painting by Liz Smith
I commend you for wanting to breastfeed your baby! You have probably heard that breastfeeding is healthier for your baby and even you. This is true, in so many ways you can’t even imagine, and with some effort (more or less) you can succeed! But it can be challenging at times, and this is where it helps to have support (yes, this is from my own experience – having suffered from mastitis and latch problems among other things). But I was able to work through my problems and continue to breastfeed which I am extremely thankful for now.
Breastfeeding is a learned art. It used to be that mothers and other women in the community passed advise along to their daughters, but nowadays many of our mothers did not breastfeed, and in worst case they are negative about breastfeeding. For others, they have no family and are on their own. There are lactation consultants, but many new mothers do not have the means or resources to hire one. Most hospitals offer breastfeeding education and advice. Lactation consultants visit new mothers and help them get off to the right start. On the contrary, some of these hospitals insist on feeding the infants sugar water and pacifiers, and keep them in the nursery which does not help the new mother get off to the right start! Every hospital in the state of TX gives this new mother a “gift bag” filled with formula marketing devices. These formula companies even give out pens and badge clips to the post-partum nurses so they can get free advertising from them. So what do you do?
To start, begin surrounding yourself with other moms who breastfeed. If you don’t have friends who do (although breastfeeding is becoming increasingly more common), join a La Leche League group. They have classes which offer support and information for breastfeeding moms. I would also recommend considering a birth center- or even home birth. If you have a midwife, she would be knowledgeable in breastfeeding and able to give advise. A gentle and positive birth sets the stage for a good start in breastfeeding. Babies who are born naturally are more alert and ready to breastfeed. Moms who have had medications often report that their babies are drowsy as a direct effect of the drugs and are not as interested in breastfeeding. Their sucking ability is reduced. In fact, American Acadmey of Pediatrics says that babies that are birthed naturally have 35% better chance to successfully breastfeed within the first 3 hours.
Nurse your baby soon after the birth. Here is a link to the amazing unassisted breast crawl video. Babies are more responsive the first hour, so take advantage of that.
If you give birth in a hospital, have your baby with you at all times. There is no reason for a healthy baby to be in the hospital nursery, but by your side. Do not supplement with sugar water or pacifiers. Your baby needs colostrum those first few days of life to build up healthy bacteria in the intestines. Colostrum is also rich with antibodies, vitamin K, B-vitamins, and has a slight laxative effect which helps get rid of the meconium in the babies bowels. If your baby is taking sugar water, he or she will be satisfied and not as interested in eating more. Water should not be given to breastfeeding infants as it will cause an electrolyte imbalance.
If an infant is supplemented with bottles regularly, he/she will likely develop nipple confusion. Sucking from a bottle is much different than sucking from the breast. If given a bottle, the baby will eventually forget how to suckle the breast, and get frustrated because it takes longer for the milk to start flowing. Contrary to what many believe, nipple confusion can also happen to older babies probably up to about 8 months or so.
Nurse every time the baby is hungry. Studies have shown that feeding on a schedule decreases breastfeeding success rates. It is my belief that babies need the extra suckling for comfort, and mothers need it also to keep an ample milk supply. Don’t overuse pacifiers. Put the baby to the breast instead. This extra suckling is what builds the milk supply, it’s sort of like putting in an order. When babies go through growth spurts they need to be at the breast more often to increase the supply of milk. Mothers often complain about not having enough milk, and I think this could be solved by having the baby at breast more often, co-sleeping, and of course making sure the mother has enough to drink and nutritious food. (Although mothers who have less than perfect nutrition have good milk also.) Just be patient and let you milk catch up to your baby’s new demands.
At night it is a good idea to have your baby next to you. Mothers who nurse often wake up a few minutes before baby begins to whimper, it’s like a 6th sense. Mothers and babies are very much connected. Mothers who have their babies in bed with them get more sleep as they can doze while nursing, and the hormones created by breastfeeding help mom and baby sleep.
If you experience complications, such as a painful lump accompanied with a hot red blotch or streaks, chapped, cracked, or bleeding nipples, or anything that doesn’t feel normal please call your Doula, lactation consultant, or midwife immediately. Remember, breastfeeding should not hurt you. For a list of some local lactation consultants please just call me or you La Leche
leader. For information on safe medication for breastfeeding go to this reliable website. Moms, always check with your care provider before taking medication.
This is a very special time and it only lasts of a tiny portion of your little ones life. Enjoy the closeness you will share with each other. As you gaze in each others eyes just remember how lucky you are that you have the ability to breastfeed at all!