Every firsts with your newborn are both exciting yet daunting - more especially when it comes to breastfeeding. Here are some tips and answers to the questions that have been boggling your minds for far too long!
Did you know? Your body starts to produce breast milk before your baby is born. Within an hour of your baby’s arrival, your baby will be able to take its first feed.
Your body will first produce a thick yellow substance called colostrum. This contains the necessary nutrients to nourish your baby and prepare its digestive systems for future feeds. Only after a few days will your body start producing the breast milk that sustains your baby’s growth.
P.S. Breast milk is thinner than colostrum and is pale white or cream in colour.
It is a myth that a caesarean section prevents a mother from breastfeeding. However, you may need to adopt specific positions that don’t put pressure on your incision.
At the hospital, your nurse or doctor can show you a safe way to use a pillow to support the baby and protect your stitches while they heal.
Breastfed babies usually eat between 8-12 times within 24 hours. That equates to a feed every couple of hours and preferably with at least 1-night feed because mothers produce more prolactin (the hormone that promotes milk production) at night.
As your baby grows, the frequency of the feeds will decrease. Generally, if you find your baby nuzzling against you, opening their mouth, making sucking noises or crying, they most likely need a feed.
A normal breastfeeding session varies between 10-45 minutes. If your baby is only nursing for 10 minutes each session, they might not be getting enough milk supply from your body.
This is where you could try doing things differently. Try repositioning or correcting the latch to get your baby to take more. Many women switch breasts mid-feed, but it is important to make sure the first breast is drained before changing sides. Like this, your baby gets the foremilk and the hindmilk, which have different and essential properties for healthy growth.
A proper latch should feel comfortable and are never painful. Breastfeeding is very quiet when your baby is latched properly.
Start latching with your baby’s mouth wide open and lower lip pointing outwards. Make sure that your baby’s chin is touching your breast (as close as possible), and the bottom of your areola should be completely covered, leaving a smaller part of it visible above your baby’s mouth.
If you can hear a smacking noise or very loud sucking, there may be too much air getting in. Your baby’s lips should be full and if it doesn’t feel right, unlatch your baby and try again.
6. What is let-down?
The let-down reflex is the process where milk begins to flow from your milk ducts. For the first few days, when your baby latches, the let-down may take a little while to occur.
As you get used to breastfeeding, let-downs can happen very quickly. Some women will find the let-down bringing about a tingling sensation. Additionally, hearing a babies’ cry or thinking about your baby can sometimes trigger it. This is when wearing pads in your bra handy to prevent leakages in your tops.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, although cracked nipples are a common problem and can cause minor tenderness. You can use your own breast milk or a healing balm to help them recover.
However, if you are experiencing severe pain, a fever, red shiny breasts, or flu-like symptoms, speak to your doctor. An infection called mastitis might be the culprit, and it should be treated as soon as possible.
The best way to monitor this is your baby’s weight and the number of wet nappies. After the first week, your baby should have between 6 – 10 heavy wet nappies a day.
Your paediatrician will track your baby’s weight and if they gain an appropriate amount each week you can assume their milk intake is enough.
Simply nurse whenever your baby wants to be fed. Breast milk is produced by demand, so the more your baby feeds, the more you produce. Try to get plenty of rest, and relax, because stress can hinder your supply.
Apart from that, do consume plenty of fresh and balanced diet, and stay hydrated. If you take medication, talk to your doctor about the effect it can have on your breast milk production.
This is all eventually a personal choice. Breastfeeding for the first few weeks or months is a great way to give your baby a healthy start and a strong immune system.
If you wish, you can continue to breastfeed well into your child’s toddler years, and your breast milk will adapt and change to suit your child’s developmental stage.
For reference, the World Health Organisation recommends all mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months and continue till babies are 2 years old or beyond. Then again, this all widely depends on your milk supply and latching scenarios!
Some mothers indeed do feed their babies with a mixture of breast milk - lactation and pumping - and formula. There could be a number of reasons for doing so, but it does offer a little more flexibility if you need to return to work or take a break.
Keeping a regular routine of breast milk and formula sessions will help prevent any nipple confusion for your baby too.
There is a risk of nipple confusion when switching between bottles, pacifiers and breastfeeding. This is when your baby starts to refuse feeds because the feel and texture of the nipple or teat keep changing.
A good way to avoid this is to establish breastfeeding for the first 4 weeks, if possible, before trying to introduce anything else. Forcing a bottle or pacifier on your baby too early may have a negative effect on your breastfeeding journey.
Breast milk is a living substance that adapts to your baby’s needs, so if either baby or Mommy is sick, breast milk can deliver essential antibodies to fight the illness. It evolves and changes to suit each developmental stage, and is the most affordable way of feeding your baby.
● It burns extra calories and aids in weight loss
● Early sucking helps your womb contract faster and reduces blood loss after childbirth
● Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months is 98-99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy
● Delays the return of your menstrual period
● Promotes mother and child bonding
● Reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer
● Reduces the risk of osteoporosis
● Easily digested and is less likely to cause stomach upset, constipation or diarrhoea
● Provides the best nutrition for your baby’s growth and development especially in the first 6 months
● Reduces the incidence of coughs and colds, bronchitis, pneumonia and meningitis
● Protects baby from asthma, eczema and allergies
● Provides optimal physical, emotional and intellectual development of the baby
Breastfeeding is a very personal experience and it should always be a top choice. Sometimes formula feeding is a better option because it offers more flexibility and the other parent can take over some of the feeds.
Some mothers are prone to infections and recurring mastitis and find breastfeeding too painful. Others may not be able to enjoy the experience at all.
If you have more questions about breastfeeding, make an appointment with your lactation consultant. You got this, Mommy!