Here’s a quick introduction to new nursing mothers on breastfeeding: reasons and benefits of breastfeeding, prep work, how to get started, and more.
Reasons for choosing breast feeding
1. It is the natural physiological way to feed a baby.
2. Human breast milk is made for human babies.
3. The components – lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat – are easily digested by a newborn’s immature system so breastfed babies have fewer incidences of diarrhea or constipation.
4. Breast milk is always fresh and readily available.
5. Breast milk is always the right temperature.
6. It protect baby against allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity and SIDS.
7. The skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant thereby increasing the bonding process.
8. No need to spend money on bottle feeding equipment and expensive milk formula.
Antibodies – a nursing mother passes antibodies to her baby to protect or lower the occurrence of many conditions such as ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and meningitis. Breast milk contains new antibodies whenever the mother is exposed to new infections. Antibodies cannot be added to formula milk.
Prevent obesity – Recent studies show that breastfeeding might help prevent childhood and adult obesity. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), babies who are breastfed tend to gain less unnecessary weight, which may help them be less overweight later.
Higher IQ – Also recent studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed for 6 months have IQs 5 to 10 points higher than children who were formula fed.
Reduces cancer risk – In addition, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
Natural weight loss – A nursing mother will need extra 500 calories per day to produce breast milk but breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing mothers are able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Eating a wide variety of well-balanced foods introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through the breast milk which will have different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten.
Breast feeding is nature’s way of providing food for the newborn. For some mothers it is so easy whereas for some it is a struggle. In Malaysia, the struggle is more pronounced amongst the Chinese especially those who are in the higher professional group. Most often the complaint is ‘not enough milk’. Some even blame it on breast sizes, which is utter rubbish because the Chinese women’s physique has not changed that much over the decades. If our female ancestors can breast feed successfully, why can’t modern Chinese mothers do so?
I personally think that it is because we have too many choices and most of us want to take the easy way out instead of trying a bit harder to succeed. Remember that once your baby is suckling properly you will truly enjoy the experience and the wonderful feeling that you are nourishing your baby yourself.
How to succeed?
1. Make up your mind that you definitely want to breast feed.
2. Do not feel pressurized into breastfeeding if mentally you do not want to do so as you will never succeed and you will see yourself as a ‘failure’.
3. Do not say that you will try as it definitely will not work.
4. Keep telling yourself that you will succeed and be positive about it.
5. Make sure your husband will support you 100%.
6. Learn to ignore negative remarks and pressures to bottle feed.
7. Remember the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby outweighs all the negative remarks.
8. If you need to hire a confinement lady, make sure that she is pro breast feeding and can give you a lot of support during the early days.
9. Try and register with a local breast feeding group as they can give you the support and encouragement needed to establish and continue breastfeeding.
Apart from preparing yourself mentally, you need to prepare your nipples by toughening them. Once a day when you are bathing, gently pull the nipples forward and roll them between your thumb and forefinger for a couple of minutes.
When you are drying yourself give the nipples a slightly vigorous rub with the towel to strengthen them for when your baby starts sucking. Apply a little cream on them to get them supple. Do not stimulate the areola which is the area just behind the nipple as this could stimulate the production of oxytocin leading to premature labour.
The baby should be put to the breast immediately after birth in the labour room itself. Discuss with your attending midwife and doctor about this. As a midwife myself, I get very irritated when a lady comes in with a list of demands even though I am normally very pro mothers’ request. My advice is to use a soft approach and you will find your birth attendants will bend over backwards to fulfill your request.
Most babies will start rooting for the breast as soon as they are placed on the mother’s chest once the umbilical cord is cut. Make sure that your baby is dried properly before being placed naked on your chest and covered with a dry towel. Your body heat will keep your baby warm so there is no need to wrap baby as this could prevent your baby feeling for you and rooting for your nipple. If your baby is a little sleepy because of drugs given to you during labour, do not worry, just wait for the effects to wear off and baby will be able to suckle.
The key to success is making sure that the baby is LATCHED ON PROPERLY.
1. Prevent sore nipples
2. Enable baby to suckle properly and get the milk
3. Stimulate the ‘let down’ process
Step 1 – The first step to a proper latch on is getting baby to open his mouth WIDE! Brush baby’s lower lips with your nipple to encourage him to open his mouth.
Step 2 – Once baby’s mouth is open wide, quickly pull him onto the breast by pulling the baby toward you with the arm that is holding him. Make sure you move the baby towards you, and not move yourself towards the baby.
Step 3 – The baby’s gums should completely bypass the nipple and cover approximately one inch of the areola behind the nipple. Make sure the baby’s lips are everted. Some baby’s will tighten or purse their lips, especially the lower one. If the lower lip is inverted (turned in), gently press down on baby’s chin to evert the inwardly turned lip.
Remember to make sure that you are sitting comfortably before you start and that baby is correctly positioned by using pillows to raise him to the level of your breasts. There are several “nursing” pillows on the market that help raise baby to a comfortable height and position. If you are not comfortable and relaxed, your milk will not flow properly. Your baby will feel your tension and start to ‘fight’ with you or start crying which will increase your tension.
If your baby is latched on and sucking correctly, you should not feel any pain. Sometimes the baby’s initial suck may cause a slight stinging pain which quickly subsides as baby continues sucking. If the pain continues or your baby is not sucking correctly, stop and start over again. Break the suction by putting your finger in the side of the baby’s mouth between the gums. DO NOT let the baby continue to feed incorrectly, as you can develop painful and damaged nipples, and baby will not be able to get enough milk.
Causes of sore nipples
1. Baby is not positioned and latched properly.
2. Baby is not suckling properly.
3. Both the above causes combined together.
4. Fungal infection due to Candida albicans. The pain goes on throughout the feed and may continue even after feeding. This infection may also cause cracked nipples. You need to consult a doctor who will prescribe a fungal cream to apply.
Nipple shields are not recommended for sore nipples, because, although they may help temporarily, they usually do not. They may also cut down the milk supply dramatically, and the baby may become fussy and not gain weight well. Once the baby is used to them, it may be impossible to get the baby back onto the breast. In fact, many women who have tried nipple shields find that they do not help with soreness. Use as a last resort only.
Breast shields may be useful to protect your nipples rubbing on your clothes when you are not feeding and it also collects the milk drips so you do not have to go around with 2 wet patches on your clothes.
Remember to keep telling yourself and your baby that you will succeed and be patient as it may take a couple of days to get started properly.
Cecilia Koh is a British trained nurse/midwife with over 30 years experience working with mothers and babies in England and Malaysia. If you need more information on postnatal confinement and baby care please go to http://www.babiesconsult.com