Breastfeeding Tips

BREASTFEEDING

The importance of breastfeeding

Breastmilk contains the perfect nutrients possible for life for baby. It creates amazing heartfelt touch and bonding for the two of you. It provides spiritual nourishment for the baby, a happy hormone (prolactin) for mother and helps with post-natal depression. It is also very, very convenient – you may go anywhere, anytime with no preparation, equipment or cost!

Golden Nectar

Colostrum is the pre-breast milk and is a sticky, yellow, thick liquid. It is so important to line the baby’s gut with, as it is full of proteins and antibodies and builds up a baby’s resistance to infections. Colostrum lasts for the first two to four days before the milk comes in.

Supply and demand

In the first few days when there is only colostrum available, the more the baby sucks, the more breastmilk will be supplied in the future, and the sooner a mother’s milk will come in. It is nature’s principle of supply and demand and explains how women can successfully breastfeed twins. So encourage the baby to suck at the breast regularly before the milk comes to ensure a ready milk supply. This is where I feel they went wrong in my mother’s day. They were very strict in hospital, only letting the new mother feed at three/four hour intervals. Then it was common to say she did not have enough milk for a hungry baby later on!

On demand!

In the first six weeks, babies do need to be fed often. They are used to the umbilical cord feeding them all the time and there is not always a rhythm to their feeds, so do not expect one! A rhythm can really begin to be established from the two to three month period. Their tummy is tiny and they digest quickly so they need to feed frequently during the day and night. A newborn is usually awake when hungry and asleep when full! They are feeding, sleeping and are growing at a great speed. Expect to go with the flow and surrender to this early breastfeeding stage. My first baby fed every one and a half hours (from the start of one feed to the start of the next) in the first few months. My second baby was born naturally into a three hour rhythm, to my surprise. 

Often babies will have between seven to twelve feeds in a twenty four hour period. See what your baby is saying to you about their needs and go with this.

The milkman is coming!

The milk usually comes in between day two and four. The night before the milk comes, when there is still only colostrum, babies are often hungry and want to feed the whole night long. This can be a testing night! If you are prepared and surrender to it, this will ensure a good supply of milk and can be a special bonding period.  Try not to plan visitors for the next day!

What’s that dripping on my feet?

I will never forget the morning my breastmilk came. I got up to put the kettle on and I thought “What’s that dripping on my feet? What’s leaking in the kitchen?” I was a bit dazed and then I realized it was my huge Dolly Parton breasts! Wow! This can happen about day three and be a big day for all involved! It is another reason to not have a party, but rather a quiet resting time to nurture mother, baby and her breasts.

The best advice!

Appropriate support and correct information from visiting an Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting before you give birth and in the early weeks can be very useful and empowering. However, the best advice I have ever had on breastfeeding was when I asked a friend how to do it. She replied “Oh don’t worry, just stick them on and they suck!” It is good to have a relaxed attitude about breastfeeding. It has taken place since the beginning of time. Start by believing and thinking that it is a natural and uncomplicated process. Now you have a relaxed attitude, here are a few points to remember… (If you are not confident, or breast feeding problems arise seek help from you maternal childcare nurse immediately, so problems do not escalate).

Breastfeeding points to remember

Perfect Positioning

Get into a comfortable position. You should never be uncomfortable. I found breastfeeding while lying down wonderful for both baby and myself. It was so relaxing: the baby would fall asleep and I could relax each feeding time day and night. When sitting make sure that your back is supported (you may need a small pillow behind you) and check that your legs and feet are comfortable.

To make sure breastfeeding is successful remember that the baby’s mouth should cover the whole nipple area (including much of the areola), with their lips protruding like Mick Jagger! If not attached properly or if painful, put in your little finger to release the suck action and attach baby again. If you rub your nipple on the side of baby’s cheek, they will open their mouth wide by reflex and then you can latch them on. Remember that their mouth should not be dragging your breast down, and their body should be turned to face you, tummy to tummy. Bring baby to the breast, not the breast to baby. If they are only sucking the end of the nipple or pulling on it, it will get sore and can spiral into not making enough milk.

A word of warning: make sure you do not stroke their cheek or head while breastfeeding. This may cause them to turn away off the breast as a natural reflex.

Uterine pain

The uterus contracts as the baby suckles on the breast. This is great for the mother; however, some women experience afterbirth pains. These may escalate when their baby is feeding. Other new mothers do not feel any pain. Just a point to remember: pain in the uterus may happen while feeding in the early days and a wheat bag may relieve the pain.

Are they hungry?

Remember that sometimes when a baby cries, they are not hungry, but tired, over-stimulated or uncomfortable. To protect their senses: allow for good quality sleeping places and have a gentle home life rhythm. You do not always have to breastfeed as the first response. Try other things to soothe the crying if they have fed recently; the soothing motion of a rocking chair, wearing in a sling, swinging in a baby hammock, rolling back and forward in a veiled pram. Always respond straight away and if they do not stop crying offer the breast. It can be quite humorous, when baby is hungry they will try and suck everything: your nose, elbow, soft toy!

