It is recommended that if you are able to breastfeed that you do so, as it can provide a newborn with the essential nutrients that are required for initial immunity, health, growth and development. Many women experience difficulties with breastfeeding, however there are many resources available to aid you in the process, including the specialist doctors and nurses at Western Specialist Centre in Melbourne, who are dedicated to providing the best possible care to both mother and baby. Your obstetrician and midwife will offer support and can arrange a meeting with a lactation consultant if necessary.
Watch out for signs of hunger in your baby and breastfeed then. You should avoid waiting until they are over-hungry and cranky, and as a general rule in the first few weeks you are likely to be feeding your baby 8-12 times a day. You will need to be patient and avoid hurrying your baby through nursing, generally, and babies will feed on each breast for around 10-20 minutes. Make yourself comfortable and support your head, neck and arms during feeding, as your comfort will influence the flow of your milk.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk is an easily digested substance with a mixture of fat, vitamins and proteins essential for the growth of your baby. The process is also incredibly beneficial in building a bond between mother and child. The antibodies present in your breastmilk will improve the immunity of your baby and can help in the fight against bacteria and viruses. Research has shown that babies that are breastfed are less likely to have respiratory illnesses, ear infections and diarrhoea.
The breastfeeding process has many benefits for the mother as well. It can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and osteoporosis and the hormone released can help reduce uterine bleeding and aid in returning the uterus to its original size. It can also speed up post-partum weight loss, as it burns up extra calories.
Positions for Breastfeeding
There are many positions to try when breastfeeding your baby and no one is better than the other; it is about finding what works best for you and your baby. You will be sitting still for long periods of time, so it is important to be comfortable and relaxed.
- The cradle position is where your baby’s whole body is facing you while the head is resting in the fold of your elbow. You can support your baby’s head and neck with your free arm and rest their stomach against your body.
- The football position is placing your baby along the length of your forearm while your palm supports the head and neck. This is the best position for newborns. It also protects the mother from any excessive pressure from being placed on her stomach if she is recovering from a caesarean section.
- The side-lying position is good for night feeds or if you are recovering from an episiotomy. Lying your baby next to you can lift your breast and position the nipple in your baby’s mouth. Supporting the baby’s head and neck after they have latched will avoid straining or twisting.
To avoid sore nipples, your baby should be latched on to your nipple properly before feeding. You can aid this by positioning them comfortably so there is no need for them to twist their neck. Position the centre of your nipple just above your baby’s tongue, and you may try stroking your baby’s lower lip with your nipple as they will instinctively open their mouth wider. For correct latching, your baby’s lips should cover your entire nipple as well as part of the areola. This may cause a painless tingling sensation throughout the feeding. Your baby may not latch on correctly every time, and if this is the case, release the suction with your finger, reposition, and try again.
Challenges Encountered During Breastfeeding
This is fairly standard during the initial few weeks of breastfeeding and so you should ensure your baby is latching on correctly to combat any discomfort. Your milk ducts will need to be emptied regularly to avoid any pain, swelling or hardness of the breasts. Any nipple soreness should cease after the first few weeks.
Dry and cracked nipples
You should avoid any cosmetics that contain alcohol, as they can cause the nipples to become dry and cracked. Applying a lanolin-based cream may help and changing your bra pads often will also help.
A blockage in your milk ducts may occur which can cause a sore spot on your breast. Frequent breastfeeding, massage or a warm compress can relieve this.
Mastitis or nipple infection
It is possible to get a bacterial infection which will result in fever, flu and fatigue. This will need to be treated by a doctor with a course of antibiotics and you should check with them about continuing to nurse your baby.
Milk Storage and pumping
If you are unable to breastfeed at certain times or are going back to work, you will be able to express your milk ahead of time. The milk should be refrigerated and warmed prior to use, thaw the milk in a bowl of warm water and not in a microwave. Your baby may take a few weeks to adjust to bottle feeding, so you should start experimenting with expressing milk early.
It is best to stay relaxed and calm during the feeding process to allow the milk to flow easily, since stress can interfere with the release of milk.
Producing a sufficient amount of milk
If you breastfeed regularly your body is able to produce a continuous supply of milk, though many new mothers worry they are not producing enough. You can monitor if your baby is receiving enough by the general rule that they should be wetting 6-8 nappies a day. Your milk production will be affected by your nutrition, fluid intake and amount of rest, so it is important to take care of yourself during this time too.
There are instances where breastfeeding your baby is inadvisable such as
- You are HIV positive
- You are receiving chemotherapy
- You are using illegal drugs
- You are taking prescription medication (you will need to consult with your doctor about your medication and its effect on your breastfeeding)
- Your baby is galactosaemic which means they cannot tolerate the galactose in your breast milk.
Remember that if you have a cold or the flu, you can continue to breastfeed; it will not harm your baby, who will gain immunity from the virus.
For more information about breastfeeding contact Western Specialist Centre in Melbourne.