Breastfeeding as a new mother- the basics
As a new mother, one looks forward to nursing their little one as a special event and to be cherished as a beautiful memory.
This is a journey any mom looks forward to. But for a new mom this also becomes an overwhelming experience. In addition to being already tired from birthing and the responsibility of the tiny one, some of the things a new mother worries about are sore breasts, less stimulation and flow, not being able to understand if they are able to feed their babies well. Through the course of this post, we hope to make you more comfortable with the fact that this is a natural process and help you feel more confident about it :)
It is important to remember not to let your fears take over.
With the correct knowledge and time, your progress will be a lot smoother and breastfeeding is not as daunting as it may have once seemed.
Here to make that journey even more comfortable and to help you through it, are some little pieces of information:
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR WHAT LIES AHEAD
Read up! If you like reading books, here are some recommended bestsellers to tell you all about breastfeeding. Here is a helpful link to some of the recommended ones
Also some things you will require post birth for your breastfeeding and can shop for in advance:
- A nursing blanket – soft and of a good material. Not too flimsy.
- A good quality breast pump if you can afford it. This can help you through breast pain and night time discomfort when your milk comes in and the baby does not require feeding.
- Pre-Sterilized breast milk storage bags
- A good moisturizing cream for those sore nipples. Look for Truly Blessed Soothing Dream Cream for those sore nipples.
- Nursing bras or t-shirts.
Apart from your own reading up and research, do consult a lactation specialist if needed for any support.
During successful breastfeeding the mother releases the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is affected by the mood of the mother, therefore if you are feeling anxious and are worrying about producing the milk, this actually can impact the supply, so you need to make yourself calm and relaxed to keep your oxytocin at that happy level!
START BREASTFEEDING AS SOON AS YOU HAVE THE LITTLE ONE IN YOUR ARMS.
The mother’s first milk, aka ‘colostrum’ starts getting produced shortly after birth. Studies suggest feeding your baby within the first hour of birth. Right after birth contact improves the bonding between the mother and child by releasing hormones and also helps with postpartum pain for the mother by sending signals to the uterus to stop contracting.
This is ideal but may not always be possible given the type of birth. So do not panic and latch the baby to the breast as soon as you have the little one in your arms. Ensure as much skin to skin contact between you and your baby as possible. The colostrum is extremely high in protective substances like antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that fight infections and disease. These keep the baby from getting ill until its own body can produce its immunity and provide protection. Some describe this as the baby’s first natural vaccine; imagine that- the human body being capable enough to provide so much inherent protection for your baby just from the breast milk and all you have to do is make sure it happens.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BREASTFEED?
In those crucial new days where your baby has just entered a whole new environment, it is important that constantly the baby must feel comforted, warm, nourished and protected. This helps the transition into its new environment in a safe way. Keep your baby close and enjoy this time.
The simple rule is to demand - feed the baby in the initial month. Typically a baby requires 10-12 feeds in a day for the first few weeks and gradually every 3-4 hours post a month.
Demand - feeding - wherein, you feed the baby as and when it asks for the food.
Look out for the signs that your baby is hungry! To know so – when you keep the baby close to you and have skin to skin contact, the baby will reach out for the breast to indicate it needs to be fed. Other signs are crying, folded fists, thumb sucking and crankiness.
There’s no such thing as over-feeding when it comes to breastfeeding, but there can always be under-feeding, so don’t hold back! If you are getting 6-8 wet nappies in a day, it's a sign that you are on track!
DOES IT HURT?
You have gone through nine months of heavy bodily changes and just gotten through labor- your body is so much stronger than you give it credit for. To understand this, you can talk to your doctor about latching. A good latch is comfortable for both the mother and child and then the process gets very simple.
Remember to trust your body and capabilities!
With breastfeeding, as the nipple and breast are highly sensitive organs, they need to be given care and attention to make the best of your journey.
This will improve with more feeding as the body will get used to the suckling process.
However this worry and fear is nothing compared to the joy of feeding the little one you created. :)
To help with the initial stages of breastfeeding, you can –
- Find a comfortable posture to feed in as it can be the main cause of stress. A position where your back is supported is the best.
- Avoid overfilling of the breast as the milk will start to come in large amounts and make the breast engorge. A good breast pump here to siphon off the milk and keep it in storage for later on is of help.
- Maintain a good posture at all times with your back supported- use pillows, cushions or whichever positions works for you and the baby!
