Your baby will be receptive towards you right from the first hour of birth. The yellowish, sticky breast milk of mother produced after the delivery of the baby known as colostrum is a WHO recommended diet for the new born. Breast feeding is an ideal approach for providing nutrients to new born and infants. It is a must for healthy growth and development of the child. It should be initiated from the very first hour of the baby’s birth. It has also been suggested to continue with breast feeding along with the appropriate complimentary food for minimum two years after child birth.
Benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers
Breastfeeding creates a strong bond between mother and child. Breastfeeding is much more than just providing your baby with food, it’s not only nursing the child but also nurturing and comforting the child. Recent studies have shown that babies who are exclusively breastfed for 6 months are less likely to develop childhood obesity, ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers as well.
For babies, sucking relieves pain and soothes them. It also helps promote sleep in the new born.
Below, we have addressed some of the basic questions mothers have when it comes to breastfeeding.
How do I hold my baby when I breastfeed?
Support your breast with your thumb on top and four fingers underneath. Keep your fingers behind the areola (the darker skin around the nipple). In case your breasts are heavy you may need to support your breast during feeding, especially in early days.
Brush or tickle the baby’s lips with your nipple to encourage the baby to open his/ her mouth.
Hug the baby closely in a way that his/her whole body face towards yours. The baby should take mouthful of whole nipple and most of the areola. They should never be latched onto the nipple only.
Be sure that your baby’s lips are turned out (not tucked in or under) and relaxed. To get the lower lip out, press gently on the lower chin. The tongue should be cupped under your breast.
Make sure that baby’s jaw moves back and forth while feeding. Also try to hear low-pitched swallowing noises.
If baby’s nose and chin may touch the breast while feeding, take care that breastfeeding should not hurt. If it hurts, bring your baby off from one breast and try again. Break your baby’s suction gently by placing your finger in the corner of his/her mouth.
There are some comfortable positions in which you can hold your baby while breastfeeding. No matter which one you choose, your baby’s comfort is of prime importance, so just be sure that your baby’s mouth is near your nipple and he/she doesn’t have to turn his/her head to be breastfed.
Try using pillows under your arms, elbows, neck, back or under the baby for support.
Cradle Hold: It’s the commonly used position, comfortable for most mothers. What you’ve got to do here is hold your baby with his/her head on your forearm and body facing you.
Cross Cradle or Transitional Hold: This is good for premature babies or the ones with trouble in latching. Hold your baby from the arm opposite to the breast you are using for feeding. Support your baby’s head from the base with the palm.
Clutch or “Football” Hold: Good for mothers with large breasts or inverted nipples. In this position, tuck your baby under your arm (make sure it’s on the same side you’re nursing from), like a handbag or a football. The baby should face you with his/ her nose level with your nipple and feet pointing towards your breast. Rest your arm on a pillow in your lap or right beside you, and support your baby’s shoulders, neck, and head with your hand. Guide the baby to your nipple. Chin should be first. Don’t push baby towards your breast so much that he/she resists and arches their head against your hand. Use your forearm to support.
Side-Lying Position: It allows mothers to rest or sleep while baby nurses. Good for mothers who had cesarean delivery. Lie on your side with baby facing you. Pull baby close and guide his/her mouth to your nipple.
Is it safe to breastfeed if I need to take prescription medication?
Always consult your doctor before taking any medicine during lactation period. Generally medicines pass into the milk of lactating mother in small amounts. You must check the information – “safe for lactating mother” on the label of medicine. Consult your doctor for medication in case of chronic condition, such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma.
Can I breastfeed if I smoke or drink alcohol?
It’s always better to quit smoking during lactation for the health of your baby. In fact, quitting any kind of smoke or alcoholic consumption three months before your delivery is advised. Light drinking by a breastfeeding mother has not been found harmful for the baby. Heavy and regular consumption may retard the growth of the baby. Also, your baby may always feel sleepy or dizzy.
When is the right time to start breastfeeding?
Nursing of the baby should start soon after the birth when your baby is awake and the sucking instinct is strong. Initially breasts contain “colostrum” – a thick, yellow (or golden) colored milk. Colostrum protect baby from disease as it is full of antibodies and gentle for the stomach to digest. Usually the mother is able to feed more after few days of delivery as she is able to produce more milk once the suction starts. Also the color of milk changes to a bluish-white after few days of delivery.
How often should the baby be breastfed?
Newborns need to be nursed frequently, at least 8 to12 times in a 24 hour period for the first two to four weeks. This also stimulates your breasts to produce more of milk. Newborn babies want to feed on demand. You should feed your baby day and night. Observe your baby for feeding cues, such as increased alertness or activity, crying, mouthing, rooting and sucking. Never give your baby a pacifier to lengthen the time between feedings and restrict your schedule. For sleepy babies, take guidance of health care provider to wake your baby after every third hour for feeding till baby regains his/ her birth weight. Since human milk is more easily digested than formula milk, breastfed babies eat more frequently than bottle-fed babies do. Babies are nursed less frequently as they get older and start solid foods.
How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?
You can easily make out by keeping a track on the number of wet and dirty diapers of baby. In the first few days, when milk is low in volume and high in nutrients, baby will wet only 1 or 2 diapers in a day. With the increase in milk supply after few days, baby starts wetting 5 to 6 diapers and dirties 3 to 4 diapers every day. In case the count is low and you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain, consult your pediatrician.
Is it normal for the baby to spit after the feeding?
Most babies usually spit when they burp, drool or have eaten too much. But don’t worry, if your baby is growing and gaining weight and doesn’t look uncomfortable with the spitting up, it’s absolutely normal. Spitting up isn’t the same as vomiting all or most of a feeding. If you’re still concerned in case your baby is forcefully vomiting, or a lot of a feeding is being spat out more than once a day, it’s time to call your doctor as it could be a digestive problem, an allergy or any other problem requiring medical attention.
Can I breastfeed if I’m feeling sick?
Majority of the illnesses are not dangerous when it comes to breastfeeding your baby, be it the usual flu, cold, stomach virus. However, there are rare cases (such as HIV), where your health could interfere with your ability to breastfeed your baby. If you aren’t feeling well, remember that as your body produces antibodies to fight an illness, you pass those illness-fighting antibodies to your baby through your breastmilk. Before you panic and stop breastfeeding due to an illness, make sure that you consult a lactation expert.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. There can be some tenderness initially, but it gradually goes away with time. To minimize soreness, baby’s mouth should be wide open, as much as possible, covering areola (the darker area surrounding the nipple) in his/her mouth. For effective feeding, both, mother and baby should be calm and comfortable. During and after feeding if you feel continuous pain, seek expert help.