Breastfeeding is not just an optional way to feed your precious new baby. Breastfeeding or nursing your baby is widely accepted as giving a him or her the best start in life, and also has long-lasting health benefits for both the mother and the baby. But all these wonderful facts does not automatically mean that breastfeeding is easy or straight-forward! Here on breastpumps.ie we hope to supply you with some helpful information on breastfeeding and also on breast pumps, to help you on the whole new journey of feeding your baby yourself.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
The high levels of carbohydrates, fats, and minerals in breast milk contribute to the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. The rich proteins in your milk will contribute to your baby’s growth while the antibodies will help your baby to gain protection against diseases.
The increased nutritional value of your breast milk will reduce the chance of your baby developing ear infections, SIDS, allergies, obesity, and gastrointestinal or respiratory infections. In the long run breastfeeding protects your child from developing chronic diseases and aids in the maturation of his or her immune system.
As a breastfeeding mother, there are also many benefits for you. You’ll begin losing your pregnancy weight at a faster rate and the increased levels of oxytocin in your system will help to shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding suppresses the early return of your menstrual cycle to ensure that your body is able to fully recover from giving birth. However it is not an effective method of contraception. Breastfeeding reduces a mother’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and urinary tract infections
Breastfeeding and a Healthy Diet
It is important for you to eat a well-balanced diet while breastfeeding because producing an ample supply of milk will be your body’s top priority. Vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance a healthy diet, but they should not be taken in place of nutritious foods. Many women and their doctors find that following the same diet as they did during pregnancy is generally sufficient while breastfeeding.
Stay hydrated. Keep a glass of water beside you every time you breastfeed
Limit your daily intake of caffeine
Avoid loading up on junk food
Although the exact foods that you eat will not affect the quality of your breast milk some foods may flavour your breast milk. If your baby seems to have disinterest in your milk after eating a certain food you may consider removing it from your diet for a while and then reintroducing it to see if you get the same reaction again.
Why Breastfeed Your Baby
Breast milk’s boasted superiority over formula often raises questions from concerned mothers who want the best for their children. One of the most common questions is ‘Why is breast the best?’ To help answer this question we’ve compiled a list of reasons to breastfeed:
Helps mother to develop a strong bond with her baby.
Reduces your baby’s risk of developing a childhood illness. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop Crohn’s disease, diabetes, asthma, SIDS, or develop allergies.
Enhances cognitive development
Protects against obesity. Breastfed babies regulate their own feedings from the beginning, which helps them to develop healthier eating patterns as they grow and develop.
More easily digested than any formula. Babies are able to digest 100% of breast milk which leads to less spit-up and burping; the same cannot be said for formula.
Breast milk contains endorphins. These hormones suppress pain naturally and can easily comfort a sick baby.
Helps shrink uterus back to pre-pregnancy size. Release of the hormone oxytocin during breastfeeding encourages uterine contractions that shrink the uterus.
Help you to lose pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding and milk production burns an additional 500 calories each day.
Reduces mother’s risk of cancer. Mothers that breastfeed are less likely to develop breast, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
Like a natural tranquilliser for both mother and baby. The closeness and cuddling associated with breastfeeding can easily calm a fussy baby and the release of prolactin allows the mother to relax.
Easier and less time consuming than formula. Always fresh, clean, safe and at the right temperature, plus it’s free.
Nights are less stressful for both mother and baby. Baby’s needs are met more quickly since mom doesn’t have to prepare a bottle; this decreases the baby’s crying and fussiness.
You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. When breastfeeding a baby will stop nursing when he or she is fully satisfied; however, bottle fed babies are encouraged by parents to finish a bottle at each feeding.
Beginning to Breastfeed
Breastfeeding mothers should start to nurse their newborns immediately after birth. Most hospitals will facilitate this, even for those women that have a caesarean section. It is recommended that the first feeding should occur within an hour of the baby’s birth. When you first begin to breastfeed, achieving proper latch on and finding a comfortable nursing position are the two most important skills to master.
