Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that you are capable of providing nourishment to another being. And the ultimate bond between the new mother and the baby starts from breastfeeding. Spending hours gazing at the little one not only acts as a building block for your relationship but also those gentle strokes & soft touch helps you understand the baby better.
Breastfed Is Best: But Why?
Breast milk is nature’s perfect baby food. It contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that scientists have yet to replicate. The benefits of breastfeeding range from the prevention of childhood obesity to decreased risk of infection, SIDS, and allergies.
Did you know the benefits of breastfeeding don’t only extend to your baby?
As it turns out, nursing also has some advantages for moms:
- Lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as other diseases
- Helps you lose pregnancy weight
- Triggers your uterus to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size
- Reduces the risk of postpartum depression
My Breastfeeding Saga
Before our babies arrived, I had read and heard about all sorts of things about breastfeeding like various positions, the duration and all. But what I was not prepared for was the fact that while nursing may be natural, it’s also downright difficult.
I remember attending one of those prenatal sessions conducted by a renowned clinic in Gurgaon. Breastfeeding was one of the topics covered there. It didn’t seem to me then (while I was in the 6th month with twins) that breastfeeding is a subject that needs to be discussed also. I just thought of it as a very simple natural process and that the babies would be gifted with the technique to suck milk and fill themselves up. How silly of me back then!!??
So, once the babies were out, the following day, exactly 24 hours after my c-sec, I was asked to walk up to the nursery section ( where my babies were staying) to feed them for the first time. Those 40-50 steps appeared to be a Herculean task at that moment. Because of spasm and stitches, I almost felt that I wouldn’t be able to walk ever in my life!
That being a temporary stage, I somehow managed through the going-to-nursery-and-feeding-the-babies exercise pretty smoothly during my 4-day stay at the hospital.
The real challenge began once we were back home with the babies. Now, this is the stage when most people give up and start formula milk (also called top feed).
I don’t believe that no breastfeeding means you love your baby any less. However, I had always read and believed that breastmilk is the best for babies. Breastfed babies not only have better immunity but also grow up as individuals with a greater sense of security, logical reasoning, and quantitative abilities.
So the idea of feeding them formula milk was never in our “plan”! And that’s how our breastfeeding saga started.
Breastfeeding Tips You Will Never Find In Books!
Nursing your baby is no easy feat. If you decide to give breastfeeding a try, rest assured that with a little bit of patience, some smart planning, and a firm resolution, you have an increased chance of success. Read on for some simple, proven tips.
Luckily, I’ve rounded up some simple, proven breastfeeding tips to help you make it through those early days.
1. Create A Dedicated Comfortable Space For Breastfeeding
- Before the baby arrives, create a “nursing station”— an area with a comfortable chair, a breastfeeding pillow, and a side table for snacks, water, nursing pads, burp cloths, your phone, and a good book. You’ll spend a lot of time there!
- Hot water bottles became my buddy during breastfeeding sessions because of constant backaches during the initial weeks
- While there are some definite perks to breastfeeding, let’s admit, there are some not so great things about the process. When it comes to exclusively nursing the baby, well, things get a bit boring at times. For some, it might get a bit isolating too. You might enjoy having something to do while nursing – so you can load up a phone or tablet with games, books, and music – or you might prefer to soak up the relative quiet and enjoy the solitude
- If you have older children, you may want to keep soft books or quiet toys nearby so they can play within eyesight as you nurse
2. Your Baby Will Always Be Hungry!
Babies, being so tiny, have an even tinier tummy. As a result, they fill up themselves, pee once and get hungry again. While this is quite annoying, that’s the way these little ones are! In the initial months, you will have a baby latched to your breast all the time. Plus, breastmilk, unlike formula milk digests more quickly and makes babies hungrier which, indirectly means, more sleepless nights for you.
Pro Tip: Do not give up!
So before moving ahead, read point #1 again.
3. Position Yourself & The Baby Correctly
- Mom gets completely comfortable and the baby comes to mom. The baby should be up high right across from the breasts with the mom not having to lean over the baby at all. Use a nursing stool if needed to be able to get your feet flat in a comfortable position. Point your nipple at the baby’s upper lip or nose and make sure their stomachs are touching yours. This puts the baby’s head in the perfect position to latch on
- Try different positions if things are not working out. Most first-time moms are familiar with cross-cradle and football holds, but if these aren’t comfortable for you, try something different until you find what works
- Side-lying can be delightful as it will allow you to nurse and rest in bed at the same time. But this should be tried only after consulting with the doctor to avoid any risk to the baby
- Whatever position you adopt, make sure YOU are comfortable. If you’re hunched over while nursing, you may end up with an aching neck and back, which will make it harder for you to have a successful breastfeeding session
- If you need a little extra support, try a nursing pillow
4. Focus On Those Little Feet
Babies always seem to nurse better when their feet are touching something, like your leg, the arm of the chair, or a pillow tucked next to you. It makes them feel more secure.
5. Keep The Baby Awake While Nursing
Babies tend to fall asleep while nursing. While this may feel frustrating at that time, try to figure out ways to keep the baby awake and active at the breast.
- Skin to skin helps them stay awake
- Also, a good trick is to take their upper arm and stretch it out or do a chicken wing motion to get them swallowing again
- If needed, take them off and wake them up well before putting the baby back onto the breast
6. The Right Latch Is Key
Be prepared if your baby is not able to latch properly. This is a very common problem and as a result, moms resort to formula milk through bottles or spoons.
