A big hola to new mommies and to-be mommies!
I know that you are probably tired beyond imagination and have a zillion things to worry about now that you are a mommy and are caring for a little infant. Today I would like to talk about your decision to nurse your baby. Breastfeeding is that one impending experience that every new mom is perplexed about – unsure what it will exactly entail and how it will play out? It tends to define your experience of being a first time mommy atleast for the first six months if not more.
It is a little terrifying especially if you have images of milk sprouting from your body one fine day (yikes!)!
WORD OF CAUTION: The blog post below is not for the faint hearted ;). It can get pretty graphic so tread with care.
Now, I must admit that at first I was not really worried about breastfeeding. I was more preoccupied with the “BUMP” phase and a tad anxious of the “BIRTH” phase and hence completely overlooked the “BREASTFEEDING” phase. It was only after giving birth that I realized that breastfeeding was going to be an integral part of my life and my daughter’s life for the first year after giving birth. I had a zillion questions and concerns. Like most new moms I took to googling about breastfeeding and eagerly discussed it with other mothers. This blog is my attempt to help new moms with “Breastfeeding Basics 101”.
Let me say this upfront, Breastfeeding is not easy. It requires patience. It is a commitment. It is perhaps, the first REAL parenting decision that you will make if you choose to nurse your baby. Yes, I say parenting because if parenting is about child rearing and nurturing then breastfeeding is one of the first nurturing decisions that you make as a parent. Breastfeeding is also a personal decision. While health experts the world over recommend that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for a year, breastfeeding requires the support of your partner, your family and friends to help create an environment that helps you to nurse your baby comfortably.
As someone who exclusively breastfed for first five months and continued to do so even after introducing solids till 9 months, let me say that breastfeeding my child has been the most fulfilling experience. Seeing your baby grow and become stronger on your milk (as cliché as that sounds) is gratifying and strangely exhilarating! Breast milk is ALL the nutrition your child needs till six months of age. Breast milk is easy to digest as compared to formula which is why babies on breast milk are not constipated (have non-smelly poo’s) and tend to feel hungry faster than formula feed babies.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother – it helps in contraction of the uterus post birth and is also said to aid in losing the post pregnancy pounds (I lost 9 kgs out of the 17 kgs that I gained within first two months after birth). But most importantly, for me, it was a calming experience that helped me to connect with my daughter and gave me a chance to sit down and relax.
Here are my top ten tips for breastfeeding –
Nurse right after birth
Breastfeed within the first couple of hours after birth. Cuddle and hold your baby and make skin to skin contact to help trigger the baby’s natural reflex to feed. The first few feeding attempts will be awkward and you will require help from the nursing staff to guide you how to hold the baby and position yourself for breastfeeding.
Ask for help
While breast feeding is how nature intended us to feed our babies, it is not the most natural skill and requires practice. It is ok to ask for and seek help on how to nurse your baby properly. Infact, you must seek the help of nurses or a lactation consultant at the hospital while trying to feed your baby for the first time. I found the sessions on breastfeeding as a part of my pre-natal classes to be very helpful. We were taught everything from how to hold your baby to how to burp the baby after a feeding session. Improper latching is often the reason why breastfeeding is not established in the beginning and many new moms get frustrated and opt for bottle feeding. Remember that breastfeeding is a new experience for the baby also and might take you both a couple of days to get used to it. So in the meantime, seek that professional help but do not give up on breastfeeding. The more you will breastfeed the more will be your milk supply so keep at it.
Get that nursing pillow
It is important to be in the right position for successfully nursing your baby and I found the nursing pillow to be a boon in this regard. It helps to support the baby without tiring your arms and allows you to get into the right posture to feed comfortably. My nursing pillow was my constant companion and has helped me avoid some serious shoulder and back pain.