It’s important that you are both comfortable, so make sure your back is straight and supported. Consider using a breastfeeding pillow to avoid getting sore shoulders. In order for your baby to be able to latch on, his or her mouth needs to be wide open before taking your nipple. Support the baby’s head with one hand. The baby’s nose should be pointed towards your shoulder. Always bring baby to breast, not breast to baby. When positioning your baby to nurse, the two of you should be chest to chest and the baby’s body and head should be aligned in a straight line. Baby’s lower lip and chin should be in close contact with your skin. If it hurts then baby hasn’t latched on properly, so put a clean small finger into the side of baby’s mouth to break the suction and try again. When the baby is properly latched on, his or her lips will be slightly flared and the tongue will cup your nipple from the bottom.
Comfortable Nursing Positions
The two most common nursing positions are sitting up and lying down. Many mothers prefer to use the lying down position for night feedings since it is more comfortable and convenient for that time of the day. Once the baby is properly positioned he or she should not have to stretch or twist around to latch on well. Some people will find both they and baby prefer one side. If you find feeding your baby while sitting up on your right side most comfortable, then placing baby under your arm on your left side when feeding will feel the same for both of you and may help.
Nursing your baby in an uncomfortable position may prevent the baby from latching on properly and can result in sore nipples. As your baby grows older and successfully learns to nurse you will be able to achieve comfortable positioning and proper latching more quickly.
Whether you nurse on cue or stick to a schedule your baby will eventually settle into a normal feeding routine. If your newborn baby isn’t waking up regularly to eat, you should wake him or her every three to four hours for a feed. A healthy newborn should have approximately 8 to 12 feedings every 24 hours. This can be tiring so sleep when your baby sleeps and get plenty of rest.
Signs of a Good Milk Supply
"Is my baby getting enough milk?" is often a question on the minds of many breastfeeding mothers. For some it can be quite difficult to determine whether their breastfed baby is indeed eating his or her fill every day. This doubt stems from the fact that you can’t exactly measure how much a breastfed baby eats during each feeding.
There are a few simple signs, however, that can help to reassure a breastfeeding mother that her newborn is healthy and eating well:
- Consistent weight gain after the first week. Six or more wet nappies and two or more stools each day
- Baby has a good nursing technique. A suck, pause type of nursing. You should hear swallowing and can see milk in your baby’s mouth.
- Baby is satisfied after feedings. This may mean that the baby spontaneously releases from the breast, has a relaxed appearance, is drowsy or sleepy and has limp arms and hands.
- Your breasts are softer after feedings.
Only in rare instances is a mother unable to produce enough milk to feed her baby. If you are concerned that your baby is not receiving enough milk and the signs agree, you should contact your healthcare professional.
Breastfeeding after a caesarean section
It is possible for a mother to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship with her child after a caesarean section delivery. Breastfeeding can actually help to speed up your recovery since your baby’s suckling will help to shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size, and the extra calories needed to produce breast milk can help you to lose your pregnancy weight faster.
Most hospitals will facilitate breast-feeding after caesarean section. This is usually done in the recovery room after the surgery is finished. A midwife will help you with this. Occasionally it may be necessary to give your baby a bottle of formula if there is a delay to prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Do not worry or be discouraged; it will still be possible to initiate breast-feeding at the next feed.
Many mothers often think that pain relievers are off limits when they are breastfeeding, but the truth is that there are several options available that are safe for you to use while breastfeeding. Speak with your doctor to find out which pain relievers will be safe for you and your baby after your C-section.
Begin breastfeeding in positions that will keep your baby’s weight off your incision until it heals. The side-lying and clutch-hold positions prove to be the most comfortable for mothers post-op. A maternity belt or a breastfeeding pillow can also help to protect your incision.
Breastfeeding and Pumping for Twins
Successfully breastfeeding twins is possible because breast milk production is based on a supply and demand principle. This means that the more milk your babies drink from the breast, the more milk your body should produce. Signs of a Good Milk Supply is a good article to reference while nursing if you are concerned about your milk production. While breastfeeding more than one child at a time is possible, it can be an overwhelming and exhausting task in the early stages.
