One of the first decisions that you will make about your baby is whether or not to breastfeed. Certainly, every healthcare professional will tell you that breastmilk is the healthiest baby milk out there and that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding.
Get started with breastfeeding:
Some Important Breastfeeding Facts
If you still aren’t convinced that breastfeeding is for you, here are some facts which can help you understand the benefits and make the best decision for you and your baby:
- The first milk you produce is colostrum and this is packed with nutrients. Colostrum is produced from birth until the milk comes in at a few days after birth.
- Your body will produce the exact amount of milk your baby needs. The more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will make. If your baby doesn’t need as much, your body will produce less.
- When you breastfeed, your uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnant size more quickly which means you may be able to get back into your old jeans sooner rather than later.
- Breastfeeding can delay the return of your period and can have a contraceptive effect for some women. This isn’t true for everyone however, so if you don’t want to have another baby any time soon, make sure you use back up form of contraception, even if your period is yet to return.
- Breastfeeding is free and there’s no need for expensive equipment.
- A baby’s immature gut and small stomach can digest breastmilk much more easier than formula. Breastfed babies’ nappies usually smell much more pleasant than formula fed ones.
Getting Started with Breastfeeding
Babies are born with a natural instinct to breastfeed. Their sucking reflex is the most powerful at birth so it’s best to start breastfeeding as soon as possible, within the first hour of birth if you can.
Breastfeeding can be difficult in the beginning and if you give birth in a hospital the midwives and lactation consultants will guide you through the process until you feel confident. If you are still struggling when you leave, you can usually find a private lactation consultant or midwife to help you with any ongoing issues.
Hold your baby in the crook of your arm and bring their face close to your breast. Gently touch the side of your baby’s mouth with your nipple and they will automatically open their mouth. Squeeze your nipple between your thumb and forefinger and encourage your baby to take some of the areola into their mouth as well.
If your baby is latched on correctly their chin should just be touching your breast and their nose should be clear. You shouldn’t feel a pinching sensation if your baby is latched on correctly, it should be painless although this can take some practice to get right.
At the beginning your baby will probably only feed for a few minutes at a time. They may suck frantically for a while until the milk starts to come through and then they should settle down into a rhythm.
Common Breastfeeding Problems
If you are a new mother, you may find breastfeeding a little difficult at the beginning. You are already tired from the birth and your body is going through all of the usual postnatal hormonal changes that occur at this time. Until you have become used to breastfeeding, you may suffer from sore nipples. This should not be a cause of worry, as the skin does toughen up after a while. To help you, there are various nipple creams on the market that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Consult with a lactation consultant or your healthcare professional to find out which one is the best for you.
You should also make sure to empty your breasts at each feeding. This is done by offering both breasts at each feeding. Once the baby is finished with one breast, burp them and then offer the second one. Make sure that the second breast becomes the first breast at the next feeding to make sure that it doesn’t get left too full, because this can lead to mastitis.
Mastitis is an infection of the milk ducts which is often caused by a blockage or bacteria entering the breast tissue from cracked nipples. Mastitis can make you feel flu-like, shaky and very unwell but it is treatable with antibiotics. To reduce your chances of suffering from mastitis, make sure your baby empties the breast they are feeding on before moving to the next side, and rotate sides at each feeding. Practice good hygiene by always washing your hands before you touch your nipples to avoid bacteria getting into little cracks and grazes.
When you first start breastfeeding you may find your nipples get very sore and even grazed. This can make breastfeeding extremely painful. Sore nipples can often be due to poor latching so make sure you speak to a midwife or lactation consultant to make sure that your baby is attached properly. As your breasts get used to feeding your baby, the skin will toughen up, usually within a few weeks and the sore nipples should go away.
The Importance of a Good Breastfeeding Diet
When you are breastfeeding it’s important that you eat plenty as your body uses a lot of fuel to produce breastmilk. What you eat will affect the quality of your milk so it’s essential that you have a good diet – now is not the time for crash dieting or calorie counting!
You will probably feel thirstier than usual so make sure you are drinking plenty of water, especially if you are in a hot climate. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of keeping a bottle of water beside you when you are feeding to ensure you don’t get dehydrated.
If you do decide to breastfeed, you have made a very positive decision because you are giving your baby the healthiest start in life.