pexels-matvalina
Breastfeeding - Motherhood

BREASTFEEDING – THE BASICS


Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is tremendously beneficial for both mother and baby, but sometimes it does not come as naturally as one might think. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to a mother’s ability to breastfeed, and while it is recommended that an infant is breastfeed until six months of age, formula is always an option if needed. There are a few basics that you should know before embarking on your breastfeeding journey. First, what is colostrum? How to establish breastfeeding, and finally, building your milk supply.

Colostrum

Colostrum is the initial milk produced after the baby is delivered. Commonly referred to as liquid gold because of its gold color when harvested, colostrum has high levels of important nutrients that support growth and immunological defenses. After birth, the baby will be placed upon the mother’s breast to initiate breastfeeding and while it may seem like the level of milk production is small, remember, your baby’s belly is tiny and doesn’t need that much milk those first days of life. The colostrum that is produced is enough to sustain them and fill up their bellies.

Establishing Breastfeeding

If you choose to breastfeed, you will need to remain close to your baby. Learning your newborns cues for hunger will help establish when it is time for them to eat to ensure they remain full and happy. Hospitals, and pediatricians recommend feeding your baby every two to three hours, however your little one may be hungry before the two to three hour mark. Feeding on demand often produces better outcomes for milk production and it creates more opportunity for both you and baby to build those breastfeeding skills. As baby gets older, they will be able to stay full longer and could follow are more regular schedule.

Latching

Latching can be tricky for both you and baby, again remember to be gentle with yourself as you both are learning how to do this together. Breastfeeding should not hurt but if your baby doesn’t latch correctly it can be quite painful. You want to hold your baby in a comfortable position. For most this might be a cradle hold or a football hold. You can try to let your baby latch themselves, but if they have trouble latching you can encourage them to open wider by brushing your nipple to their lips. You want your baby to almost look like a fish with their lips pushed outwards form the nipple.

Nipple Shields: I always found success in using a nipple shield when breastfeeding. My baby just couldn’t latch properly without one but once I placed the thin silicone shield, she had no problem latching or feeding. If you want to use a nipple shield you will need to make sure you order the correct size. If you are pumping, it would be the same size as your flange.

Tongue Ties: If your baby is struggling to latch, you should seek out a lactation consultant as they may be able to determine if your baby has a tongue tie that prevents them from feeding properly. A tongue tie is a short piece of tissue that binds the tip of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth making it difficult to get a complete range of motion. You can get this released via surgery, but depending on the baby they may not need to be treated with surgery. Be sure to discuss all of these options with your doctor.

Signs of a bad latch:

  • Painful or uncomfortable pinching or suction
  • Clicking sounds from baby when feeding
  • Leaking milk while feeding
  • Baby gets frustrated when trying to latch or eat. They may fall off the nipple a few times.

Milk Supply

The days and weeks after birth, your milk supply will begin to increase if you continue to breastfeed often. Within a few days you may notices the color of your milk changing from gold to the expected white of milk. Your body runs on supply and demand, so it will only increase the milk supply based on how often you breastfeed and for how long. If you do not continue breastfeeding or go longer periods of time between feedings, this will signal your body to make less milk.

Be patient with your body as it learns how to supply your baby with milk. It may take longer to establish a regular milk supply especially if you’ve had a c-section, experienced pre-eclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage, or if your baby is pre-term.

If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough breastmilk during feeds, or if you are experiencing ongoing problems with breastfeeding like mastitis or severe engorgement, consult with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant will be able to offer solutions to help your breastfeeding practice. They may suggest changing the frequency of pumping or feeding, add a vitamin to assist in breastmilk production or teach new techniques for hand expressing.

Nipple Care

Your nipples will be sore and irritated. There is no way around this. Your nipples are suddenly going from no breastfeeding to almost constant feeding or pumping and they will be chapped and sore starting out. I recommend finding a few products that will help keep your nipples moisturized in between nursing sessions for some relief. I always loved the Lanolin Nipple cream as well as Silverettes to wear to help heal my nipples.

Breastfeeding: Advice

Breastfeeding is hard. It is hard mentally and physically. It is time consuming and draining. If there is any advice I can offer, it is to be gentle and patient with yourself and your baby. Those first few weeks will be difficult with a newborn but try to keep in mind that you both are learning together. If you have a breastfeeding goal, that’s great, but if you find yourself wanting to stop there is no shame in using formula. A happy, healthy mom means a happy, healthy baby.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *