As for pregnancy and childbirth, you may have listened to the experiences of other women for breastfeeding too: it worked great for some and it all went wrong for others. This excess of information could have generated a lot of confusion in you and it is for this reason that we have listed here all the essential informations for women about to breastfeed.
Breast preparation during pregnancy
During pregnancy, the milk glands in your breasts begin to grow and develop. Hormones like estrogen, progesterone and prolactin play an important role in preparing your breasts to breastfeed your baby.
As pregnancy progresses, your breasts will become bigger. Your areola, the circular area surrounding the nipple, will become darker. This is a sign that the hormones are doing their job and your body is preparing to produce breast milk for your baby.
When should you start breastfeeding?
You should start breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born. Ideally, you should try your first breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Most babies are very receptive in the first two hours of life. Even though they are able to be breastfed for very short periods (their stomach is very small indeed), breastfeeding attempts will cause you breasts to produce more milk.
Especially in the beginning, your baby will probably breastfeed for a short time but very often. As the days go by, your baby’s breastfeeding pattern will signal to your body how much breast milk to produce. Your milk supply will naturally adapt to her/his demands.
Breastfeeding and latching
How your baby latches onto your breast is very important. A good latch means your baby will be able to suck milk from your breasts efficiently, which should keep your milk supply constant and plentiful.
Guiding a baby to latch on correctly can take some trying. To latch on properly, your baby should latch onto your entire nipple and part of your areola. If her/his lips are turned outwards (like those of a fish) and her/his chin and nose touch the breast, these are good signs that she/he has latched on correctly. If your baby has only taken your nipple in his mouth, gently use a finger to break the suction between her/his mouth and your breast and try to reposition it.
Positions for breastfeeding
An effective breastfeeding position promotes a good latch on the breast. You can choose to breastfeed in any position you feel comfortable in. You can learn common breastfeeding positions to see what you like or find yours.
For infants who have difficulty latching on, many breastfeeding mums find the lying down or cross-cradle position helpful. However, it’s a good idea to try a few different positions so that you can switch between them. By changing breastfeeding positions from one feed to another, your baby can drain milk from different areas of your breasts.
The production and stages of breast milk
Breast milk is produced on the basis of supply and demand. Basically, the more frequently and effectively your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce. Your breast milk will go through three main stages in the first few weeks of life:
- Days 0-5: During the first few days of breastfeeding, you will mainly produce colostrum. It has a yellow or orange color and is thick, rich and full of essential nutrients and immunoglobulins. You won’t produce much colostrum, but it will fill your newborn baby’s tummy with everything it needs.
- Days 5-14: Your breast milk will increase in quantity or “come in” around the third or fourth day. During this time, your breasts will feel much fuller and heavier as your breast milk switches from colostrum to transition milk (a cross between colostrum and mature milk).
- From day 14 onwards: around the second week, your breasts will produce mature milk. This milk has a thinner consistency at the beginning of the feed and is denser and richer in nutrients at the end.
When it’s time to breastfeed, you may feel your breasts fill up. Then, a few minutes after feeding, you may feel a feeling of emptying. This leaking of milk is called the milk ejection or ejection reflex. The drop reflex is also responsible for leaking from the breast when your baby cries or is close to feeding time. It is a normal physiological response.
How to understand if your baby is getting enough breast milk
While it is a very common concern for many first-time moms, it is rare for a person to be unable to produce enough breast milk for her/his baby. If your baby latches on properly and breastfeeds every 2 to 3 hours, your body should be producing enough breast milk.
To be sure, you can keep an eye out for signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- gain weight constantly
- make 6 to 8 wet diapers a day
- having regular bowel movements
What products do you need to breastfeed?
There are many products useful for breastfeeding. If your baby has problems latching on and consequently you suffer from breast fissures, you can use the comfortable Silverette the original nipple shields. They are worn under the bra and removed at feeding time.
Many breastfeeding mothers appreciate absorbent breastfeeding pads that help protect clothes from leaking breasts during the release process. For breastfeeding on the go, many moms rely on an excellent nursing bra.
Breastfeeding after a caesarean childbirth
If you have to give birth by caesarean section, you can still breastfeed. Breastfeeding after a caesarean section can be a little more challenging as your body needs healing, but it is certainly possible and healthy for you and your baby. With a little help in positioning the baby correctly, you may be able to breastfeed right away.
The use of the breast pump
Many breastfeeding women use a breast pump. Some use it occasionally to relieve breast tension due to milk production or to give the baby an occasional baby bottle; others use it regularly to pump out the milk to be fed to the baby in the bottle because they have to go back to work. Some decide to use the breast pump and feed the baby exclusively with the baby bottle. If you decide to use a breast pump, try to buy a breast pump that fits your lifestyle and suitable bags or containers for milk.
Take care of yourself
Recovering from childbirth while breastfeeding can be exhausting. If you have other children, it can be even more difficult. But in order to take care of your baby, you need to take care of yourself too.
It is fundamental that you take the time to heal and rest. This includes taking naps to counter postpartum fatigue, eating healthy food, staying hydrated and finding time for some exercise.