Breastfeeding 101

The World Breastfeeding Week starts today, so let’s see some important things about this beautiful process that creates an extra strong bond between the mother and the baby! 

Breastfeeding is not an easy task for new mothers. It takes time, pain, and patience, but once you master the skill it is the most satisfying thing. Let’s make something clear here, it is your personal decision whether you will breastfeed or not and for how long. It is also your choice where you will breastfeed, if you want to do it outdoors or at the office or at the restaurant. Don’t feel ashamed and just do it! 

Many medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. After the introduction of other foods, it recommends continuing to breastfeed through the baby’s first year of life. Each baby has different needs, usually most of them when they are born need to be breastfed every 2-3 hours, when they are 2 months old every 3-4 hours and by six months most babies are fed every 4-5 hours. 

How to breastfeed

Latching on is how your baby attaches to your breast to feed. Good attachment also helps prevent sore and cracked nipples so it’s important to get it right.

If possible, try to feed your baby when you are both relaxed and comfortable. Signs that your baby is hungry:

  • sucking their fists
  • licking their lips
  • wriggling and opening their mouths, as if they’re searching for your breast

Encourage your baby to feed fully from each breast, this will help them get the fattier milk that comes towards the end of the feed. 

Breastfeeding challenges

Mastitis: Mastitis makes your breast tissue inflamed and painful. You might notice a lump around the sore area, and sometimes the inflammation turns into an infection. It can make you feel achy and run down, with flu-like symptoms or a fever.

Sore nipples: When you first start breastfeeding, you may have sore or sensitive nipples. This is very common in the first week of breastfeeding, and is usually because your baby is not latching on (positioned or attached) properly. 

Thrush: Thrush is a fungal infection in the breasts, it’s easily spread, and if you are breastfeeding, you and your baby can pass it back and forth to each other. The fungus (candida albicans) is a normal part of our bodies, we all carry it, but usually good bacteria keeps it under control. The perfect environment for thrush to grow and spread is somewhere warm and moist – whereas breastfeeding creates this perfect environment.

Breast engorgement: It is when your breasts get too full of milk. They may feel hard, tight and painful.It can happen in the early days when you and your baby are still getting used to breastfeeding, and it can take a few days for your milk supply to match your baby’s needs.

Tongue tie: In about 1 in 10 of babies, the strip of skin that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth (frenulum) is shorter than usual. This is known as tongue tie. Some babies who have a tongue tie do not seem to be bothered by it. In others, it can stop the tongue moving freely, which can make it harder for them to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding restrictions: There are some conditions where breastfeeding may be harmful for the baby, such as if the mother is HIV positive, she has tuberculosis, she is treated for cancer, she takes certain prescription medications, such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis. If the child suffers from galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk, it is also recommended to avoid breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding benefits for mothers:

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. It also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and of osteoporosis too.

Benefits for the baby:

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. It contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, and lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations.

Breastfeeding has also been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.

According to WebMD there are three tips that can help you master the skill of breastfeeding. They form the acronym ABC and refer to:

  1. Awareness. Watch for your baby’s signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. This is called “on demand” feeding. The first few weeks, you may be nursing 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast. Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That’s a sign they’re too hungry.
  2. Be patient. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don’t hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
  3. Comfort. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.

At the end it all goes down to how well you communicate with your baby. It is a new experience for both of you and it can be intimidating at first, so don’t be afraid to express your feelings and ask questions to your doctor. There are also breastfeeding classes where you can attend with other mamas, in order to not feel alone in this new journey! 

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