Your Guide to Breastfeeding
The proven benefits of breastfeeding are now commonly known to even those who do not have children; yet how to breastfeed is something many mothers do not anticipate needing to know. Even though this natural act is simple and the baby's instincts combined with your maternal instincts make it an easy process, learning about breastfeeding ensures that both you and your baby are happy and comfortable.
First, What You Need to Know about Breast milk
- Breast milk is naturally customized for your baby
- It is a living fluid that contains many important nutrients which will help develop and strengthen your baby's immune system
- Your baby's suckling stimulates prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that cause milk to be produced and then secreted or "let-down"
- For the first few days after your baby is born, you are letting down colostrum (a special milk heavy in proteins), immune system boosting agents and vitamins
- After those initial days, colostrum becomes mature milk which is a balanced blend of proteins, carbohydrates, fat and minerals
- Breast milk (both colostrum and mature milk) help your baby develop and mature his/her gastric and immune system
Bottle or Breast?
It is important to remember that whether you decide to express breast milk and feed it via a bottle or choose to breastfeed, the baby will still receive the same benefits from your milk. The only things to remember when expressing and storing milk are the temperature and storage guidelines to ensure the breast milk remains healthy for your baby's consumption!
Getting Started - The First Few Baby Steps!
After having read those few hundred books on infants and every possible aspect of child rearing, it is important that you remind yourself how natural the process is in order to dispel any stress you might be feeling! Whether natural birth or a caesarean section (routinely known as a C-section), the newborn baby is placed on top of the mother for some uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact in most cases. Babies find essential warmth from the mother's body that mimics the heat provided in an incubator! With a C-section, the nurse or mid wife will assist you so as to make both you and your baby comfortable. This contact is important for the two of you to start the process of breastfeeding. Most likely your baby will be awake and will start looking or rooting for your nipple soon after being placed on you. Rooting behaviour involves the baby opening its mouth, turning the head to look for your nipple and some hand movements.
There are some who argue that you should breastfeed your baby within the first hour; however most recommendations are to start breastfeeding according to the infant's need. Mid wives tend to help you breastfeed your baby almost immediately after birth. Babies also tend to have a strong sucking reflex in the first hour after birth; it might be beneficial to make the most of this as this will facilitate in latching your baby to your breast, dispelling your fear that you will not know how to breastfeed your baby!
If you are new to this and are finding it hard to get a handle on things, there is no need to worry. Some mothers and babies take longer to perfect their breastfeeding tango! Just make sure that you are comfortable. Choose a place where you are at home; a room where you are undisturbed and have plenty of room to adjust yourself to a comfortable position to breastfeed your baby. If noisy environments unnerve you and the baby, then make sure you find yourself a place where you can control the environment. Make sure you have things that you might need at hand, in case your baby feeds for a longer duration than you expected.
There is no reason why breast feeding should be painful or uncomfortable if you and your baby are healthy. Women with breasts and nipples of all shapes and sizes can breastfeed; if your breasts are particularly heavy, your mid wife can guide you and assist you in finding the most comfortable position.
Since breastfeeding is often a lengthy process, it is essential that your arms and back are supported while you feed your baby. Your posture and its relationship with your baby's posture is essential for successful breastfeeding! Make sure that once you are settled, you ensure the same for your baby: the head and body should be in the same direction, which is facing you. Don't try to feed your baby while the baby's head is turned away from the rest of the body. To assist with this process you can use a pillow to adjust the baby's height or invest in a nursing pillow if you feel the need.
When your baby is latched on properly, it means the baby is suckling correctly. Your entire nipple and aureole have to be inside the baby's mouth so that a vacuum can be created to facilitate the feeding. If the baby only suckles at the tip of your nipple, you will suffer from sore nipples. This can result in making many subsequent feedings very uncomfortable and painful. The importance of your baby latching on to your nipple cannot be under emphasized; if your baby does not latch on properly, both you and the baby will be unhappy!
If the baby does not latch on properly, you will feel pain. Remember, breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful. This will become worse as the baby will drink for longer durations as incorrect latching means the baby is not able to drink properly. Make sure that you understand the difference between when your baby latches on properly and when the baby does not.
How to latch your baby on to your breast is simple and you can tell if you've done it correctly if you pay attention to how it feels when your baby attaches to your breast.
Do not hesitate to detach if you feel the baby is not latched on properly. If you try and yank your breast from your baby's grasp, you will probably hurt yourself. Instead gently insert the tip of your little finger into the baby's mouth and your baby's mouth will open wide, ending the vacuum.
Signs of Proper Latching:
- The baby's mouth will be wide open
- There will be deep jaw movements
- You will be able to hear some soft sounds of the baby swallowing milk
- The baby's chin will be against your breast
- A very brief, mild pain will be felt for the first few weeks, which will eventually go away. This is acutely different from the pain you will feel if the baby is not latching properly
Hungry Baby or Happy Baby?
Usually letting the baby suckle till satiation helps let the baby set its own schedule and keeps the baby happier. A hungry baby will cry and crying releases stress hormones in the baby's body. Feeding your baby according to its hunger patterns allows your body to produce the right amount of milk. Interfering with feeding patterns can sometimes cause your body to produce less milk. The baby will let go of your breast when fed enough. You will often need to offer the baby both breasts if you feel the baby is still hungry. Initially the baby will have more frequently paced feeds; however after a few weeks the feeds will get more spaced out and quicker.
There are several signs that you are feeding your baby enough:
- The nappy will need to be changed between six to eight times in a day (the first forty eight hours there will be fewer nappy changes)
- A constant weight gain of 100-200g each week
- Your baby will come off your breast on its own
- Your baby will be content and satisfied after most feeds
- Like with an adult, if your baby is getting the right about of food, the baby's skin will glow and will have strong movements
You need to make sure you continue eating properly even after you give birth. Even though you will feel like you have no time for yourself, you need to know what to eat while breastfeeding. Lean meat, wholemeal, dairy products, fruits and vegetables should all be part of a good diet plan while breastfeeding. Other than a healthy, full diet, you should also be well rested and relaxed.
Since you will be feeding your baby several times a day, your breasts will need special attention. It is important that you know how to take care of your breasts while breastfeeding for your sake and your baby.
All about breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding FAQs: Your questions on formula and breast milk answered by the experts at Bupa.
Positions to breastfeed twins: a visual guide for you to feed your twins.
A working mother's guide to breast feeding: The Baby Center walks you through dilemmas regarding mixed feeds and the pros and cons of working and breastfeeding. The BFN also provide a comprehensive list of resources on legal issues, maternity entitlements and breastfeeding at work.
Breastfeeding benefits the mother: NHS lists advantages of breastfeeding for the mother.
Reduce the risk of Osteoporosis: breastfeeding your baby now might reduce the risk of brittle bones at 70.
Protect your child from Leukemia: breastfeeding for longer is associated with a lower risk for your baby to develop leukemia.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing asthma: the American Lung Association/American Thoracic Society International Conference reveal the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first four months.
Boosting IQ by breastfeeding: a report on breastfed premature babies reporting higher IQs by age 7.
How does breastfeeding benefit the baby?: NHS explains how babies benefit from your milk and uses a video to explain the importance of skin to skin contact.
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