1. Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk is the golden standard and the ideal nutrition for babies. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat for your baby, since the milk is dynamic and is constantly changing to fit your baby’s specific needs.
A. Benefits for your baby
Breastfeeding is uniquely and perfectly designed for your baby. It has long-term benefits lasting into adulthood.
Any amount of milk has a positive effect on your baby and the longer you breastfeed, the longer that protection lasts.
Research shows that babies who have been fed solely with breast milk for at least 6 months have stronger immune systems, are less prone to illnesses and are most likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Also, breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of:
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
- diarrhea and vomiting.
- childhood leukemia;
- cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
B. Benefits for you
Breastfeeding can build a very strong emotional bond between you and your baby. It also has significant health benefits for you, as it lowers your risk of:
- breast cancer;
- ovarian cancer;
- cardiovascular disease
Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster.
2. Tips for a Successful Breastfeeding Experience
2.1. Breastfeed on demand (and don’t count the minutes!)
Watch the baby, not the clock. Instead of timing feedings, learn your baby’s signs and ways of telling you of wanting to feed. Some babies need to nurse many times a day, while others can take longer stretched between feedings. Allow your baby to finish the first breast before offering the other side. Do not limit baby’s time at the breast!
Your body works as a “supply and demand” process. Each time milk is removed from your breast - either through your baby feeding or through pump or hand-expressing - your breasts respond by making more milk. That is why giving bottles of formula can reduce your milk supply - your body isn’t getting the message to produce more milk, because none is being removed.
You can leave your baby on the first breast until she is satisfied and comes off on her own, and then offer the second breast. It’s typical for some babies to take one breast at some feedings and both breast at some - there is no rule, really!
2.2 Tell the hospital what you want
There are simple measures that you can take at the hospital that will ensure the staff will be on the same page as you. For example, ask whether you can keep your baby with you at all times to learn feeding cues and better establish breastfeeding.
Not all, but some modern hospital practices often tend to encourage formula “supplements” and their doctor or hospital may give them free formulas “just in case”. That is the number one reason that mothers start perceiving that they might not be producing enough milk, which then leads to a reduced milk supply and a reduced time breast-feeding their babies.
2.3 Don’t wait to get help
If your latch hurts, if your nipples are bleeding or your breasts are sore, or if you are simply feeling like something is not right, get help (you can get help, here). Sometimes a simple correction or advice from a lactation expert goes a long way, and you can be saving yourself weeks of pain and trouble - which can leave you feeling (even more) exhausted.
2.4. Practice Makes Perfect
The best things in life take time. Go easy on yourself and take your time to figure everything out. Let your baby guide you! It’s all about getting to know each other.
3. Common Questions & Concerns
A. Will I make enough milk to breastfeed?
The first days after your baby is born, your breasts make an ideal “first milk” called colostrum. Colostrum is yellowish and can often appear thin and scant, but it will be more than enough to meet your baby’s nutritional needs in those first few days. It will also help a newborn’s digestive tract and prepare itself to digest breast milk. As your baby needs more milk and breastfeeds more, your breasts will respond by making more milk. Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, water or other liquids) for 6 months. If you supplement with formula, your breasts can start producing less milk.
Milk supply normally varies throughout the day and over weeks and months. As long as your baby is allowed to breastfeed on cue, your milk supply will typically accommodate baby’s needs.
B. Is it true that certain foods can increase milk supply?
There are no studies indicating that eating certain foods can increase milk supply. The body works on a supply and demand basis. The more often you remove milk from the body, the more milk the body will produce.
C. I feed my baby every 2 hours, but a friend of mine has a baby the same age and she feeds him every 3 hours. Which one is right? Is there a normal frequency by age?
It is very important to understand that it is the baby that drives the milk production, so there is no strict rule. Some babies enjoy smaller, more frequent feedings, while others are happy to take in more. It is important to allow the baby to determine how long and how often they feed.
D. Is there any ideal amount of time each breastfeeding session should last?
There is no specific length of time a baby should nurse. Mothers and babies should find their own rhythms!
E. How do you know the baby has eaten enough?
Part of being a mother is also learning how to read your baby. And you will get there, no doubt! Here are some signs that tell us that a baby is satisfied:
The baby is relaxed after feedings;
The baby has plenty of wet diapers;
The baby is gaining weight.
Trust yourself! Mothers know best:)
It is normal for your breasts to become larger and feel hard, heavy, warmer and uncomfortable in the first few days after birth, when the milk first comes in. The skin around the breasts can appear shiny and tight. You may also have a low-grade fever. This is all normal. Engorgement typically begins on the first to fifth day after birth and subsides within a few days if properly treated. However, every woman is different and if you are experiencing engorgement for a little while longer, know that it is also normal and that your body will soon adapt itself to your baby.
