Breastfeeding is the feeding of a baby with breast milk directly from human breasts. Breast feeding will provide your baby with the best possible food available as breast milk has the perfect combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrate, and fluids that new-born babies require for 6 months. It also has many benefits for the mother too. It is also the most convenient method of feeding as it requires no preparation time, and it is always available and best of all it won’t cost you a penny-its free!
BENEFITS OF BREAST FEEDING FOR BABY
* Provides protection from infection due to the mothers antibodies being passed through the milk
* Breast-fed babies are less likely to develop infections such as coughs, colds & chest infections due to continuing to receive the mothers antibodies
* Breast-fed babies are less likely to get constipation & tummy upsets
* Breast-fed babies are less likely to develop allergies such as eczema
* Breast-fed children have better dental health
* Breast-fed children are less likely to be obese in childhood
* Breast fed children have a lower risk of developing juvenile diabeties
* Breast milk contains hormones & growth factors which assist babies development
* Breast milk is easily absorbed by your baby
* Its convenient & Free
* Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cot death
BENEFITS OF BREAST FEEDING FOR THE MOTHER
* Helps you body to recover more quickly after the birth
* Lowers the risks of pre-menopausal breast cancer
* Can protect the mother against osteoporosis & ovarian cancer
* Evidence suggests that women who breast fed are less likely to develop Postnatal depression
GETTING STARTED AT BREAST FEEDING
Breast feeding is something that both mother and baby need to learn to do. Attempt to put your baby to breast as soon after birth as possible, preferably within the first hour. Early breast feedings give baby the chance to practice breastfeeding. Getting the first few feeds right can make a huge difference to successfully getting established, and also prevent problems such as sore nipples, breast pain and poor milk supply. Some women give up after a few feeds because of such problems. These problems are usually prevented/cured by advice such as the correct positioning of the baby. Remember that your midwife is there to ask for help and advice if you need it so don’t be afraid to ask.
MILK SUPPLY – The first milk produced after birth is COLOSTRUM. This milk is rich in antibodies to protect & build your babies immune system. It is worth giving your baby this first feed even if you plan to bottle-feed your baby. After about 3 or 4 days after your baby is born the colostrum gradually becomes transitional milk (mixture of colostrum & mature breast milk). At this point your breasts may feel very full, heavy & uncomfortable it is at this point when the milk is said to be “coming in”. The best way to minimise pain and engorgement is to give your baby frequent feeds. Some women may find that they need to express some milk to relieve the discomfort or take some pain killers. This discomfort should only last 24-48 hours.
After about 2-3 weeks the mature breast milk is produced. This consists of ‘foremilk’ which is produced at the start of the feed which is designed to quench your babies thirst followed by the hind milk which is nutrient rich and satisfies your babies hunger. Your milks composition will alter as your baby grows to meet their changing needs.
HOW TO BREASTFEED
Make sure you are sat in a comfortable position. You need to make sure you are sat with your back straight and your lap is flat. It may find it beneficial to use a pillow to aid supporting the weight of your baby.
Next hold your baby so his body is facing towards. One arm should be supporting his head and shoulders and your other arm supporting his back with his bottom tucked under your elbow.
Let your baby tip his head back causing his nose to be opposite your nipple.
Move you baby so that his nose brushes upwards across your nipple. In response to this your baby will drop his lower jaw causing his mouth to open really wide.
As your baby does this quickly bring him in towards your breast. Aim his bottom lip as far away from the base of your nipple as you can. (His bottom lip & chin will come in to contact with breast first).
Your baby will now be latched on. He will have a big mouthful of breast which will allows him to draw your breast deeply into his mouth, creating a teat from which to feed. If your baby is correctly feeding you will notice your baby’s jaw moving up and down along with the sound of his soft swallowing. If this is not the case or it feels uncomfortable simply slide a finger into your baby’s mouth to stop him sucking and then try again.
When you baby has had his fill he will come off on his own accord or simply fall asleep. Don’t restrict the amount of time your baby feeds. Try to offer both breasts at a feed even if your baby doesn’t need both. However make sure you let your baby feed for as long as he wants on the first breast before offering the other. This ensures he gets both the foremilk and the hind milk
How often & how long should you breastfeed your baby?
When your baby is newborn he will probably want to feed every 8-12 times per day. By frequent feeding this will he to stimulate your milk production during the first few weeks. By 2 to 3 months of age, a breastfed baby will probably want to nurse six to eight times a day.
You should be breastfeeding “on demand” (when your baby is hungry), which is generally every 1 to 4 hours. As your baby gets older, they’ll need to feed less frequently. Babies are individual so feeding times vary between babies. Some babies want to feed every hour and a half, whereas others may go 2 or 3 hours between feedings or even more. Some people actually find that they need to wake their baby up to feed!
How long babies nurse also depends on their age. Newborns can fed for up to 20 minutes on each side. As your baby gets older he becomes more efficient at feeding and therefore may take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes on each side.
Overall be led by your baby. If you feed your baby for as long and often as he wants you’ll produce a good supply of milk and provide your baby with what he wants.
My baby suddenly seems to be much hungrier than usual. Is this normal?
Growth spurts can affect your baby’s feeding pattern. These can happen at any time, but in the early month’s growth spurts typically occur at around 7 to 10 days old, between 3 and 6 weeks, 4 months and 6 months. During these periods your baby may feed more often than usual to build up your milk supply. These times can be hard as you may feel exhausted and feel that all you are doing is feeding. Try to think on the positive side and remember what you are doing is best for your baby. These times won’t last forever.
