Table of Contents
Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor to infant health. Breastfeeding is a very natural process but it is also a learned skill, one that you cannot acquire until your baby has arrived. There are not so many opportunities in our society today to witness babies’ positioning and feeding behaviour. Health professionals at hospital or in your home will be able to provide you with advice and direction. You can also gain knowledge from a multitude of videos and practical information on the internet.
I know I struggled with my first child – Jacob – he was a very fussy feeder from the get-go and ended up refusing the breast and also the bottle due to his severe reflux and middle ear issues. We did get there in the end but it was a very long journey. I really wanted to persist because I knew that breast milk would help him as it digests faster when compared with formula. I was incredibly lucky with my second child as she just took to breast feeding like a duck to water, Emily would have a full feed in 20 minutes compared to the intensive process of trying to feed Jacob initially which would take 2 hours – offer breast, refuse breast, finger feed, pump, clean up repeat!
Here are 10 things that we think you need to know about this all important topic:
Breast milk is super healthy! We don’t want to pressure you to breastfeed but we want you to understand the benefits. The Department of Health reports that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from digestive and respiratory illnesses, middle ear infection, type 1 diabetes and childhood leukaemia. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother as it helps the body to recover faster from childbirth. According to an article by Scientific American, ” the most well-known maternal benefit of breastfeeding is reduced risks for breast and ovarian cancers”. It can also reduce maternal depression.
Breastfeeding your baby is natural but it can also be a little hard in the beginning. Babies have natural instinct to feed but it takes time to acquire the skill. It can be likened to riding a bike – but once you get it, you never forget! It does hurt. Many experts tell you that it shouldn’t hurt, but the actual engorgement of your breasts is uncomfortable. It may take time for your nipples to become accustomed to the constant round the clock feeding in the early days.
My obstetrician said “remember nipples are for feeding not for sucking”. So remember to not let your baby just suck as your nipples will become very painful in the early days. The good news is that it gets better and as time passes there should be no pain at all. If you do feel pain down the track, it could mean there is a problem such as mastitis that needs attention.
Breastfeeding is convenient and on tap whenever needed. It is also portable with minimal fuss and baby can access milk on demand. No need to duck to the shop for more supplies, no need to pack more stuff in the baby bag and no need to carry formula on airplanes. The only downside is that only you can do it (refer to point 5) so make sure you look after yourself and get help from family and friends for other activities such as settling or bathing. If you choose to express, then your partner will be able to give your milk to the baby when needed. You may wish to read our blog “Partner’s role in parenting”.
You will save lots of money on formula, bottles, sterilisers and related equipment by breastfeeding. As mentioned above, if you do wish to express there will be an initial outlay for the equipment but over time it will more than pay for itself and allow the mother to have time out or return to work with the knowledge that baby is receiving the best milk possible.
5. CARE FOR YOURSELF
Do this so that you can care for your baby. You will be a better carer of your baby if you try to look after yourself as much as you can. Prioritise naps and good healthy meals, over housework and entertaining visitors. If you eat well and sleep when you get the chance, you will offering your baby the best possible start to breastfeeding.
Many mothers often worry that their milk supply is running out. If your baby is gaining weight and feeding often, then your milk supply will not be low. You cannot judge your milk supply on the size of the breast, the let down or the frequency of feeds. The only way to check is by monitoring your baby’s weight.
I would often take my baby down to the child health nurse to use her scales. It was the only way to reassure myself that things were progressing well or not. If your baby is not gaining weight or is actually losing weight then you need to talk to your doctor as it may mean further investigation is required.
Last year we heard about Milk & Nourish – homemade lactation cookies. Their products can offer mum extra sustenance during the breastfeeding experience. At Milk & Nourish they understand that breastfeeding is a joy, an effort and a challenge for many mums.
Milk & Nourish provide lactation cookies for breastfeeding mums made from wholesome ingredients such as brewer’s yeast, flaxseed and oats. They also sell Lactation Cookie Mixes and Mummy Milk Boosters – a variety of options to help support a healthy milk supply. Milk & Nourish aim to source the best lactating ingredients to nourish your body so you can focus on the most important thing, the wonderful little human being you created.
6. DAY & NIGHT FEEDS
When you’re a new breastfeeding mum and you are feeling tired, it’s hard to keep track of feeding times, quantities and and trying not to feed your baby off to sleep. According to Caroline’s Angels Sleep Experts too many night feeds can interrupt your sleep and cause baby to feed less during the day. Try to aim to get the majority of your feeds during the day and over time this will help you and your baby sleep for longer periods at night. If Mum gets more rest, this in turn will help to increase the milk supply, making more milk available for baby in the day. Day feeds can be all about skin contact and comfort.
Caroline’s Angel’s recommend that night feeds should be offered with “as little stimuli as possible. Keep the lights low, a little light just enough for you to see what you are doing and be safe”. This photo to the right shows how a baby could be fed at night, still wrapped in their Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle Bag and with minimal skin contact and stimulation to help baby get back to sleep more easily.
The first milk that your breasts produce during pregnancy. Your body starts to produce colostrum early in the pregnancy but you won’t know it’s there unless you have some small leaks towards the end of the pregnancy. There is only a small amount of colostrum produced but it is often called “liquid gold” because it is extremely valuable to your newborn. Colostrum is full of immunoglobulins and antibodies which boost baby’s immune system and provide protection from bacteria found in the outside world. It also has a laxative effect that pushes the meconium (first stools) to pass.
A very important word in breastfeeding. Baby will feed best if he or she is properly attached. The Australian Breastfeeding Association suggests looking for the following signs to see if a baby is well attached:
– Chin is pressed into the breast and nose is clear or only just touching the breast.
-Lower lip flanged (turned out) over the breast. It is normal for the upper lip to rest in a neutral position at the breast.
-Tongue is forward over the lower gum (may be difficult to see — don’t pull him away to check or you might detach him).
-Your baby has much of the areola in his mouth, more so on the ‘chin side’.
-There is no pain (although it is common for new mums to feel nipple pain that ceases beyond the initial attachment in the early weeks). You may notice your baby’s whole jaw moving as he feeds and even his ears wiggling. He should not be sucking in air or slipping off the breast. His cheeks should not hollow as he sucks. This video is helpful if you would like to learn more about baby led attachment.
9. HOW LONG SHOULD I FEED MY BABY FOR?
This is a personal decision for each family. Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants to around six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish. Even if breastfeeding has not worked out as you had planned, you can be reassured that even a few days of breast milk has been important for your baby.
If you need advice, seek out help. Many breastfeeding issues can be easily addressed with the right assistance. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268). The Breastfeeding Helpline is available 7 days a week. It is staffed by trained, volunteer counsellors who answer calls on a roster system in their own homes. These counsellors know that breastfeeding may not always seem easy. They can provide reassurance and give you knowledge about how breastfeeding works and help in overcoming common hurdles. Telephone Counselling is available free to all callers.