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Bells

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Tuesday, February 10th 2009, 11:39am

Breastfeeding Basics - What to Expect

The weeks just before you go into labour are often filled with precision planning, boredom and discomfort; any new Mum will tell you that this period is the calm before the storm. When labour starts it’s essentially the beginning of an entire month or two of worry and sleep deprivation. When baby is born you no longer have time to wash, eat, sleep or get dressed..... many women come out of hospital immediately and attempt to lurch straight back into normal life. If you want to breastfeed you’re going to have to try very very hard to take some time after the birth of your baby to establish feeding.

Your newborn has been created with an inbuilt urge to survive. Your baby’s strongest reflex is the urge to feed and to ensure that his Mother’s milk supply is abundant. For the first few days your breasts produce colostrum. This thick, golden liquid is the most perfect food your baby can swallow. It primes the gut, is packed full of antibodies and helps baby produce good bacteria ready to digest milk a few days down the line.



What to expect in the first few days:

Tiredness, tiredness, tiredness, weepiness, the inability to make decisions, a barrage of advice from every Tom, Dick or Harry that crosses your path, a baby that won’t let you put him/her down, the feeling of helplessness that makes you think “oh my, I have no clue what I’m doing!” and of course you’re sore too. Feeling that you don’t know how to cope or that you’re doing it wrong are normal. As someone said to me today, as a Mum your default setting is ‘guilt’.


How exactly do I breastfeed?

Many people dangle their nipple in front of the baby and expect baby to just suck on it. You can do this for about 36 hours before the pain in your nipples gets really bad! To breastfeed you must first get you and your baby in a comfortable and supported position. Your baby is still quite light but that’s no excuse to take baby’s weight in your arms (or you’ll end up with aching arms and shoulders). Stuff cushions, pillows, rolled up blankets under your elbows and on your lap OR lie on your side in bed. Get baby’s nose level with your nipple, hold your breast between your thumb and fingers, tickle his top lip with your nipple while squeezing out a drop onto his lips. He should tip his head back and open his mouth wide. At this precise point squeeze your breast gently to make it a bit flatter, bring him quickly close to you and (here’s a technical term) stuff as much of you into his mouth as possible. It’s called BREASTfeeding not nipplefeeding. Get as much in there as you can so that his gums can work the breast tissue, stimulate your breasts to release the milk that’s already in there and produce more.


A Babymoon: Establishing Breastfeeding

Take your baby to bed, for a week if you can. It sounds incredibly old fashioned but 40 years ago women were kept in hospital for ten whole days and weren’t allowed out until they were breastfeeding successfully. They came out of hospital confident, rested, bonded, healed and ready to face the world. We leave hospital after 6 hours, have women trying to cope with life, a new baby, visitors, family and housework ... and we call this progress.

Take your baby to bed, strip her off, lie her on your bare chest, wrap your dressing gown around you both, snuggle down with a magazine, a pint of water, a box of chocs, a sandwich and some daytime telly. Remain there for a week!


My Baby is Too Hungry!!

An innate urge to suck means that babies want to suck all the time. It’s comforting, keeps them warm, keeps them with their mother, keeps their food supply up, it’s comfortable, it feels, smells and tastes great. Why WOULDN’T your baby want to be on the breast all day?? Feeding every three to four hours isn't normal for a newborn, feeding constantly is. It isn’t a sign that your baby is too hungry, it isn’t a sign that you’re not making enough milk (if it is it quickly fixes itself) it’s not a sign that anything is wrong. It’s nature and it’s normal. The solution is to feed frequently to increase your supply. The more you feed the more milk your breasts will make. It takes anything for a day to a few days to increase a milk supply. Feeding less (topping up with formula) tells your body to produce less milk. After a few days things should begin to calm down.


My Baby Won’t Latch on!

How old is he? Did you have a difficult or traumatic birth? Did you have Pethedine close to the time you delivered? Does your baby have mucus in his nose or chest? Is his tongue able to move freely in and out of his mouth? All of these will impact on your feeding. A very new baby may need a few days to get the hang of things. Is your baby tired of already full? Some babies don’t ‘need’ to suckle so much or for as often depending on your milk flow and technique.


My Mum/Sister/Aunty/Friend/Health Visitor said he’s not getting enough milk:

Family, friends and even health professionals are often the bearers of inaccurate advice. In the absence of transparent breasts bearing handy volume measurements it’s VERY difficult to gauge how much milk a baby is taking. Take into account breast size, quantity of milk producing breast tissue, feeding techniques, sucking pace, swallow pace, the age of your baby and a dozen other variables and you have a hard time working this out. IF your baby is pink, alert, interested in his surroundings and is producing plenty of wet nappies per day then chances are your baby is getting enough milk.