Working out a schedule or routine that works for you will help make breastfeeding your babies more manageable. You can choose to nurse both babies simultaneously or nurse them individually. Simultaneous nursing is the most practical option because it helps to minimise the amount of time you spend breastfeeding. However, nursing each baby does allow you to spend some quality one-on-one time with each baby, and it can be helpful when the babies have varying feeding schedules. Most mothers of multiples find that a combination of simultaneous and individual feedings works best.
Helpful Tips for Pumping
If your twins are born pre-term and are unable to nurse right away, a breast pump can be used to initiate lactation and build up your milk supply. If you will need to express milk for your babies, a hospital grade breast pump will be the best option for you in the beginning.
There are several ways to make things a little easier for yourself if you will be pumping. Find a comfortable pumping spot a home where you can keep all of your pumping necessities set up. Doing so will save you a lot of time since everything will be ready for you and you won’t have to search the house for missing parts. Pump straight into feeding bottles then store them in the refrigerator for use throughout the day.
Comfortable Positions for Nursing Twins Simultaneously
- Double Clutch: The double clutch or football hold with pillows for support works well for many mothers
- Double Cradle: You can also hold both babies in front with their legs overlapping (they’ll make an X across your lap)
- Cradle/Clutch: With this combination hold, one baby is nursed in the cradle position while the other nurses in clutch or football hold.
Develop a Support System
Having a support system in place before your babies are born can help to contribute to your breastfeeding success. Arrange to have help around the house from dad or other family members during the first few days after returning from the hospital. Your focus will be on nursing and resting, so you shouldn’t be worrying about other household chores.
Attending La Leche League or other breastfeeding support meetings prior to delivery is a great way to meet other breastfeeding mothers as well as mothers who have successfully breastfed twins.
Breastfeeding is the most natural and rewarding way to provide nourishment to your baby. Although it is a natural process, some women may encounter challenges or obstacles while establishing a breastfeeding routine:
Engorgement refers to an extreme fullness of the breasts. It can happen initially 2-3 days after giving birth, and is a definite sign that your milk has come in. You may experience soreness, swelling and tender lumpiness in your breasts and/or nipples. They can feel hard or tight, possibly back to your armpit. The fullness of your breast will normally decrease within the first two to three weeks if your baby is nursing often and latched on correctly. An adequate number of feedings for a newborn baby is between eight to twelve feeds each day. Frequent feedings are your best bet to minimise the amount of milk that stays in your breasts, therefore easing the discomfort of engorgement and preventing mastitis. Though it will take a few weeks for your breasts to soften and yield to your milk production, most cases of painful engorgement will subside within 12-48 hours if correctly tended to.
There are a number of ways to ease the pain of engorgement
- Apply a warm, wet cloth to your breast or take a warm shower and concentrate the water on your breast area. The heat will ease the pain; this will help your body to naturally relax. Your milk is much more likely to let down if your body isn't subconsciously tense from pain.
- Try massaging your breast right before a feeding. A useful technique is taking your pointer and middle fingers together and starting at the most painful part of your breast (generally where it is lumpiest) apply pressure in a circular motion. Continue to do this on your whole breast until you get some relief. Massage coupled with moist heat is almost a sure success.
What can I do to ease the pain in between feedings?
To soothe the pain in between feedings you can apply cold compresses of some sort. This will not only help to reduce the swelling but also to relieve the burning sensation caused by the tightness of a full breast. Be sure to place a thin cloth (washcloth, handkerchief, etc.) between your breast and an ice pack. In addition, an old wives tale about applying cabbage leaves to your breasts is said to help draw out the pain. You must take a cabbage leaf for each breast and slice out the vein in the centre. Then cut out a hole big enough for the tip of your nipple and wrap the leaf around your breast. You should wear this inside your bra until the leaf begins to wilt from body heat, and then replace with another leaf. Do this until you feel the pain has eased up.