B. Plugged Duct
A plugged duct is an area of the breast where milk flow has been obstructed or blocked. It is essentially milk that was supposed to get out but didn’t for some reason, such as a tight bra! The mother will usually notice a hard lump or bump on the breast that might feel tender and hot and look red. It is also possible to feel just a localized tenderness or pain, without an obvious lump. A plugged duct will typically more painful and tender before a feeding, and less painful and tender afterwards.
It is extremely important to treat a plug immediately to avoid it turning into a mastitis.
If you delay or skip breastfeeding sessions - and you do not empty the breasts (milk stasis) - your breasts may become too full and engorged, which can lead to mastitis. You may also get mastitis when bacteria enters the breast through a cracked or irritated nipple. Stress and fatigue are also known to increase your risk of getting mastitis.
Mastitis usually starts abruptly and as a painful area in one breast, that may be red or warm to the touch. Typical mastitis symptoms include fever, chills and body aches, just like you feel when you get the flu.
It can happen to any woman, although mastitis is most common during the first 6 months of breastfeeding, especially in the first weeks. It can leave the mother feeling overtired and run-down. Add the lines to the demands of taking care of a newborn, and many women quit breastfeeding altogether! However, you can continue to nurse your baby (nursing will not harm the baby!). In fact, breastfeeding helps to clear up infection faster.
D. Damaged/cracked Nipples
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. However, in the first three to five days after birth, you may experience some nipple soreness when your baby latches on. It is usually the first latch of the feed that hurts the most. However, if this problem persists it may be a sign that something isn’t right with the baby’s latch, position, or suck. Having cracked or sore nipples can be a very stressful and upsetting experience for a new mother. However, by adjusting the baby’s latch and position, the problem can go away. Cracked nipples is one of the most common causes for mothers to stop breastfeeding, so it is extremely important that you seek help as soon as you can if you experience this.
Your IBCLC or health professional will evaluate the problem and help correct the latch so that you can enjoy breast-feeding comfortably and without any pain.
See section 6 “Get Help” if you are not sure who to contact.
5.1 “Breastfeeding is always easy”
Breastfeeding is usually described as being “natural”, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. In the first days, many mothers will need practical support and advice with positioning their baby for breastfeeding and making sure their baby is correctly attached to the breast. Breastfeeding takes time and practice. It is also time intensive and as such mothers need help and support from their friends and family members. But it is oh so worth it!
5.2 “You shouldn’t breastfeed if you’re sick”
Breastfeeding while sick is actually a good idea. In most cases, mothers can and should continue breastfeeding when they’re sick. In fact, breastfeeding while sick can have many benefits for the baby as breast milk has antibacterial and antiviral elements. Amazingly, if you are breastfeeding and are exposed to a bacterial or viral infection, your body makes antibodies to combat it; these are then transferred to your baby through your milk. This means you can actually be lowering your baby’s risk of contracting the same bug.
If you have a cold or flu, diarrhea, vomiting and even mastitis, you should keep breastfeeding as normal.
The only exception is if you’re taking medication that is not safe for breastfeeding mothers, so always seek medical advice to determine whether it’s best to continue or interrupt breastfeeding. Additionally, (but never in place of medical advice!) you can also check this website www.e-lactancia.org for medication compatibility.
5.3 “I just don’t produce enough milk”
Low milk supply is rare. The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. Most babies that gain weight too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The most common reason for this is that the baby is not latched correctly (because of tongue tie, for example), or because of other maternal hormones or infant condition. Know that many of these issues can be reversed with the right information and support.
6. Get Help
Breastfeeding support is often necessary to help new mothers initiate and continue to breastfeed theirs babies. There are many kinds of help available for breastfeeding mothers. You may hear the words “lactation consultant” for all of them but they do not have the same accreditation across the board.
An International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the only internationally certified healthcare professional in the clinical management of breastfeeding and human lactation. They are the gold standard of lactation care.
At Grow Maternity, we only work with IBCLC’s because we strongly believe that their rigorous professional standards and specialized knowledge and skills will be pivotal for the success of your breastfeeding experience from day one.
There are several reasons you’d want appointment with an IBCLC:
You are in pain or experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding (e.g. engorged breasts, cracked nipples, plugged ducts, mastitis);
You are concerned about your milk supply/you think your baby might be hungry;
You want to start pumping, or you are having trouble with the pump;
You are pregnant and you want to know more about how to prepare for breastfeeding;
Anything else you need, really.
Whether it’s for some tips on boosting your milk supply, or just to get a little reassurance that you’re doing okay, request an appointment. It’s never too early or too late.
If you want an appointment with one of our trusted IBCLC’s, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although every effort is made to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding breastfeeding, the information provided herein is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute an in-person evaluation by an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) or by a qualified health professional. If you are concerned with your health or the health of your baby, consult with your health professional for an in-person evaluation of your individual situation.