Breastfeeding Part 1
Most women say it’s the best life experience ever – once you get the hang of it! Breastfeeding can be tough and there are some key points you need to know. I’d like to take the opportunity to share some facts and tips that I’ve gained in my experience of being a Midwife.
Firstly, there has been more scientific research undertaken on tomatoes than there has on breastfeeding, which is disappointing but here is what we do know with certainty:
Breastfeeding helps to protect your baby against asthma, eczema coughs & colds, obesity and diabetes. It also helps to protect you against breast cancer, the most common cancer amongst women and ovarian cancer.
The National Breastfeeding Helpline number: 0300 100 0212 – 9:30-9:30 everyday.
Skin to skin is the best start.
Birth can be stressful and tiring for your baby. Everything changes as they are squeezed though the birth canal and born into an environment up to 15 degrees cooler; it’s light, has clear noise, smells and no more swimming. Just imagine your whole world changing. If you then dress your baby right away it caused further stress. Even if you need a C-section, skin to skin is paramount to de-stress and calm you both, plus it gets breastfeeding off to a great start. The rooting reflex is usually triggered by some sort of stimulus—perhaps when you stroke your baby’s cheek with your finger—or by something less direct, such as his own shirt or fist. When this happens, your baby moves his head toward the stimulus and opens his mouth in search of food. That’s your signal! This action also signals the ideal time to latch him onto your breast.
Your new born has a ‘rooting reflex’ and may start looking for food (this happens within the first hour of birth). He/she may start by rubbing their head around on your chest which marks their smell and is their Sat Nav! When they come to the breast later on they know “I’ve been here before and I fed here, this is the dining table!”
Initially, your baby can only see you if he/she is very close, breast distance away, nature is designed that way and your baby will look at you and starts to recognise you. Skin to skin shouldn’t be interrupted for at least 1 hour after birth (if possible). As your baby starts to fix his/her gaze on you, bonding begins – it’s a magic moment.
Feed with in the first 6 hours of birth.
Prolactin and oxytocin are the main hormones responsible the production of breast milk. If you plan to breast feed, ideally, you need to feed within the first 6 hours of birth because your milk supply could be compromised long term if you don’t. Your body needs to get the message “breastfeed and be receptive to prolactin hormone” this is more likely to happen within the first 6 hours after birth. So, what if your baby needs to go to special care and you can’t?
Then you need to hand express and I will cover that in Part 2 of this blog. It’s a MUST skill for a new mum. Early, effective and frequent removal of milk establishes breastmilk supply. I encourage expressing for all mums from 36/40 weeks, milk can be stored for 6 months in the freezer so you’ll have a supply to fall back on should you need it. If you are diabetic or are expecting a small baby I would strongly recommend antenatal hand expressing if you haven’t been advised already.
Make sure your baby is weighed on their side or front.
If your baby has been laying on your chest for an hour, warm and comfortable then taken away, placed on their back on cold scales. This stimulates a reflex which causes your baby to jump and feel stressed, you want to promote a calm, loving atmosphere to reassure your baby.
Colostrum is your baby’s first immunisation.
There are more white cells in it than in the milk that comes later on. It also has the most amount of vitamins in it, particularly vitamin A (infection fighting) and K (haemorrhage preventing). It’s a powerful laxative which helps to clear your baby’s gut after birth. It also helps develop immature organs, in particular, intestines.
The more demand, the more supply.
I have known women to allow their breasts to fill thinking that they will make more milk if they do so. This has the opposite effect as milk production works on a demand/supply basis – ie the more you give out, the more you get back. Milk contains protein which inhibits milk production so your body knows when to slow down and you will produce less milk if your breasts are too full. So allowing this to happen tells your body “stop making milk, it’s not being used”
Breastfeeding is mostly about positioning and attachment.
If your baby isn’t attached to the nipple well, you will have problems such as soreness and pain and frustration, leading to a reduced milk supply. This will lead to some weight loss of your newborn which will increase anxiety.
Here are some tips to help you get started
- Be positive and relaxed
- Get into a comfortable position that you can sustain
– use supports like cushions or a ‘V’ cushion (you may want something under your arm/shoulder)
- Either sit or lay down
- Weight of your baby supported
- Breast in a natural position
Your baby needs to:
- Be close to your body
- Have their chin and lower lip touching the breast first
- Have head, shoulders and body in a straight line
- Face the breast
- Have their head free to tilt back (try not to hold your baby’s head, support the shoulders and neck but don’t hold the head)
- Have their mouth wide open
- Scoop a large mouthful of the breast
- More areola (the small bumps on your nipple) visible above the top lip
Your midwife should observe the first feed and ensure that your baby is attached well from the very first feed. I will discuss assessing effective breastfeeding in part two.
Stay with your baby for the first 24 hours
Around 25 years ago mothers where encouraged to put their baby in the cot or even leave their baby in a nursery over night. This advice is still given to new mums and some hospitals around the world still offer this service. This is far from ideal if you plan to breastfeed.
Being separated from your newborn within the first 24 hours will only hinder breastfeeding. Whereas if you are with your baby your baby will get to recognise you and you will also learn to pick up on their feeding cues so you can feed on demand. This will start a bonding process that is reassuring for both of you.
There’s NO set amount of time to get to the hind milk or “fatty milk”. Books may tell you it takes 12 minutes for your baby to get to your hind milk. That’s like saying “it takes 1 hour to push a baby out” everyone is so different, it’s best to ignore this: there is no set time.