Habits form fast so it’s vital to get the latch right at the beginning. During your recovery time at the hospital, ask for a lactation consultant or nurse to check your latch whenever you nurse.
- Your baby’s nose is nearly touching your breast
- Her lips are flanged outward in a kissy face
- Her mouth is positioned over the nipple, covering half an inch of the lower breast
You’ll see your baby’s jaw working all the way back to the ear. The temples will wiggle and you may hear a swallowing sound.
If you feel any discomfort or pain, gently place your finger in the baby’s mouth to break the suction and try again. You’ll be tempted to just grin and bear it–anything to get a fussy baby eating–but trust me, you’ll both be happier if you insist upon proper form from the beginning.
7. Expect Challenges, But Remember It Gets Better!
Breastfeeding isn’t a cakewalk for most moms, and it can hurt, at least a little, at first.
- Your nipples can be cracked and raw from the constant action, and your breasts are full and sore. If you’re feeling pain, be sure to reach out to a healthcare professional
- Breastfeeding works on the thumb rule of demand-supply. As long as the demand exists, supply will get managed accordingly. Initially, the quantity of milk your body produces might not be too much at any point. So one has to feed the baby almost every 1 hour
- At around 6 weeks your body would know how much is the milk requirement and post that a sufficient amount of milk is produced – sufficient enough to feed the baby. By then your body adjusts to the baby’s requirement
- On many occasions, one would feel that not enough milk is getting produced. However, till the time your baby’s weight is showing a gradual increase, it means all is well!
- Do what you can to minimise the stress and focus on the good – you’ll be glad you fought hard for breastfeeding. After all, most things in life that are worthwhile are sometimes difficult. But in the end, you’re glad you did them
8. Eat & Drink
- While you are constantly worried about keeping the baby full, you need to take utmost care of yourself first! So do not get annoyed when your mom or mom in law advises you to keep drinking water or milk
- You may have eaten a lot while you were pregnant, but you don’t know the meaning of bottomless pit until that first month of breastfeeding! Consider this: you only need 250-300 extra calories to grow a baby, but you need 500 extra calories to make milk and feed your baby!
- While it’s a natural process and the body starts making milk “automatically”, it is always a good idea to keep yourself hydrated. For increased milk supply it is not necessary to drink only milk or plain water, you can include things like coconut water, juices, green tea in your schedule
- Be prepared by keeping a basket of snacks next to your usual nursing spot. Snacks like nuts, and granola bars, dried fruit, coconut strips and more are quick and easy to grab. String cheese, yoghurt, and makhanas make great snacks too
9. The Rule Is ‘Baby Comes To Mommy’
Mom should not take the breast to the baby. The only thing that moves is the baby. Move the baby quickly and swiftly to the breast when they have a wide-open mouth. The push to bring the baby to the breast should be on their back and shoulders, not their head. This allows them to approach the breast chin-first and keeps the nipple in the proper position of going up and back barely making it under their top lip and keeping the bottom lip as far from the nipple as possible.
10. Don’t Watch The Clock
Allow your baby to stay on your breast as long as they are still swallowing. Time means nothing depending on what the baby is doing while on the breast. When the baby is not swallowing any longer, take them off, burp, change the diaper and be sure they are good and awake and put them on the second breast.
However, it is a good idea to keep a watch/track of the number of feeds and the number of wet and poopy diapers for the first few weeks. You will never be able to remember all of it because you are so tired, and if you are having difficulties, this information is very important. Do this in whatever way is easiest for you. Write it down with checkmarks on a piece of paper, use ready-made charts, or use a breastfeeding app.
Pro Tip: Breastfeed as long as you and the baby want to.
Breastfeed Anywhere, Anytime!
Sitting home alone or structuring your life around a breastfeeding schedule can feel like a chore. You may be nervous about nursing in public, but once you get over that hump, you’ll feel free to go places and live your life.
Many moms cut back on breastfeeding after six months, others go for a year or two, and some go even longer. You’ll know in your heart of hearts what works for you! Many babies suckle for comfort and enjoy that special bonding time as much as you do.
While breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a mom can do for her child, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or even intuitive. Whether you’re figuring out how to hold your infant, what her cries mean, or why he doesn’t seem to latch, nursing can feel completely overwhelming, especially when you’re running on just a few hours of sleep.
Lining up the right help from day one will help you build the confidence you need to weather high or low milk supply, fast or slow letdown, latching difficulty, tenderness, or clogged milk ducts. Let your partner help; sometimes it takes more than two hands to get everyone and everything into place. Your paediatrician, obstetrician, or hospital may have breastfeeding support groups for new moms. It truly takes a village to raise a child. So accept help when it’s offered and ask for help when you need it.
Not to forget, this stage, like any other stage in life, is temporary. This opportunity never comes back. Try to enjoy it as much. Trust me, there is nothing more satisfying & fulfilling than feeding a baby….a life that has been “made” in you, by you!
What If I Can’t Breastfeed?
Yes, every mom knows that breastfeeding is best. How can we not know? The media, government campaigns, global organisations, signs in our OB/GYN, and paediatrician’s offices, and every parenting book or website everywhere around the globe you would come up with reports on studies about the benefits of breastfeeding. We got it. We know that breastfeeding is best. Thank you very much.
But there is definitely no shame in accepting if your body isn’t supporting you through the nursing journey. Whatever your reasons for not breastfeeding – health, intense discomfort, or unrelenting frustration – give yourself a break. Good parenting is more than breastfeeding. Remember that.