- Pick a comfortable environment - a nice quiet place and feel relaxed before you start.
- Talk to whoever you feel comfortable with, your family, spouse or friends to alleviate fears and feel more relaxed. Support isn't just for the baby!
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M DOING IT RIGHT?
A question that plagues almost every person breastfeeding for the first time, it takes a bit of time before you actually are comfortable with the process. So don’t let anxiety take over and trust the process.
A few pointers to know you’re giving yourself and your baby the best possible chance at getting the process right:
- Make sure there is skin to skin contact.
- Before you start, always remember to sanitise your hands. Your baby is just fresh out into the world, don’t let them catch anything!
- Keep the head and body of the baby in a straight line, support the whole body with your hand.
- Align the face of the baby to the breast.
- Ensure the mouth of the baby is open and the lower lip is out.
- Support your breast with the thumb on the top and your fingers at the base of the breast.
- Keep the nipple and areola (which is the dark area around the nipple) into the mouth of the baby.
- Make sure the baby can breathe properly too and isn’t being smothered for air.
These small pointers will help you in those early days of breastfeeding while trying to get the baby to latch on.
Babies tend to automatically reach for the breast when kept near the skin and these tips are just to aid latching. However each baby will take its own time and pace.
Some signs that your feeding is adequate and healthy in amount:
- A good 6 wet diapers in a day with yellowish brown poops.
- Wet lips in the baby while feeding indicate that the milk is being received.
- Gurgling sounds while feeding.
- Latching on when kept near the breast.
FORMULA FEED OR BREAST FEED?
Everything depends on a mothers personal choice and their lifestyle. Unless it is contraindicated or advised by the doctor in rare cases where the mother has an underlying condition, there has to be exclusive feeding from the breast or formula feed for the first six months of the baby’s life. A lot of mothers choose to use a breast pump, pump the milk and then feed their babies via a bottle. This is upto your personal discretion as each mother has a different lifestyle and knows her needs best.
Just out of the womb, the baby craves warmth and the feel of its mother and requires the skin to skin contact, which is why breastfeeding is preferred for the invaluable benefits it can have.
This contact not only helps in an overall better breastfeeding experience for the child but releases substances that enhance the bond between mother and child.
A side effect of using bottles are the risk of transmitting any bacteria and infections become higher as the milk comes in contact with different surfaces before reaching the infant. So if you want to use a bottle- be sure to sterilise it properly in hot water before each use.
Store the milk in the refrigerator/freezer carefully. Pump away to relieve the pressure that can build up in your breasts.
HOW LONG SHOULD I BREASTFEED AND WHAT COMES NEXT?
As we talked about earlier, exclusive breastfeeding is said to be done for the first 6 months. After this, the process of weaning begins. Additional Sugars and salt should be avoided till 1 year of age. You can use natural sweeteners like fruits, dates, raisins etc. By the time the child is 2 years the breastfeeding frequency should decrease and complementary feeding now begins.
Soft liquid food is introduced first (soups, rice/dal water, fruit juice etc) which then segues into semi solid(mashed potato, bananas, porridge) and then solid food(mushy steamed vegetables, whole rice and pulses). This gradual transition is important to let the digestive tract of the baby develop and not immediately be pushed to its limits.
Even after two years, you can continue breastfeeding your child as it totally depends on you and your baby when to completely wean off.
MASTITIS AND SORE NIPPLES
Two very common things you will encounter that not a lot of people talk about. Sore nipples are perfectly normal and you can relieve them by using cold/hot compresses, ghee. We suggest using the Truly Blessed Soothing Dream Cream to treat those sore nipples. Do not forget to wash off the area before feeding the baby!
Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue that breastfeeding women commonly experience as the nutritional content of the milk makes it an easy target for infection. Signs of this are pain, redness, warmth, swelling and tenderness of the breast. There can also be fever and chills. This can make it difficult to breastfeed and you should immediately contact your doctor. They will prescribe some antibiotics which you can safely take while continuing to feed. Proper emptying and expressing the milk out can decrease the risk of mastitis along with safe and hygienic practices.
Remember these little key points about the basics of breastfeeding and you’re all set.
Stepping out into the unknown as a new mother can be extremely daunting. I hope this blog has given you a small outlook into the nuances of breastfeeding that can be helpful. Remember that each journey is unique and the mother will know best, so there are no hard rules here, just lots of love!
Here’s to your journey and celebrating it!