If you feel the pain is bad enough to require medication you can check with your doctor about taking some over the counter pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Sore or Cracked Nipples
Experiencing sore or cracked nipples is not a normal part of breastfeeding. These problems develop as a result of improper latch on and positioning. Often the best way to begin treating cracked or sore nipples is to fix the cause of the problem, which for many mothers consists of improving the baby’s latch and using a better feeding position.
Applying pure lanolin to cracked nipples can help to speed up the recovery process. A few drops of breast milk on your nipples can also help with healing.
Flat or Inverted Nipples
Flat or inverted nipples may initially make breastfeeding more difficult, but successful breastfeeding is still possible because babies actually breastfeed on areolas, not nipples.
A number of products are available to make breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples more manageable. Some of these products include breast pumps, breast shells, and the Avent Niplette. The best way to overcome difficulties with flat or inverted nipples is to have your alert baby latch on and suck well. While feeding, the baby will draw out the nipple to the proper shape and size needed.
Thrush and Breastfeeding
Thrush, also known as candida albicans, is a very common and relatively harmless overgrowth of yeast that can become present in your baby’s mouth and nappy area. Though we all have a certain amount of yeast present in our bodies at all times, occasionally it can grow and spread in the moist, warm areas of your body and cause an infection.
You may suspect that your baby has thrush if you notice:
- Redness and spotting in the genital area, often more prevalent toward the front rather than on the buttocks. This rash will not respond to your typical diaper rash ointment and can only be treated topically with a prescribed ointment by your physician
- White spots or film along the inside of your baby’s cheeks, gums, tongue and throat. If the infection has become worse these could be very painful, so be careful when touching or checking out the inside of the baby’s mouth. Do not try to wipe out the whiteness as it could cause your baby pain and bleeding
- Resistance to breastfeeding and / or sucking on a nipple of any kind. The sucking motion can be painful causing your baby to pull away or refuse to nurse
- Nipple or breast pain - sore, itching nipples and/or shooting pain while nursing. This means that your milk ducts are overcome with yeast
- White fungus in the folds of your nipples or breast.
Treatments for your baby in conjunction with a diet low in sugar, product sterilization and good hygiene are as follows:
- Prescription treatments from your doctor may include Nystatin in liquid and ointment form for mouth and nappy area. Clotrimazole and Fluconazole both in liquid form and given daily as prescribed
- You can also apply an anti fungal cream after each changing
- Change nappies frequently so that moisture does not sit on the baby’s bottom for long periods of time.
If you are experiencing nipple irritation or breast pain but there are no other symptoms of yeast infection in you or your baby, you could have mastitis or some other breast infection. Symptoms resemble each other; however, with mastitis, you will run low-high temperature depending on severity of infection. Both require aggressive treatment from the onset to inhibit further growth and discomfort. Experiencing the symptoms of thrush can become recurring if the proper nutrition intake is not maintained for at least a week (or two) after the symptoms cease. It is not uncommon for a baby and mother to pass it back and forth to one another if both are not treated simultaneously. Do not get discouraged because with proper treatment this too shall pass. A bout with thrush should not steer you to weaning your baby. If you feel you are ready to begin weaning, it is important to educate yourself on the process.
Mastitis is an inflamed breast infection. A case of mastitis is generally detected when a mother experiences breast tenderness, redness, pain and swelling as well as flu-like symptoms. You may be at a higher risk of developing mastitis if you have missed feedings, are feeling stressed and run-down, or if you have experienced problems with cracked or bleeding nipples. You can prevent mastitis by breastfeeding frequently and relieving engorgement promptly because milk that doesn’t flow and remains in the breasts becomes thicker and may clog ducts.
When affected by mastitis it is important for the mother to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and continue to breastfeed on the affected side. If you find breast-feeding too painful, expressing is a good alternative to help alleviate the infection. Varying the baby’s feeding position and gentle breast massages can help to alleviate pain and pressure. For some, treatment may also involve a course of antibiotics. If left untreated mastitis can lead to the development of a breast abscess, which must be surgically drained.
It is important to remember that weaning your baby at this time can be more harmful than helpful to the healing of your breast. The breast must be completely drained as often as possible to relieve the painful engorgement caused by mastitis and NOT left holding milk.