Saturday, October 25, 2008

Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers

I've been breastfeeding (or pregnant) for over four years and love the bond it forms between mother and child.

My 3 year old recently started asking for booby again since my youngest arrival but she's forgotten how to do it! I had read that children actually forget how to breast feed and sure enough when she tried to latch she actually started blowing instead of sucking! She then proceeded to tell me my boobs were broken - too cute!

While I'm not a midwife or lactation consultant, I am a strong proponent of breastfeeding. It is the best thing for the baby and for you. The World Health Organisation recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life and that breastfeeding should continue for up to 2 years and beyond if mutually desired by both the mother and child.

Breastfeeding mothers get protection against certain cancers and have a host of other medical benefits. Breastfed babies are healthier and studies have shown that there are increases in their IQ scores as well. Some mums say breastfeeding helps them lose weight too.

Breastfeeding is also convenient – no need to think about packing bottles and no worries about staying out longer than planned – your food supply is always with you. It is especially easy when feeding during the middle of the night – you hardly even have to wake up to feed the baby!

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy to learn how to do, especially in the beginning. And if your baby has complications such as delivery via c-section or suctioning at birth, it can be even more difficult. Stick with it, and get some expert help early and it will work and you will enjoy it (eventually). It is an incredible bonding experience for both mother and baby.

I've put together a range of tips from successful breastfeeding mums but if you are having difficulties don’t delay seeing your midwife, doctor, or a lactation consultant:

1. LATCH LATCH LATCH LATCH LATCH. It’s so important to try and get a good latch every time. Your nipples will thank you for it. Read up on how to latch a baby and if you can, ask a breastfeeding mum to show you how she latches her baby.

2. Try to feed your baby as soon after birth as possible. Most babies are awake and alert for the first 1-2 hours after birth. After that they may be groggy for a few days (they went through a pretty traumatic ordeal coming into this world!!). The best time to start breastfeeding is during that alert time right after they are born and getting them started right away is the best way for successful breastfeeding. If you have a c-section this may be difficult because you will be groggy. Don’t worry if you can’t feed the baby right away, you can still be successful at breastfeeding.

3. Take advice from different people BUT don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work for you. Every baby is different and every person you talk with has different experience and different advice. If you find you are struggling or overwhelmed we recommend seeing a lactation consultant as soon as possible – they are experts and can recommend solutions specific to you and your baby.

4. When your milk comes in (approx between days 2-5 but it varies between women) your body is flooded with hormones and it’s not uncommon to feel teary and emotional (nothing like feeling like wanting to burst into tears just when all the visitors arrive!) so keep this in mind when scheduling visitors.

5. Keep visits short and don’t be afraid to ask people to leave so you can feed. It’s important that you are able to sit with your breasts out if you want to and feed when baby demands rather than delay feeding because your great-aunt is in the room.

6. Some woman find that it can take 8 weeks before breastfeeding becomes a natural instinct. Stick with it - it'll work.

7. Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply and reduces engorgement. Aim for nursing at least 10 - 12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN'T nurse too often-you CAN nurse too little.

8. Nurse at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth)--don't wait until baby is crying. Allow baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively and then offer the second breast. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first--wake baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing.

9. To minimize engorgement: nurse often, don’t skip feedings (even at night), ensure good latch/positioning, and let baby finish the first breast before offering the other side. To decrease discomfort from engorgement, use cold and/or cabbage leaf compresses between feedings. If baby is having trouble latching due to engorgement, use reverse pressure softening or express milk until the nipple is soft, then try latching again. Booby Tubes can help too.

10. Don’t delay talking to a lactation consultant. Depending on where you deliver, they can come to the hospital or birthing centre or see you at home. Tell someone early that you are having difficulties getting the baby to latch on. Ask to talk to them several times if you need to.

11. Use Purelan cream after every feed if you need to. [Mum & Baby Gift Pack] This will help your nipples to remain supple and will reduce soreness and dryness. Keep a tube of lanolin in multiple locations for convenience: near your rocking chair, downstairs, in your diaper bag, in your purse, by your bedside, etc. Many of the tubes that you can buy are big and you will never use everything in them. What you really need are lots of little tubes – so that you can have one everywhere you might need it. Keep the tubes around even after you have stopped using it on a regular basis. You may need it again when the baby starts to teethe.

