk provides all nutrition required for the baby. Their digestive system is very delicate, so it is not advisable to feed any other liquids or baby food. After six months, it is ideal to start solids and other liquids for your baby. But some mothers start other food after three months also.
Is it fine to take medicines while breastfeeding?
Most medicines do pass into your milk in small amounts, but have minimal effect on the baby. There are few medications you need to avoid while breastfeeding. It is always advisable to discuss medicines with your doctor before you start.
No matter how your journey goes, remember that there is nothing to replace breastmilk. Your baby is truly lucky to have a mother like you who puts in a lot of effort in giving the best for her wellbeing.