HOW TO BREASTFEED?
Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learnt, and it can take time and practice to get the hang of it. There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding. You just need to check the following points:
Are you comfortable? It’s worth getting comfortable before a feed. Remember to relax your shoulders and arms when you feed.
Are your baby’s head and body in a straight line? If not, your baby might not be able to swallow easily.
Are you holding your baby close to you, facing your breast? Support their neck, shoulders and back. They should be able to tilt their head back and swallow easily, and shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.
Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple? Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from beneath the nipple. Placing your baby with their nose level with your nipple will encourage them to open their mouth wide and attach to the breast well.
HOW TO LATCH YOUR BABY ON TO YOUR BREAST?
Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple.
Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide with the tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip.
Bring your baby on to your breast.
Your baby will tilt their head back and come to your breast chin first. They should take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR BABY IS GETTING ENOUGH MILK?
Your baby will appear content and satisfied after most feeds.
They should be healthy and gaining weight after the first two weeks.
Your breasts and nipples should not be sore.
After the first few days, your baby should have at least six wet nappies a day.
After the first few days, they should also pass at least two yellow stools every day.
BREASTFEEDING PREMATURE AND ILL BABIES
If your baby is in a neonatal unit in hospital after the birth, you’ll probably be encouraged to try kangaroo care. This means that when your baby is ready, you can hold your baby against your skin regularly, usually under your clothes.
This skin-to-skin contact helps you bond with your premature baby and increases your milk supply.
HOW LONG WILL I BE BREASTFEEDING FOR?
The Department of Health recommends that your baby has only breastmilk for the first six months of her life. It also recommends that you carry on breastfeeding after your baby has started on solid foods, until the end of her first year and beyond, if you’d like to.
Continuing to breastfeed while introducing solid foods to your baby may benefit her immune system. She may also be less likely to develop health conditions such as coeliac disease and type 1 diabetes.
Most mums aim to breastfeed for between three months and 12 months, and some choose to breastfeed beyond the first year (extended breastfeeding). A lot depends on your individual circumstances and how you feel about it.
HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR BREASTFEEDING?
Staying healthy is as much as you can do to prepare your body for breastfeeding. But learning as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby is born will help you when the time comes.
HOW DO I START BREASTFEEDING?
Feeds can take anything from five minutes to 40 minutes, so find a comfortable place before you start. In the early days of breastfeeding, when you’re still trying to get the hang of it, creating the right atmosphere is important.
If you’re easily distracted by noise, find somewhere quiet. If you tend to get bored, you may want to feed with the radio or television on, but only if breastfeeding is going well. Try different spots until you find what works for you.
Hold your baby in a position that won’t make your arms and back ache. Have cushions or pillows nearby to support you or your baby. Laid-back breastfeeding involves lying on your back, so that your baby can rest on your body, while your hands are free to support her. Or try the cradle hold, which means cradling your baby across your chest, raised up on a cushion or pillow. It depends on what’s most comfortable for you.
Get yourself and your baby in a relaxed position before you start feeding. Pay attention to how your breasts feel when your baby latches on. She should take in a big mouthful of breast tissue.
If you have large breasts, you may find it more comfortable to lie on your side while feeding or you may want to try holding your baby under your arm in a rugby ball position.
If latching on hurts, break the suction by gently inserting your little finger between your babies’s gums and your nipple, and try again. Once your baby latches on properly, she’ll be able to do the rest.
Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.
Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.
That’s one reason the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.
BREASTFEEDING CAN PROTECT YOUR BABY FROM DEVELOPING ALLERGIES
Babies who are fed a formula based on cow’s milk or soy tend to have more allergic reactions than breastfed babies.
Scientists think that immune factors such as secretory IgA (only available in breast milk) help prevent allergic reactions to food by providing a layer of protection to a baby’s intestinal tract. Without this protection, inflammation can develop and the wall of the intestine can become “leaky.” This allows undigested proteins to cross the gut where they can cause an allergic reaction and other health problems.
Babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk don’t get this layer of protection, so they’re more vulnerable to inflammation, allergies, and other eventual health issues.
BREASTFEEDING PROTECTS YOUR BABY FROM A LONG LIST OF ILLNESSES
Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid food, formula, or water) for at least six months seems to offer the most protection.
One large study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk.
The main immune factor at work here is a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that’s present in large amounts in colostrum, the first milk your body produces for your baby. (Secretory IgA is present in lower concentrations in mature breast milk.) The substance guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat.
Your breast milk is specifically tailored to your baby. Your body responds to pathogens (virus and bacteria) that are in your body and makes secretory IgA that’s specific to those pathogens, creating protection for your baby based on whatever you’re exposed to.
Breastfeeding’s protection against illness lasts beyond your baby’s breastfeeding stage, too. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Scientists don’t know exactly how breast milk reduces the risk, but they think antibodies in breast milk may give a baby’s immune system a boost.
Breastfeeding may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, preemies given breast milk as babies are less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they’re teenagers.