Draining the breast

When the milk comes in it is good to establish feeds that drain the breast. This ensures the baby gets the fore and hind milk and also stops engorgement of the mother’s breasts. Once the milk comes in and for the weeks and months afterwards, put the baby on one breast until empty. Then offer the other breast to top up the same feed. Remember which one baby started on first and offer the other breast first next feeding time. I was always weighing my breasts and jiggling them up and down to see which one had the most milk. You can move a bracelet, if you remember to, from one wrist to the next to know which side to feed off first. If the baby keeps drinking regularly and taking it in turns with each breast, the breasts should not get as sore, swollen, or engorged – fingers crossed.

Let the baby feed on demand but not so often that they only suck for a minute or so. It is better to rock – to comfort – and make sure they are hungry first before feeding. However, there are times when feeds can be short, others longer; frequent feeds can be necessary in hot weather and sometimes a baby has a top up (after a recent feed) to help to go to sleep. Go with the flow with this, observing your baby for their needs. Never feel afraid to offer the breast, if baby is unsettled, whatever their feeding rhythm is.

Preventing mastitis

The following tips are wise care reminders:

  • Always get enough rest, honouring the first six weeks will help with this.
  • Never interrupt a baby whilst feeding or stop the milk flow suddenly.
  • Try to change breasts each feed and drain the first breast each time.
  • Never feed if breasts are uncomfortable or hurting. Instead, place your little finger in to release the sucking and position your baby again.
  • If your breasts feel too full or engorged, express milk using a pump until comfortable again (you can store this for later use).
  • Make sure the baby is latched on with their whole mouth around your areola and that they have protruding lips.
  • Feed lying down or in a relaxed and joyous way.
  • Make sure baby feeds regularly; do not have an unusually long break in your feeding rhythm.
  • Eat and drink healthily and keep taking your supplements.
  • Exercise a little each day.
  • Make sure your emotions are not stressed and work on any negative feelings you have towards motherhood or your baby.
  • Spoil yourself and relax!
  • Limit visitors and outings if tired.
  • Feed in quiet and relaxing places.

The first signs of mastitis can be a lump or blocked duct which is painful. Massage your breast under a hot shower, express milk off and keep the baby sucking on the breast. Stop everything and relax, relax, relax. Take baby to bed with you to feed and look after. If you can, get in support to keep the house running around you. If the lump progresses into a fever and sore reddened breasts seek the help of a naturopath or homeopath for remedies. Talk with an Australian Breastfeeding counsellor for some further suggestions that may work for you. Consult a maternal child care nurse or lactation consultant, who can check your positioning straight away. In severe, pro-longed cases, antibiotics may be needed, or the mother can end up seriously ill. The lump will be drained.

When is enough?

When feeding watch to see when baby’s feeding slows right down and they are leisurely sucking. They will be breathing and pausing and then sucking again in a very slow, sleepy, stop-and-start manner. When you see this they are using your nipple more like a dummy. Place your little finger in to the corner of the baby’s mouth to release the suck and if peaceful turn them over or pick them up and rock to sleep. If this distresses baby return them to the breast, until fully asleep. This will help create a pattern of falling to sleep without the breast in the mouth all the time.

It is so lovely and warm next to mum, coupled with a full tummy; it is natural for babies to fall asleep on the breast. It is fine to let them do so or at times if you feel they have had enough and are almost asleep, release the suck and help them to sleep another way. What ever works for you both in the moment, whilst never causing the baby distress.

Nurturing your breasts

Keep putting almond oil or calendula cream onto the nipples, as in your pregnancy practice, after feeds. Make sure it is not there for the next feed though as baby may not like the taste. This will help to keep breasts soft, elastic and to avoid nipple problems. Also you can express a little breast milk and rub it in, perfect for breast care. Cloth breast pads are great for those spills and leaks, and environmentally friendly. See the resource section for details.

Promoting milk supply

The most important thing to remember is that rest and relaxation increase milk supply. Likewise, drink plenty of water and carry a drink bottle with you at all times. Flower essences, massage and sleep may help relaxation and reduce stress at this time. The Australian Bush Flower Essence Bottlebrush can help with milk supply and bonding. The following teas may be useful to promote milk supply: nettle, alfalfa, fenugreek and fennel (visit a healthfood shop). If run-down, which in turn will affect your supply, then take another zinc tally test, or a general blood test for iron and B vitamin levels. Suppliment if necessary. The most important thing is to keep the baby sucking regularly on the breast to increase the milk supply. If you are concerned with your milk supply, speak to your midwife or maternal child care nurse. She will reassure you on the normal amount of wet nappies to expect per day. Consider also a visit to a naturopath to help to increase your supply.