Experiment with positions/holds while breastfeeding
Thank god there isn’t just one position or hold for feeding your baby. Infact there are atleast four such positions 🙂 While the cradle hold is the most common, the football hold and the reclining position worked wonders for me. So go find your own favourite hold and do not be afraid to try different breast feeding positions especially if you are recovering from a C-Sec or a difficult delivery or your baby has problems latching on. There is plenty of information and videos on different positions online and they are definitely worth a watch.
Take care of yourself
Breastfeeding is painful and you will be sore for the first few weeks. I would often cry out loud, correction, I would SCREAM whenever my daughter latched on. This was a constant occurrence for the first 3-4 weeks after her birth. It is very important to take care of yourself and treat sore/cracked/dry nipples. I found rubbing breast milk or ghee on them to be far more effective than using lanolin creams. It did not help that the lanolin was almost frozen (winter season) and difficult to apply (sticky). Also if soreness continues for a prolonged period of time then most likely your baby is not latching properly (feeding on the nipple and not the breast) and it is best to seek the help of a lactation consultant. Hot compresses or cold showers might also help to ease the pain.
Breastfeed on demand
Nurse as per your baby’s requirement and not as per a pre-defined schedule so throw that clock away:). Feeding sessions can be as short as 10-15 minutes or as long as 45 minutes. Newborn babies might demand feeds after every 2 hours or sometimes even before. It all depends on your baby’s hunger and sometimes their need to comfort themselves. Since breast milk is far easier to digest, breast fed babies are likely to demand more feeds and this does not mean that your milk supply is low. Infact, a newborn (till 3 days) has the stomach size of a small marble or cherry which cannot hold more than 7-10 ml of milk so do not fret if you produce only 10 ml of milk for every feeding session – that is enough to satisfy your baby in the first few days and is NOT a case of LOW MILK SUPPLY. Infact, it is only after 10 days that your baby’s stomach becomes as big as a large egg and can hold 2-2.5 ounces of milk and that is when major growth spurts (babies want to nurse more than normal during growth spurts) begin.
Burp, Burp, Burp
It is absolutely essential that you burp your baby before switching sides during breast feeding even at the risk of waking a baby who has dozed off while feeding. Babies tend to swallow air while feeding and need to be burped. This might take a couple of minutes but is a must do because babies tend to be very uncomfortable if not burped and can become fussy or spit out their milk. As babies get older (> 4 months), they learn to feed without swallowing too much air and might not need to be burped but until then you have to harness your burping skills.
Be hydrated and eat well
Breastfeeding is dehydrating and you need to take extra care to constantly stay hydrated. Always keep plenty of water by your side especially for round the clock night feeds. Amp up your intake of other fluids such as milk, fresh juice, lemonade etc. You will also be constantly famished after feeding and it is best to keep several healthy snacks (dark chocolate, nuts, fruits, dried fruits etc.) handy for those late night or early morning hunger pangs. You also need to be careful of your diet for the first couple of months and avoid gassy foods or extra spicy foods that might make your infant gassy or colicky.
Get that breast pump
For those of you who want to continue breastfeeding after joining work or simply want a break to step out and meet your girlfriends for a couple of hours or those of you who want to involve your husband/family in helping to feed your baby, you need to go buy yourself a breast pump. My Medela Swing electric breast pump was the best gift I gave to myself this year. I started pumping around 3 weeks after Miraaya was born and started to get her used to feeding from a bottle. Moving to the bottle took some time and effort (babies abhor change!) but allowed me the opportunity to step out without being concerned about my daughter being fed. If you are planning to continue breastfeeding even after joining work, you must introduce your baby to the bottle atleast 4 weeks in advance – babies need time to adjust to change and so do you.
Lastly but most importantly you need to maintain a happy and cheerful disposition. Childbirth and life with a new born can be stressful and stress directly impacts your milk supply. Keep those tensions, fears and anxieties at bay. Take the support of your husband and your family to help with chores and in managing the baby. A happy mother contributes to a happy, cheerful and satisfied baby. So cheer up and SMILE MOMMIES – you have just given your baby the gift of breastfeeding….KUDOS TO YOU!