Is breastfeeding the right choice for me?
Breastmilk is the best choice for feeding your baby, because it is perfectly designed and most adequate nutrition for them. Your milk contains all necessary nutritional ingredients and protects the baby from infections and diseases.
Breastfeeding is useful for you as well. It helps your body resume its pre-pregnancy shape and 8may lower your risk of: breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. Remember, breastfeeding is a cheap and readily available supply of milk for your baby.
Some women take up breastfeeding easily and naturally, while others find it more difficult and need more patience and determination, especially if they are first time mums.
However, there are certain reasons not to breastfeed, like if your baby has problems feeding, because milk production is related to demand. Lot of women experience pain, cracked nipples, even blocked ducts and infections, which can be very challenging and finally lead to the decision not to breastfeed, especially if this impacts your emotional health. Some women might be affected by serious anemia or other health conditions, when it is advisable not to breastfeed.
Once you have considered options carefully and decided not to breastfeed, don’t feel guilty about it. Formula milk will provide all that is necessary for your baby’s growth and development. It is also a good opportunity for your partner to be more involved in this process, and for you it could mean less worry that all you eat and drink will be passed to your baby.
Regardless of whether you have decided to breastfeed or not, the process of feeding is a great way to establish a loving connection with your baby, by holding it close to you, making eye contact, and the soft and gentle talk. After all, parenting is more than breastfeeding.
You have decided to breastfeed…
The first few days your breasts will produce a yellowish colored liquid, called colostrum. Colostrum is important to help your baby’s digestive system establish function and protects it from infections. After that your breasts will start producing milk, and you may start to feel them fuller and warmer.
The most challenging period is during the first month, when both you and your baby are learning the technique of breastfeeding. The feedings would probably be more frequent and longer, until your baby gains some strength and rhythm. It is important to know that milk supply is in coordination with demand, so the amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often you feed your baby. Therefore it is advisable to breastfeed whenever your baby shows interest for it (responsive feeding), even though in the beginning it might seem that breastfeeding is all you do.
When your baby is hungry they may: get restless, suck their fingers or fist, or turn their head and open their mouth. It is best to feed the baby right away, because a crying baby could be difficult to feed.
How to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is a technique which both the mother and the baby should adopt, and it might take some time, so you would need patience. If you are a first time mum it is very important to learn the breastfeeding technique. Therefore, if you haven’t already visited a breastfeeding class, you could consult your midwife to help you learn breastfeeding techniques and share important advice. This would help you be surer that your baby is feeding properly and increase your self-confidence to be persistent in your decision to breastfeed.
You can breastfeed your baby in different positions, but it is important to first position yourself comfortably. You can use pillows and cushions if that’s helpful. Your baby’s head and body should be in a straight line and the support should be on the neck, shoulders and back, so that they can move their head to swallow easily. You should bring the baby to your breast to obtain good attachment, not to lean the breast to the baby’s mouth. It is best to center your baby’s nose to your nipple, to cause them to open their mouth wide. It is very important that your baby gets a mouthful of breast, so that your nipple ends up in the back of their mouth. Their head should be tilted slightly backwards and come to your breast chin first, as the nose is free to breathe.
It is best to alternately switch breasts with each breastfeeding. During one feed, if your baby is feeding from both breasts, try to have them first empty one breast, and then switch to the other. This is important because the initial amount of milk is more liquid, and the following is more dense and rich in calories.
You might also notice that you have either excess or shortage of milk in your breasts. This is normal, and in time the amount of milk production should get in sync with your baby’s pattern of feeding.
If you have excess of milk in your breasts, more than your baby can ingest, you could try to express some of it before nursing your baby. Some leakage of milk from your breasts might appear which is normal and shows that you have sufficient milk production. For more comfort, breast pads can be useful.
You should be aware that excess of milk if not expressed over a longer time, might cause your breast tissue to become inflamed, which is called mastitis. Your breasts would feel red, swollen, hot and sore. And you may get symptoms like fever and headaches. It is important to continue breastfeeding your baby, because this is the best way to have mastitis cured. If after a couple of days the symptoms still persist, pay a visit to your doctor.
You might also have shortage of milk production, and notice that your baby is unsettled after breastfeeding and doesn’t increase weight. In this case you could consider addition of formula milk to the breastfeeding, and discuss options with your pediatrician.
Is my baby getting enough milk?
Probably one of the biggest concerns that most new breastfeeding mothers have in the first days of their baby’s life is whether the baby is getting enough milk. You cannot measure the amount of milk you produce, but there are certain cues you could follow. After breastfeeding your baby should appear content and satisfied. Wet and dry nappies are a good indication as well. After a few days your baby should have at least 6 wet (heavy) nappies in 24 hours, and very important - soft yellow poos should be produced.
It’s normal your baby to lose some of its initial body weight during the first two weeks, but then it should start gaining it, which is also an indicator whether there is enough milk supply.
Breastfeeding should not be painful, but the first few days your nipples might get sore, which is normal. If your nipples continue to be dry, cracked or bleeding, your baby is probably not attaching properly to the breasts. You can try using topical products made for nipple care during breastfeeding, but it is best to consult your health provider to ensure proper breastfeeding.
Make breastfeeding convenient
For more comfort while breastfeeding you might as well consider wearing special breastfeeding bras which are very practical and enable immediate access to your breasts. It is also convenient to wear loose tops and tops with buttons in the front, and especially if you are breastfeeding outdoors, a scarf around your shoulder would enable you more intimacy and convenience.