How can I tell if my baby is getting enough to eat?
At times you may wonder whether your baby is getting enough to eat.
Your breastfed newborn is probably getting enough if him or her:
* Has plenty of wet nappies each day
* seems alert and content
* Is steadily gaining weight
* feeds between eight to 12 times per day
your baby will be weighed regularly to monitor weight gain. After birth and when you are discharged from hospital this will be done by the midwife. Once discharged by the midwife this will be passed to the health visitor at either your house or in set baby clinics. Therefore if you notice or think that your babies isn’t growing, or appears lethargic and not alert these are perfect times to express your worries with a professional as it may mean your baby is not taking in enough milk.
Another sign that your baby may not be feeding adequately is persistent green stools. Remember that these could be signs that your baby is ill; always be sure to contact your GP if you are concerned.
If your nipples feel sore, cracked and painful the first thing you need to check is that your baby is correctly positioned when feeding as this is a very common cause of nipple soreness. The best way to do this is for someone to watch your baby feed for example a midwife.
If it is not due to positioning when feeding you could have an infection such as thrush.
Nipple Thrush- is caused by an infection from a fungus called Candida in the baby’s mouth that can spread to your breasts. If your baby has oral thrush you will notice small white patches in his mouth which cannot be removed by wiping.
* Vaginal Thrush
* pain while you’re feeding your baby, which may continue after the feed is finished
* cracked, flaky or sensitive nipples and areola (the darker area around your nipple),
* areola that is red or shiny, or
* A shooting pain, burning or itching sensations in one or both of your breasts, which may continue between feeds.
It’s also possible that you may have no symptoms of infection.
If you suspect either you or your baby has thrush contact your GP who will be able to give you treatment of an antifungal medication. Thrush can take up to a few weeks to cure therefore it is important that both you and your baby receive treatment.
Ways to keep your nipples sore free
* Try holding your baby in different positions to find one that is most comfortable for you. For example by using pillows to take the weight of your baby it helps to reduce tugging and pulling on your nipple.
* Feed your baby more frequently. By doing this your baby won’t be as hungry and therefore is less likely to feed as vigorously. First, offer the breast that is the less sensitive one.
* Rub your nipples with ice before feeding to slightly numb them.
* Keep your nipples dry and expose them to air whenever you can. Change your breast pads frequently and avoid using ones with plastic backing which may cause irritation.
* Avoid using soap as it is drying
Mastitis can be caused by infection, engorgement and blocked ducts.
Infectious mastitis is caused by bacteria which may require treatment of antibiotics (you will be prescribed one that is safe to use during breastfeeding) so if you suspect this seek medical advice.
Symptoms of infectious mastitis:
* red, hot and swollen breasts
* shiny nipple which may produce pus
* high fever, shivers, muscle aches
* nausea and vomiting.
Non-infectious mastitis is usually caused by breast milk remaining within the breast tissue due to a blocked milk duct or problems with breastfeeding. If this occurs you need to make sure you continue to breastfeed as you need to keep your milk flowing and empty your breasts. Make sure that you have a correct fitting bra that isn’t too tight which can press your breast when you are feeding. You may also want to try feeding your baby more frequently, or expressing any excess milk after a feed.
Expressing breast milk gives you the opportunity to continue to provide your baby with the nutritional benefits of your milk when you are unable to give it directly yourself. Expressing milk can be done for the following reasons:
* relieve engorged breasts
* provides your partner with the bonding opportunity of feeding your baby
* stimulate milk production
* so someone else can feed the expressed milk to your baby for example if you are returning to work or simply want a night off!
* if your baby is in special care
You can express milk either by hand or with the help of a breast pump which is either electric or hand operated. The milk is then stored it in a sterile container/bottle for your baby to feed when it is required. You may find that expressing is something that you need to practice at so don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time round. It is best that you feel totally relaxed when expressing so find somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. The easiest time to express is in the morning as this is the time when you are likely to have the most milk available. Once you have expressed the milk into a sterile container it can be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If you wish you can freeze the milk. This must be done as soon as you have finished expressing. It can be stored for up to 3 months, remember to write a date on it to be sure, special freezer bags are available which are specially designed to store breast milk. You can defrost the milk in the fridge (must be used within24 hours) or by putting the container in some luke warm water, it must then be given to your baby straight away. NEVER refreeze the milk once it has been defrosted.
EXPRESSING BY HAND
You will need to gently massage your breast towards your nipple in order to stimulate milk production.
Gently compress the milk ducts surrounding the nipple rather than the nipple itself using your first finger and thumb.
Keep pressing & releasing rhythmically and your milk will start to flow. You can express from just one breast or from both depending on the amount you require.
Expressing by pump
You can buy a wide range of Breast pumps. If you are unsure on which model to buy ask your midwife or health visitor for advice or maybe ask friends or family who you know have used one before. Pumps work by using suction to pull the nipple into the tunnel of a breast shield and thus extracting the milk from the breast by creating a vacuum. The milk is then caught in either a container or bottle attached at the bottom of the pump. Manual breast pumps are operated by squeezing a handle repetitively and allow you to control the speed and frequency of the pumps. The main benefit of a manual pump is that they are cheaper to buy, simpler to use and more portable/less bulky. They are good if you are only planning to express infrequently, maybe for example once or twice a week.
Electric breast pumps are often more efficient so are ideal for those who want to express milk more quickly and in larger volumes. Therefore they are ideal for those mums who are returning to work and need larger quantities or maybe you are feeding twins as they are really good at increasing your milk production. Electric pumps however can be quite expensive and are usually a lot nosier than manuals.