Are you looking forward to breastfeeding? If so, you should know that it can be challenging. In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 83% of infants are breastfed from birth. But, unfortunately, that means about 20% of moms opt out of breastfeeding. So, kudos to you for considering breastfeeding!
Granted, some mothers prefer not to breastfeed for personal reasons, but a percentage lacks the information to thrive at breastfeeding. In this article, we will prioritize the latter. Therefore you're at the right place if you're unsure or simply gathering more information, so you're better prepared.
This article will explore the ins and outs of breastfeeding and offer tips that will transform you into a breastfeeding pro. Are you ready?
First, let’s understand how your breasts prepare for the little one.
I. What to Expect During Pregnancy
Of course, breastfeeding begins after you deliver the baby. However, a lot goes on to prepare your body for this moment. Once you become pregnant, the progesterone and estrogen levels will rise, stimulating your milk-making cells (lactocytes). The lactocytes line the alveoli, where the synthesis and secretion of milk occur.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, the cell will produce colostrum, which travels to your nipples as the baby's first milk. The colostrum is full of nutrients and fluids that strengthen a baby's immune system and aid in clearing meconium (first baby poop). After a few days, the alveoli transport transitional milk and follow up with the mature milk after 10-15 days.
II. Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk provides essential nutrients and fluids to strengthen a baby's immune system.
Breastfeeding enhances jaw development and the growth of healthy teeth.
Breastfeeding encourages bonding.
Breastfeeding facilitates the development of a baby's digestive tract.
Breastfeeding lowers a mother's vulnerability to diseases like diabetes and breast cancer.
Breastfeeding saves money
III. Guideline for Breastfeeding
- It takes time because newborns eat every 2-3 hours.
- You can't take alcohol, and you'll need to examine your medication and coffee intake.
- Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and painful in the beginning.
- It’s hard to gauge if the baby is full.
IV. When Does Breastfeeding Start?
Breastfeeding starts immediately after the baby is born or, at least, within the first hour of birth. Research shows that breastfeeding a newborn within this timeframe increases their survival chances and overall quality of life. Usually, the ob-gyn will place your newborn on your chest for skin-to-skin contact and initiate breastfeeding.
V. How to Breastfeed
Ideally, the ob-gyn or midwife will show you exactly how to breastfeed. But if the instructions are not clear, here’s what you should do;
Find a Comfortable Position
Breastfeeding takes time, so ensure you find a comfortable position before feeding the baby. Lucky for you, there’s more than one position to accommodate you and your baby.
- The Cradle Hold.
This position is the most common and straightforward. While sitting down, you’ll cradle the baby across your lap (tummy-to-tummy) with his head resting on your arm. Your other hand will support his bottom or cup your breast as he feeds. For more comfort, place a nursing pillow on your thighs to elevate the baby's body.
- Crossover Hold.
This position works well if you’re in pain or the baby is struggling to latch on. You'll support your baby's head and body with the arm opposite the feeding breast (left breast-right hand and vice versa). The hand next to the breast will cup the breast to maintain a good latch. Read more about the crossover here.
- Football Hold.
Mothers who undergo the C-section will appreciate the football hold because it ensures minimal pressure on their wounds. While sitting, you'll place the baby beside you and lay him on your arm with his head facing you. Next, guide his head to the breast that's on the same side. Again, pillows are very helpful for this position.
You’ll lie on your side and position the baby in front of you (on his side). Cup the breast in one hand and feed the baby. However, you must stay alert to prevent choking. Also, remove loose bedding or hazards. Unilove’s hug me plus 3-in-1 bedside bassinet is perfect for this position because you can adjust it to feed the baby without moving him to your bed.
Get Baby to Latch On
Many new moms struggle with latching, but it doesn’t have to be challenging. Generally, it takes practice or help from a lactation consultant. Nonetheless, these simple steps will also guide you.
- Position the baby on their side, facing you.If they’re on your lap, their tummy should touch yours. However, for the football hold, ensure they’re close enough and still facing you.
- Cup your breast and place the areola between your thumb and fingers.
- Support the baby's head, tilting it towards the nipple. Next, brush the nipple over his lips so he opens his mouth.
- As he opens the mouth, gently guide the nipple into the mouth, starting with the lower jaw. Then, push the jaw down slightly and place the nipple.
- Next, tilt the head, so his upper jaw settles on the breast. Your infant should take the entire nipple and at least 1.5 inches of the areola.
- After breastfeeding, remember to burp the baby before putting him down.
That’s it! Once the nipple is in the mouth, your baby will breastfeed easily, and you won't experience pain. You will repeat the process every few hours so the baby is well-fed. According to KidsHealth, newborns will breastfeed 8-12 times during the first month, approximately every 2-3 hours. Therefore, you must learn how to breastfeed.
VI. Tips to Help You Breastfeed Successfully
- Find good-quality breastfeeding supplies, including nursing bras, nipple ointments, pads, a pump, and a nursing pillow. Proper supplies ensure value for money and give you peace of mind. For example, the Hopo 7-in-1 pregnancy pillow acts as a baby lounger (there’s a hidden harness to hold the baby in position), breastfeeding support, and a learning buddy. What’s more, it offers maximum full-body support during your pregnancy. It’s definitely value for money because you can use it for all four trimesters and the baby’s development.
- Learn how to relieve engorgement in advance. It is common for the breast to get engorged, but if left unattended, that could lead to mastitis and blocked ducts. You can relieve engorgement by expressing your breast milk, taking a warm shower, or using ice packs. Cabbage leaves also work wonders!
- Stay hydrated and well-fed because your nutrition directly affects the baby, especially if breastfeeding exclusively. Therefore, a balanced diet, fluids, and prenatal vitamins are essential for breastfeeding success.
- Ask for help if you're overwhelmed or struggling with the process. You'll be surprised by the high number of lactation consultants in your areas and online. So, if your milk supply is low or the baby won't latch on, visit the hospital or request a house call.
- Remember to take care of yourself. It's easy to get lost in caring for a baby, but spare some time for your recovery. Rest as much as possible and take all the help you can get.
Breastfeeding is demanding and will affect your emotions, especially at the onset. However, things will get easier with practice, adequate support, and patience. So take it easy and keep trying. After all, this “liquid gold” caters to your baby’s overall health and development.