Preparing for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is by far the best, most natural way to feed your baby. Getting started with breastfeeding, though, can be a little intimidating, scary and even painful in those early days. Knowing how to prepare the breast for breastfeeding both before delivery and in the early days of nursing will help you reduce and prevent the pain of sore or cracked nipples and fatigue. Thus ensuring your nursing experience is the most pleasant it can be.
Believe it or not, your body begins preparing itself for breastfeeding right from the start of your pregnancy. Tingling nipples and tenderness in very early pregnancy, and your breasts getting bigger, are two major signs.
The blood supply to your breasts increases during pregnancy as well, and your milk ducts and milk-producing cells develop more with each pregnancy that you have.
However, the size of your breasts before pregnancy, and how much they grow during pregnancy, don’t determine how much milk you'll be able to produce for your baby. If you're small-breasted, you'll still be able to feed your baby all the milk he/she needs.
In the first couple of days, your body will be making colostrum, the perfect first milk for your baby. It’s thick, golden and delivered in small quantities. About two to five days after birth, your milk will come in and by around 4-6 weeks the breast milk production and feeding pattern are well established.
Your natural body odour plays a part in your baby’s bonding with you and helps to get breastfeeding started. The areolas of your nipples release oil that naturally lubricates your nipples. This oil also smells of amniotic fluid, which is a familiar and attractive smell for your baby, especially just after she's born.
Your baby will soon learn that your breasts smell of you, colostrum and milk. These act as a strong draw to cuddle up with you and feed. So avoid using scented soaps, perfumes and body lotions in the early days of breastfeeding, particularly on or around your breasts.
Things to do before you deliver:
1. Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding even before your baby's born. Talk to other nursing moms, read books to familiarize yourself.
2. You might want to try some gentle breast massage. This can help you become more comfortable handling your breasts, and may also be useful later on if you need to express your milk.
3. It is a good idea to check for flat or inverted nipples while you are pregnant, as this can sometimes make it a bit more difficult for a baby to latch on to the nipple correctly.
4. Invest in good Nursing bras: These bras are comfortable and provide the extra support your larger-than-usual breasts need. They come with flaps that you can easily undo at feeding time. It's best to wait until the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to shop for nursing bras when your breasts will be closest to their postpartum size. That said, once your milk comes in, your breasts will be bigger. They may even grow another size or two! So keep that in mind when buying nursing bras.
5. Nursing pillows: Specially designed to support your baby while you're nursing, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They're more convenient — and better at keeping your baby in position — than regular pillows.
6. Breast pads: It's normal for your breasts to leak while you're nursing, and another baby's cry or the sight of an infant can bring on a gush of milk when you least expect it. Disposable breast pads (or reusable, washable ones) will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.
7. A breast pump: Even if you're not planning to pump regularly, a breast pump can be a useful tool — to help relieve engorgement, for example.
Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after you deliver. Babies who are breastfed within the first hour generally have more successful breastfeeding experiences than those who aren’t. Even if you have a caesarean birth, you can still hold your baby against your skin soon after the birth, with some help. This may be in the operation theatre, or the recovery room immediately afterwards. Your baby may wriggle to your breast and feed, or she may smell, lick or nuzzle your breast, have a rest, and then try to feed later.
Room in with baby, so that you can breastfeed frequently and also ensure your wishes aren’t ignored concerning the baby. Have plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your baby when he/she's born. Skin-to-skin helps babies to get breastfeeding started and increases the length of time that mums breastfeed.
Chances are good your nipples will crack at some point early on in your nursing experience. While breast care creams will help relieve pain, natural methods work well too. Express a small amount of breast milk and rub it gently across the nipples then let it air dry.
If the breasts become overly full or engorged, you'll want to gently press a warm wet washcloth around the swollen or hardened milk ducts to soften them up. Of course, the best way to relieve engorged breasts is to put your baby to your breast. It may be painful momentarily as the baby first latches on to the engorged breast, but as soon as the milk starts to flow, you'll experience great relief. It takes about four to six weeks for your milk supply to become well-established.
When they say to sleep while the baby is sleeping, you indeed should! This is NOT just a friendly piece of advice to pamper the new mom – it is a necessity. Your endorphins/adrenaline will carry you for about a week before you crash – hard. Don’t let that happen – get help from family and friends, and focus on recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding.
Frequent nursing encourages a good milk supply and reduces engorgement. Aim for nursing at least 10 – 12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN’T nurse too often–you CAN nurse too little.
Nurse at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth)–don’t wait until your baby is crying. Allow your baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively, then offer the second breast. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first–wake your baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing.
All of this will help you and your baby to get breastfeeding off to a great start.
The following things are normal:
-Frequent and/or long feedings.
-Varying nursing patterns from day to day.
-Cluster nursing (very frequent to constant nursing) for several hours—usually evenings—each day. This may coincide with the normal “fussy time” that most babies have in the early months.
-Is the baby getting enough milk?
-The average breastfed newborn gains 200-300 grams/week. Consult with the baby’s doctor and your lactation consultant if the baby is not gaining as expected.
-If the baby is adequately breastfed, he/she will pass urine at least 12-14 times a day.
-Motions also may be passed around 4-5 times and they will be watery.
If all these parameters are being met, you can rest assured that the baby is adequately breastfed. In case of any doubts always feel free to contact your obstetrician and paediatrician.
Good luck, and enjoy your new baby!