Breast feeding your baby

New mothers are often overwhelmed with the idea of exclusive breastfeeding their babies but this is considered the healthiest way to feed your baby. We now recommend exclusive breast feeding for the first six months after delivery.

Why is breastfeeding best for your baby?

Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs in the right amounts, and in forms that are very easily absorbed. Its composition changes as your baby grows, to produce the right milk for your baby.

A baby’s immune system is not fully developed at birth. It protects your baby from infections and other diseases because your antibodies are passed to her through your milk. It also helps you and your baby to get closer, as the bond between you can grow stronger by constant holding and skin contact.

Why is breastfeeding best for you?

It is said that breastfeeding is probably the most satisfying experience of becoming a mother. Besides making you a more complete woman, it also helps your uterus return to its normal size more quickly because of the extra secretion of the milking hormone.  Also the body uses up extra calories and energy to make milk, it can help you to lose some of the weight gained in pregnancy.

Breastfeeding may also increase your protection against breast and ovarian cancer. Practically, breastfeeding is much quicker and easier than bottle feeding. There is no need to wash, measure out, prepare feeds or sterilise bottles; and it’s always on tap at just the right temperature for your baby.

Breastfeeding immediately after delivery

Majority of pregnant women have milk ready for their babies when they are born. This milk is called colostrum and it is mostly pale yellow in colour. Colostrum is very concentrated and full of the goodness of antibodies that can boost your baby’s immunity. This milk is produced in very small amount but is full of nature’s goodness. Do not worry too much about not producing enough milk as your baby’s requirement is also very limited. However you may have to feed quite frequently but the more you’ll feed, more will be the secretion eventually.

Babies are often very alert in the first hour after birth and keen to feed. If your condition allows, just hold and let your baby suckle you. It calms them and fosters a deep bonding experience between the two of you. If for some reason you are unable to feed your baby for the first two hours, make sure that the baby receives some nourishment by way of expressed milk or top feeds.

Managing through the initial days….

After the first 48-72 hours of birth, body starts to produce the white, thinner milk instead of the thick colostrum. You may feel that the breasts are becoming fuller or leakier. Please do not worry about producing enough milk as your body adapts itself according to your baby’s needs if you are exclusively breastfeeding.

Demand feeding is considered better as it allows your baby to decide when it has had enough. Feed them as often as they want. There would be days when babies tend to sleep more or feed more. If your baby does not seem too irritable then just go with the flow of the day.

Sometimes, breast milk may leak from your breast. This happens usually in the early days when supply is more than demand. It is also not unusual for the other breast to leak while you are feeding your baby from one breast. This is considered perfectly normal. You may want to use some breast pads to keep yourself dry and to avoid spoiling your clothes. If you decide to buy breast pads, it is necessary to change them after each feed. Plastic-backed ones would protect your outer garments but may make your skin even soggier.

At the beginning make sure your baby is well latched to your breast. This will help your body make the right amount of milk and stop your breasts from getting sore. When your baby comes off the first breast, offer the second. The next time you want to breastfeed, start from the second breast first.

It doesn’t matter if she is not interested or don’t feed for long. At times your baby might seem hungrier than usual and feed for longer or more often. Your body responds automatically and makes more milk to provide the extra needed. This is why you can feed more than one baby at the same time.

There is no need to offer infant formula milk or water in addition to breast milk. If your baby feels hungrier, feed her more often rather than offer infant formula.

After a while, you will get to know the signs that mean your baby is ready to feed. Most babies will signal that they are hungry by opening and closing their mouths, making sucking noises, opening their eyes or turning their heads to bring their mouths towards you.

What are good latching and breastfeeding signs in the baby
(reproduced from the RCOG patient information leaflet)

If the following signs are present, it is considered good latching:

• Your baby has a large mouthful of breast;
• Your baby’s chin is in contact with your breast;
• It doesn’t hurt you to feed (although the first few sucks may feel strong);
• If you can see the dark skin around your nipple, you should see more dark skin above your baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip;
• Your baby’s cheeks stay rounded during feeding;
• Your baby rhythmically takes long sucks and swallows. It is normal for them to pause sometimes;
• Your baby finishes the feed and comes off the breast on their own.

How to breastfeed?

Every mother eventually customises a convenient feeding position that is more suitable for her lifestyle. You can also try a few till you find what works best for you.

The RCOG recommends that the baby’s head and body should be in a straight line, so that they can swallow easily. Hold your baby close to you and try to support the back, shoulders and neck. They should be able to tilt their heads back easily, and shouldn’t have to reach out to feed. Your baby’s nose should be opposite your nipple so that they can get a big mouthful of breast from underneath the nipple. To attach your baby to your breast, hold them close to you with their nose level with your nipple. Let their head tip back a little so that their top lip can brush against your nipple. When your baby’s mouth is wide open, bring him or her to the breast with the head back and chin first. They should then take a large mouthful of breast and your nipple should go towards the roof of your baby’s mouth.

If you’ve had a surgery or your episiotomy stitches hurt, it might be more useful to put a pillow in your lap and support the baby over it. This will minimize your back strain and ensure good latching.

If babies are getting enough milk, they will appear satisfied after feeds. Your baby should be gaining weight after the first two weeks and your breasts and nipples should not be sore. After the first few days your newborn should have at least six wet nappies a day and from day four onwards they should also pass at least two yellow stools every day. Babies who are breastfed tend to pass more watery stools as compared to formula fed infants.

Try not to give your baby other food or drink while you are breastfeeding, as this will reduce your milk supply and you might increase the chance of your baby getting ill. Also, try not to give your baby a dummy, as babies who have a dummy sometimes find it difficult to attach to the breast.

It can be a while before you feel confident. Don’t be scared to ask your doctor or nurse to help you with breastfeeding.