For babies who aren’t breastfed, researchers have documented a link between lack of breastfeeding and later development of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
EAT A WELL-BALANCED DIET FOR YOUR HEALTH
One of the wonders of breast milk is that it can meet your baby’s nutritional needs even when you’re not eating perfectly. (However, if your diet is too low in calories or relies on one food group at the exclusion of others, this could affect the quality and quantity of your milk.)
Just because your baby won’t be harmed by your occasional dietary lapses doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer. When you don’t get the nutrients you need from your diet, your body draws on its reserves, which can eventually become depleted. Also, you need strength and stamina to meet the physical demands of caring for a new baby.
Many breastfeeding moms feel extra hungry, which makes sense: Your body is working around the clock to make breast milk for your baby. Eating small meals with healthy snacks in between – the way you may have done during pregnancy – is a good way to keep your hunger in check and your energy level high.
WHAT TO EAT WHEN YOU’RE BREASTFEEDING?
Eating well when you’re nursing means getting a variety of nutritious food. And since a varied diet changes the taste and smell of your milk, it will expose your baby to many different flavors (so the carrots, Thai or salsa you’re eating today may have your baby reaching for those foods in the future). In fact, expanding your little one’s culinary horizons well before she starts solids might even minimize the potential for pickiness.
Here’s what to aim to consume each day to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need and offering your baby a taste for the healthy stuff early on:
- Protein: 3 servings
- Calcium: 5 servings (or 1,500 mg—especially important since breastfeeding draws from your calcium reserves)
- Iron-rich foods: 1 or more servings
- Vitamin C: 2 servings
- Green leafy and yellow vegetables/fruits: 3 to 4 servings
- Other fruits and veggies: 1 or more servings
- Whole grains and complex carbohydrates: 3 or more servings
- High-fat foods: Small amounts (you don’t need as much as you did during pregnancy)
- Omega 3s: 2 to 3 servings per week, to promote baby’s brain growth (that’s 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish like wild salmon and sardines; you can also get omega 3s in DHA-enriched eggs)
- Prenatal vitamin: Daily
HOW MUCH WATER TO DRINK?
Aim for 8 cups every day — especially in the weeks after birth, since it will help your body to recover. To ensure you’re getting enough, a good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of water at every nursing session.
Keep in mind your milk supply won’t be affected unless you’re seriously dehydrated, but your urine will become darker and scanter. Not drinking enough can set you up for health issues including urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation and fatigue.
FOODS TO AVOID WHILE BREASTFEEDING
When you’re breastfeeding, there’s a lot more that’s on the menu than off — with a few caveats:
One or two cups of coffee, tea or soda a day won’t affect your baby (and during those early, sleep deprived months, it might be just what you need to keep going). More than that, however, may lead to both of you feeling jittery, irritable and sleepless. Also, excessive caffeine has been linked to colic and acid reflux in some babies.
The same EPA guidelines on fish safety that apply to pregnant women also apply to breastfeeding women: avoid high-mercury fish including shark, tilefish and mackerel, and limit tuna to canned white, 6 ounces per week.
High-fat dairy and meat:
Pesticides and other chemicals you should consume sparingly are stored in animals’ fat, so generally it’s best to stick to lower-fat varieties. Whenever you do opt for higher-fat dairy, poultry and meat, consider choosing organic, since producers cannot use antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides or other chemicals.
As a general rule, check labels and try to avoid processed foods that contain long lists of additives.
WHAT IS BACK ON THE MENU?
Raw fish (including sushi and oysters); unpasteurized soft cheeses; cold cuts that are actually cold; and pink (or even red) meat.
ALCOHOL AND BREASTFEEDING
Looking forward to pouring a glass of wine at the end of a long day? Go for it! While some alcohol does find its way into your breastmilk, it’s considerably less than what you drink. Wine, beer and hard liquor are all safe to drink while you’re nursing (in moderation, of course).
A few tips:
- Nurse first, drink later. Aim to sip right after you’ve nursed rather than before, if possible, to allow a couple of hours for the alcohol to metabolize.
- Aim to limit yourself to a few drinks a week. Heavy drinking can make baby sleepy, sluggish, unresponsive and unable to suck well; in very large doses it can interfere with breathing. It can also impair your own functioning so you are less able to care for your baby, and can weaken your let-down reflex.
- Test yourself. Not sure whether your milk is alcohol-free at the moment? Test it using Milkscreen. If it comes back positive, raid your freezer for some stored breastmilk instead.
ALLERGIES IN BREASTFED BABIES
A very few babies (two to three in 100) are actually allergic to foods in their moms’ diets. The most common offender is cow’s milk; others are soy, nuts, wheat and peanuts. In addition to extreme fussiness and crying, babies who have a real food allergy will display other symptoms, including:
- Occasional to frequent vomiting
- Loose, watery (or mucousy) stools (possibly tinged with blood)
- Lack of weight gain
- Eczema, hives, wheezing and/or nasal discharge or stuffiness
- If think your child might have a food allergy, and especially if you have a family history of allergies, talk to your doctor. He or she will likely recommend eliminating a potential problem food for two to three weeks to check if it’s truly the culprit.