Breastfeeding provides your newborn baby with essential nutrients required for healthy development and growth. It is recommended that if you can breastfeed, you do so from within the first hour of birth up to at least six months of age.
It is not uncommon to experience some difficulties with breastfeeding. There are many resources available to help get through these struggles, and you can ask the midwives or lactation consultants at the hospital (available on request) or phone your obstetrician for details of other resources.
If you are able to breastfeed, below are some handy tips and information about breastfeeding and breast milk.
Colostrum is produced at the end of pregnancy and is usually the first breast milk your newborn will drink. It is yellowish and sticky (compared to the whitish colour of regular breast milk) and it is an excellent source of nutrition for your new baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the baby include:
- Breast milk is easily digested and has a mix of fat, proteins and vitamins essential for the baby’s growth.
- Antibodies present in breast milk improve the baby’s immunity and help fight against viruses, bacteria and allergies.
- Research has shown that infants who are breastfed for six months are likely to have fewer ear infections, diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses and hospital visits than infants who are not.
- Breastfeeding helps to build a bond with the mother and improves the feeling of security in the child.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother include:
- It helps burn extra calories, so post-partum weight loss is sped up.
- The oxytocin hormone released helps return the uterus to its original size and reduces post-delivery uterine bleeding.
- It reduces your risk of osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
- It saves time on preparing bottles and saves you money on buying formula!
- It helps you build a strong bond with your infant.
You can breastfeed with the baby in several positions. No one position is better than another; rather, you should try a few and find the one (or more!) that works best for you and the baby during feeding. You will want to find a position that allows you to relax and be comfortable as you can be sitting still for extended periods of time while you breastfeed! Some common positions for breastfeeding include:
Cradle position: Place your baby in such a way that the baby’s head rests in the fold of your elbow while the whole body faces you. Support your baby by positioning his or her belly against your body and wrap your free arm around to support the baby’s head and neck.
Football position: Your baby’s back can be placed along your forearm, while you use your palm to support the head and neck. This position is best for newborns and if you are recovering from a caesarean as it protects your stomach from excessive pressure.
Side-lying position: This is the best position for feeding during nights or during an episiotomy recovery (vaginal incision during delivery). You can lift your breast and place the nipple into your baby’s mouth using your free hand. After proper latching you can support your baby’s neck and head to avoid twisting or straining during feeding.
Your baby should be latched on properly to your nipple before feeding. This helps to avoid sore nipples. Some ways to help your baby latch are:
- Place your baby in a comfortable position facing you so that he or she does not have to twist their neck to breastfeed.
- Gently stroke the baby’s lower lip with your nipple. Your baby will instinctively open the mouth wide.
- Bring the baby’s mouth closer to your nipple and centre the nipple above the baby’s tongue.
- The baby’s lips should cover the nipple and a part of the areola (the darker skin around your nipple) as well to ensure correct latching. You may feel a slight, painless tingling sensation during breastfeeding.
- If the baby does not latch on correctly, release the suction by placing your finger in the baby’s mouth, remove the nipple and try again.
If your baby is not latching, you should speak to the midwives at the hospital or contact a lactation consultant. If you need the details of a lactation consultant, ask the hospital where you delivered or call our rooms.
Breastfeeding mothers can encounter several challenges, including the following:
- Sore nipples: If you experience nipple soreness, ensure that your baby latches on correctly. You will have to empty the milk ducts to avoid swelling, pain and hardness of the breasts. It is quite normal for the nipples to be sore during the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but they should cease to be sore after that time. If you continue to experience significant nipple soreness after one to two months, it may be worthwhile seeking advice from your doctor.
- Dry, cracked nipples: Avoid cosmetics containing alcohol that can make the nipples dry and cracked. Applying lanolin after breastfeeding may also help. Changing bra pads often will help keep the nipples dry.
- Blocked ducts: Blockage of ducts may cause a sore spot on your breast. This can be relieved with a warm compress, frequent nursing and massage.
- Breast infection (mastitis): This is a bacterial infection which results in flu, fever and fatigue. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection, and you may continue to breastfeed your infant after checking with your doctor.
- Pumping and storing milk: If you are going back to work or are unable to breastfeed at a particular time, you can express milk by hand or with a breast pump and refrigerate it. Refrigerated milk should not be thawed in a microwave, but in a bowl of warm water. You can start experimenting with bottle-feeding early, since the baby will take a few weeks to adjust to it.
- Stress: Being stressed can interfere with the release of milk into the milk ducts. It is best to be calm and relaxed during nursing to allow easy flow of milk.
- Producing sufficient milk: Many women worry that they are not producing enough milk. A general rule is that a baby wetting six to eight nappies in a day is getting sufficient milk. Your body will produce a constant supply if you breastfeed your baby frequently and regularly, even if you have small breasts. Milk production will also depend on good nutrition, plenty of water and ample amount of rest.
Breastfeeding can harm the baby in some cases. Breastfeeding is contraindicated if you are:
- HIV positive
- Receiving chemotherapy
- Using illegal drugs
- Taking prescription medicines for migraine, headache, arthritis or Parkinson’s disease (check with your doctor if you wish to breastfeed whilst on any prescription medication)
- Your baby has galactosaemia (inability to tolerate the galactose in the breast milk)
Talk to your doctor regarding breastfeeding if you are on any medication. It is important to note that having the flu or a cold should not stop you from breastfeeding, as your child will gain immunity.
ABC of breastfeeding
A = Awareness: You should watch out for the signs of hunger and breastfeed when your baby is hungry. Avoid waiting until your baby gets cranky or shows signs of frustration when he or she is too hungry. In the first few weeks, you should be nursing your new born 8-12 times per day.
B = Being patient: Avoid hurrying your baby while breastfeeding. Be patient and take as long as your infant wants to be nursed. Typically, infants nurse on each breast for about 10-20 minutes.
C = Comfort: You should be comfortable while you breastfeed to allow easy flow of the milk. Make sure your head, neck, arms and feet are supported before you start to feed your infant.