12. Drink a LOT of water. Breastfeeding can be extremely dehydrating and you will need to make sure you have a lot to drink so that you don’t get weak and so that your milk comes in strong. Keep a full glass of water or water bottle by you at all times. Put water in the nursery so that when you feed the baby during the middle of the night you can drink then too.

13. Get a bra or nursing tank that you can sleep in. HOTMilk have a great range of options. You will need one because your breasts will get very heavy when your milk comes in – and they may leak! Whatever you end up getting, you don’t want to use an underwire bra. And make sure that what you wear isn't too tight as this can lead to blocked ducts and mastitis.

14. Buy some nursing clothing. There are a variety of manufacturers out there. It is the easiest way to breastfeed in public without having to “bare it all.” Many mothers wear the nursing clothing when pumping at work because it keeps them from getting cold and feeling “exposed”. A Mumcho could be a good alternative if you prefer to have a little privacy whilst feeding.

15. Layering is a good way to make it easy to breastfeed. A stretching camisole or tanktop under a T shirt means you can lift the Tshirt up and pull the singlet down to give access to the breast, but your tummy and back are still covered.

16. During the first 2 weeks or so it is important to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Many new babies are sleepy during their first week or two of life and may sleep when they should be eating. Your baby may want to feed every 2-3 hours and feeding them this often will ensure that they are getting enough and it will also help your milk to come in stronger. Also, make sure your baby is having at least 5-6 wet diapers per day. Babies can get dehydrated very easily.

17. For the first 2-3 weeks – you might find it useful to keep a feeding record. [see the Mothers Minder]. That way it will be easier to keep track of feedings and excretions. It is also helpful to bring it with you to Plunket or the doctor's office so they can see how the baby is doing.

18. If you end up needing to supplement with formula and you want to breastfeed – try to do it without giving the baby a bottle. They have supplemental feeding systems that allow you to give the formula (or breast milk if you have some that you have pumped) through a small tube that hooks up to your nipple. This way you won’t give your baby nipple confusion and it will be easier for him to nurse. A nipple shield makes using this supplemental feeding system easier as it protects the baby’s mouth from being injured by the supplemental feeding tube.

19. When feeding your baby during the middle of the night – don’t talk to him or play with him. Make your feedings as “business-like” as possible and do it in the dark with just a night-light. [Ikaboo Night Lights are perfect for keeping things mellow but you can still see what you're doing] You want your baby to learn right away that he should sleep at night and that he shouldn’t be waking up to play during the middle of the night. Feel free to play with him and talk to him during daytime feedings so that he quickly learns the difference.

20. Have everything you need within arms reach while breastfeeding – phone, TV remote, computer, books you want to read, cell phone, water, pacifier for the baby, burp cloth, nursing pillow, something to put your feet up on, etc. That way you don’t have to disturb the baby to get up and get something.

21. Even if you are not planning on going back to work after having a baby, you may want to get a breast pump [see the Medela range of Breast pumps here]. Depending on how often you use it, you can get a manual one or an electric one. This will come in handy for a variety of different reasons including:

* You want to go out for an evening or afternoon and leave the baby with a care giver.
* The baby takes a long nap and you want to relieve your engorged breasts.
* You want to help increase your milk supply by adding in extra pumpings.

22. You will definitely want to freeze some of your milk away for future use. It best to freeze in bags, rather than bottles [see Medela Storage Bags] . If you freeze in a bottle there is a much higher likelihood that the milk will get freezer burnt. Milk frozen in bags can be stored for 6-12 months in a good freezer.

23. You can store fresh milk for 10 hours at room temperature OR up to 8 days in the refrigerator OR 3-4 months in the freezer (6 months or more if you have a deep-freeze). More info on milk storage see the La Lache League site here

24. Don’t bother buying too many bottles for your baby ahead of time. You probably aren’t going to need them for the first 1.5 – 2 months anyway and you never can tell what type of bottle your baby will want.

I cherished the time breastfeeding my babies. All the very best for yours.

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