Children are God’s choicest blessings. To cradle your new born close to your heart as he grips your finger in his tiny palm is one of the most precious moments you would have experienced in your life as a mother. However, motherhood comes with a tremendous responsibility of doting not only on your child’s health, but on your own as well. Breastfeeding is probably the foremost of a mother’s duties. It is also an opportunity to kindle your relationship with your little one.

With the various suggestions and advices funnelled in by well wishers, you might find yourself slightly overwhelmed about the entire process. To help ease your anxiety, here is an overview of what to expect from the nursing experience.

The Critical First Six Weeks

Are you baffled by the way the milk changes in color and texture? Don’t worry about it, as it is completely normal. Your body recognizes the needs of your child, and here’s what it does:

  • In the first few minutes of the birth of the child, a small quantity of colostrum is released. The colostrum is thick, yellow, and full of antibodies. You must ensure your child consumes this discharge, as it nourishes his immune system.
  • In the next 12 to 24 hours, your body will produce sufficient quantities of milk. Since the baby is equally tired of the birth, he will sleep through most of the next few hours and wake up at odd intervals. Prepare yourself to feed him about a teaspoon worth of it, each time he’s up and weepy.
  • In between the second and the fifth day, your body will start producing a bluish white colour of milk. In some cases, it may still remain yellow. At this stage, your baby will need a lot more feeding. Your breasts will swell up in warning if he is not getting enough milk. However, if there is a problem with his intake, using a breast pump and storing milk works just fine.
  • For the next four to six weeks, your milk will contain a bluish tinge. By this time, even your body has become accustomed to the breastfeeding process. On the other hand, your baby also has understood how to latch on to the breasts, and is now able to consume more milk at a time.

How to Prop him / her against you

That’s right, holding your baby in a comfortable way is quintessential. There is more than one way to hold your baby in position. Each has an advantage in its own right.

  • Cradle hold: Supposedly the most common pose, this requires you to hold your baby in your arms while he snuggles and takes the feed. Here, his body rests on your arm, as he faces you.
  • Side lying position: Do you connect with your baby better when you’re cuddling? In that case, lie down and bring the baby close to you. Just make sure to not squash his little nose by your breasts.
  • Football hold: If you are anxious of him suffocating between your breasts, the football hold should work best for you. Clutch your baby and bring his head close to the nipple. Hold his head in your palm and make sure that he is able to take the feed comfortably.
  • Cross-cradle hold: This pose is for babies who are small and thus have a problem in settling in a comfortable pose. First, decide which breast you want him to take the feed from. Settle him in your arms, opposite the side you have chosen. Rest his head firmly on the palm to avoid any discomfort.

Questions you might have about breast feeding:

1) What can I do to help the baby latch on to the breasts?

There is little you need to do, as babies learn this naturally. They might, of course, take some time to get accustomed to it. Do not get impatient if they are slow in this regard. The best way to foster this skill is to give your baby your first feed, as their instinct to learn how to breastfeed is very high at that point. For the later stages, you could use a boppy pillow to support his head.

2) How do I know if he is getting enough milk?

It is not possible to measure the ounces of milk consumed directly. However, gauging the number of diapers can provide you a sign of it. About 6 wet diapers and 2 stools per day indicate a healthy functioning. Monitoring the weight also helps in this regard.

3) How do I know when my baby is hungry?

You can try to condition your baby to a feeding schedule, but his body might take time to get used to it. Initially, you may feed him once every two hours, in small quantities and once every four hours at night. The baby will, however, show signs of hunger when he wants to. Therefore, avoid using pacifiers in the first month, until he gets used to a feeding cycle.

4) How do I feed him once I start going back to work?

The breast pump is your best friend. Since breast milk freezes well, you can store it and defrost it later. Consider the several options available for the breast pump and consult with your doctor before you pick the best.

5) Why does my baby bite?

Your baby may start biting you as he grows up. When he does that, drive him away, as you have to condition him to do the right thing. Some children bite to show that they have finished their feeding.

The Absolute No-No’s of Breast Feeding:

While breast feeding helps foster a secure relationship with your new born, here is a list of things you should completely avoid during this period:

  • Consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes: Your baby acquires a taste for everything you take in, therefore to avoid substance dependence later in their lives, stay away from intoxicants.
  • Taking medication: Stay off any medication, unless your doctor has approved of it as safe during breast feeding.
  • Giving your baby solid food: Avoid giving your baby anything except your breast milk for the first 6 months. It is only after this time has lapsed that your baby’s tummy becomes prepared to handle other kinds of liquid food.
  • Shying away from feeding him outside your home: If in a public place, do not stop yourself from feeding the baby as this helps him in becoming comfortable with latching. You could use a restroom or an isolated corner for that purpose, if available.
  • Starving yourself: Breastfeeding burns up nearly 500 calories in a day. Hence your dietary requirements during the same would be high. If you compromise on that, the quantity of milk produced may reduce which is not good for your baby’s health.

Common Problems you may face while Breast Feeding

  • Sore or cracked nipples: At times, women feel that getting sore nipples is a part and parcel of breastfeeding. This is not necessarily true and breastfeeding should not be painful for anyone. It is advisable to consult a lactation expert to receive guidance on how to get rid of the problem.
  • Extremely full or leaky breasts: This is probably because your child may not be taking enough feed. To prevent this situation from arising, follow a strict pattern of feeding or learn how to use a breast pump.
  • Mastitis: An inflammation of breast tissue caused by an infection can give rise to Mastitis. With flu-like symptoms, it can be painful and hence doctor’s advice is suggested.
  • One breast preference: If your baby finds latching much more convenient in one breast, he would start giving that one a preference. There is no harm in doing that provided your baby does not make it a strict habit.
  • Clogged milk ducts: Once your baby gets introduced to solids, his tendency to take your feed should reduce. However, if your breast milk is not used, it may lead to clogged ducts, which may be painful. Use a breast pump or apply warm compresses and drink enough fluids to avoid this problem.

Weaning the baby

There is absolutely no hurry to rush with the weaning process. Once you introduce your baby to solids, he would need less of your feeds. However, as breast milk increases the immunity of your child, you should try feeding him for a sufficiently long time. Your baby himself will start showing signs that he is prepared to wean off. This will start from his leaving your feed to explore other options. Ensure that the weaning process is gradual, so he does not notice a sudden change.

One option to start the weaning process is to introduce bottle milk before introducing solid foods. But be aware that your baby may start preferring bottle milk over breast milk as the liquid from the bottle comes out more easily. Limit the number of bottle feeds per day to only emergencies or unavoidable situations, for eg: if you are a working mother, you may need to use bottle feeds but take care that your baby doesn’t get habituated to it. Wait until he’s been nursing successfully for a couple of months before introducing bottle feeds.

Nursing and feeding your child is an experience worth cherishing. Once the period of adjustment is over, this time would be the best opportunity to bond with your baby. Talk to him, make him feel comfortable, and most of all, let nature take its course.

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