My Baby has dropped her Birth weight:

Your baby spent 9 months (ish) submerged in fluid. When he’s born there’s a percentage of his weight that’s just water, he’s essentially waterlogged. It’s normal for babies to lose around 10% of their birthweight in the 7-10 days after birth. Even dipping below this is acceptable if baby is feeding well. If your baby isn’t feeding so well and has lost more than 10% birth weight then do enlist the help of a breastfeeding counsellor before you venture near your Health Visitor or midwife (who may tell you to top up with formula)


But My Baby isn’t Gaining Enough Weight!!
According to who? The chart in the back of your red book is based on average weights for artificially fed infants. Tell your HV to plot your baby's weight on a breastfed baby chart.

Breastmilk = Easily digested, builds nerves and brains. Invented for humans who do not need bulk or strength until long after birth.

Formula milk = Harder to digest, builds faster bone density and adds bulk. Derived from cow milk for baby cows who need to weight bear large bodies within hours of being born.

A breastfed baby is often (but not always) slower to gain bulk than a bottlefed baby. This is one of the reasons your baby is less prone to obesity in later life. A bulky baby isn’t necessarily a healthy baby.


My friend’s baby is bottlefed and seems more settled:

Your friend’s baby’s digestive system needs to work FAR harder to digest and utilise their feeds. It’s hard work and hangs around longer in the digestive system.... and so she will often go for longer periods between feeds.This isn't a benchmark to aim for, a baby's tiny tummy and immature gut is designed to take easily digested and easily absorbed milk at frequent intervals. As the formula is hard to digest it’s harder to break down and so her tummy has to work harder, producing gas and often colic. No matter how you choose to feed your baby you’re likely to encounter some difficulties at some point.


I tried to express and barely got anything out:

Ideally you would wait three months before even looking at a breastpump. Expressing milk isn’t as stimulating for your breast as suckling your baby so if you’re struggling to feed and decided to express to see what your milk production’s like, your findings will probably be inaccurate. Expressing is a poorer way of getting milk out, it doesn’t stimulate your breasts as well as feeding and if you can avoid it during the first four weeks then do.


Why can’t I ‘top up’ with formula if I want to breastfeed?

Your body is finely tuned to produce exactly the precise quantity of milk your baby needs. Your milk is dynamic, changing volume and consistency as and when your baby needs it to. If you miss a feed your body will automatically alter the amount of milk it makes. If you miss several feeds you may find that your milk supply decreases. Your body produces its milk making hormone during the night, if you miss night feeds the impact on your milk supply will be greater.
Babies on bottles only need to suck lightly and consistently for a quick meal. A breastfed baby needs to work harder, his gums need to massage the breast and the milk comes out at some rate between gushing and seeping depending how long he’s been on the breast. The phrase ‘nipple confusion’ is more accurately described as ‘nipple frustration’ as your baby gets cross at the effort involved in breastfeeding.

The main reason you’ve been ‘warned’ of this method is because it’s often easier to give bottles and once this is discovered many women believe that the combination of less milk in her breasts, quicker and more convenient feeds, more time between feeds and more freedom is a sure fire pointer that formula milk suits her baby more than breastmilk. This is the reason that ‘topping up’ is often the first step towards cessation of breastfeeding.


It Hurts - Does that mean I'm doing it wrong?

You will very often hear 'if it hurts you're doing it wrong'. Many successful breastfeeders will concur that it often does hurt 'at first' for one reason or another. If you were to suck the back of your hand really really hard, 12 hours a day for a week. It would hurt. While your nipple gets used to being stretched to the back of your baby's throat it's going to take some adjusting. If you combine this with being too tired to establish a '100% perfect latch' every time and very often a baby who is sucking constantly then there will be times when you feel downbeaten because it's hurting and therefore you must be doing it wrong.

It's imperative that you perfect your latch as quickly as you can, get into good habits. At 4am when you haven't slept for a week, dangling a nipple inside your baby's mouth may give you 13 minutes of sleep but it will make you sore.

Once established, breastfeeding doesn't hurt a bit. Once your nipples are used to being stretched, you milk productions settles, your baby isn't on as much, your recovered from labour and you're getting some sleep it IS easy peasy, painfree and hassle free.


I feel guilty:

You cannot successfully breastfeed out of guilt. It isn't a competition where you're a better parent if you breastfeed or proof that you love your child more if you breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a personal choice that some women feel passionately about because they want to do it for personal reasons. Many try it, encounter problems, misadvice and very poor help from their trusted health professionals. Many women just expect it to happen and are taken aback when it doesn't. Many women fall at the first hurdle because their families and friends didn't know how to help them. Some women get the wrong advice and make what they feel was a premature decision to cease breastfeeding. Here on FZ we want to help those who want to breastfeed without alienating those who don't. Never mix up our intentions to help. If help isn't wanted it can feel like pressure but if someone wants to succeed we hope it's seen as support.

There is no time to waste when your baby is here, the calm before the storm is over, you're hurled right into a non-stop regime of feeding, nappies, crying (you and the baby!), tiredness and decisions. A day can feel like a week and a week like a month. In a matter of hours you can go from confident about breastfeeding to reaching for a bottle. As long as you're prepared for what to expect, armed with information and know where to turn if it goes pear shaped then you're in a good position to breastfeed your baby.



There's a basic 2 minute video on breastfeeding here ...... HERE











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