Breast milk is not just a source of food, breastfeeding can also be a way of comforting babies and expressing love, it is an important physical and emotional interaction between the baby and you. Breast milk contains vital nutrients which sustain growth including; enzymes to aid digestion, Bifidus which encourages a high pH in the gut to eliminate bacteria growth, enable the baby to absorb iron naturally and growth hormones which supports babies immature systems to cope outside the womb.
What is Colostrum? This is the name given to the milk that is produced in the early days. It is a concentrated form of breast milk and contains all the elements that mature milk contains but with less water content. A new-born’s kidneys can only cope with small volumes, Colostrum enables the baby to learn how to suckle before being faced with large volumes. Colostrum is low in volume, full of goodness to protect your baby against infection and also has a laxative affect, helping prevent jaundice – the perfect start to life.
How often should I feed my baby? Healthy term babies may feed infrequently in the first 24 – 48 hours but still offer the breast at least every 4 hours as this can impact on milk production. Skin to skin contact will help with this. Most babies will be ready to feed for up to 8-12 times in a 24 hour period after the first few days
What is the best position to adopt in order to feed my baby from the breast? There are many positions to adopt, and any can be the correct one for you. Firstly make sure you are comfortable with your back well supported as you may be in that feeding position for quite a while! The most effective positions for feeding are to ensure baby’s head and body are in a straight line, Baby should be close and facing the breast with neck, shoulders and back fully supported, this will enable the baby to tilt the head back. Baby’s nose should be opposite the nipple. Try not to swaddle your baby as this will prevent baby being able to tilt the head back. If using a breast feeding pillow ensure baby is latched first then prop with pillow support.
How do I know my baby is getting enough of my milk? Babies have tiny tummies approximately the size of a small marble at birth, which quickly enlarge to the size of a walnut around day 3. The usual signs are plenty of wet nappies and at least two dirty nappies in a 24 hour period. The colour of the dirty nappy will change over the first few days from black to a mustardy yellow at around day 3-4. The mouth will be moist and baby should settle for a while after a feed.
How do I deal with a low milk supply when breastfeeding? Most women are able to produce enough milk and it is therefore important to offer baby the breast regularly usually 3-4 hourly, but some babies may feed more often. Start with skin to skin contact and make sure baby is well latched. Feed frequently – switch feed can be used (swapping breasts several times) – this can keep a sleepy baby interested and it will trigger more than one let down reflex. Feeding for longer will also give baby high calorie milk. Using a manual or electric pump and not getting too stressed will also help! Stress blocks the let down reflex. Try fennel tea or a natural breast milk stimulant such as lemon grass or mandarin. Our Bosom Buddies survival kit contains oil blends to help with low milk supply, engorged breasts and sore nipples.
Should my baby sleep through the night if I breastfeed? No is the answer to this, even a baby fed on formula milk will wake for a feed during the night. Fully breastfed babies will feed during the night, your hormonal receptors are still working and not feeding can affect your milk supply.
How do I get relief from engorgement? Breast fullness is normal and engorgement is not. This may occur when baby is not able to suckle milk effectively from the breast. The breasts will feel hot and painful, they can appear hard, tight and shiny. The milk doesn’t flow easily, and a fever may follow. It is very important to offer the breast to your baby, it is a priority to drain the breast either by baby or by expressing using hand expression or electric /manual pump. This may increase milk production but only temporarily, as reducing the amount of expressing once the pain has subsided will return the milk supply to normal.
What if my baby refuses the breast? This can happen at any stage! Often it can be an association with an unpleasant event whilst feeding or simply baby has become distressed through hunger. It is important to understand your babies cues before getting to the distressed stage. Baby may have been sucking fists, moving the head from side to side to look for the breast for a short while before you had realised babies hunger. If baby will not attach then simply try having skin to skin contact in a calm environment to calm baby down, then wait until relaxed and try again.
Can I take contraception whilst breastfeeding? It’s very possible to become pregnant again very soon after the birth of a baby, even if you’re breastfeeding and even if your periods haven’t returned. You ovulate (release an egg) about two weeks before your period arrives, so your fertility may have returned before you realise it. When you feel ready there are many options such as the progesterone only pill and this can be started 21 days from the birth of your baby. An intrauterine device or implant usually from 6 weeks.
When should I stop breastfeeding? The current recommendations are that babies only receive breast milk in the first 6 months of life. No other foods are necessary as the digestive tract is less mature before 6 months of age.
It is most likely there are various breastfeeding groups you may join in your area to help and give you advice. The U.K has four organisations that offer ongoing support to breastfeeding mums.
Association of breastfeeding mothers www.abm.me.uk
The breastfeeding Network. www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
La Leche League www.laleche.org.uk
The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) www.nct.org.uk