Breastfeeding – Hacks That Help and Myths That Don’t
There are always plenty of people around to give you ‘good’ advice on what to do when it comes to your baby – and nothing seems to encourage more helpful advice than breastfeeding! Some advice is genuinely helpful, and some just makes mums more confused and anxious.
Hacks that Help
Here are some clever things that will help make breastfeeding easier to manage – both at home and when you are out and about:
- Double Up – If you are out and about and know you will want to breast feed, wear a tanktop under your blouse or t-shirt. You can lift the top layer, and lower the bottom one, so neither your chest nor belly is exposed.
- Nursing Apps – there are a number of nursing apps that you can download that will help you track when, how long and which breast your baby fed from as well as nappy changes. If you are concerned or anxious these can help you relax in the knowledge that you can monitor what you and baby are up to.
- Mammary Minders – If you are worried you won’t remember which breast you fed baby from last you can actually buy ribbons that clip on your bra strap. But just as easy is putting a hair tie or bracelet on your wrist – even a ring on your finger.
- Milk Savers – As an alternative to breast pads these fit over the nipple of the breast you are not feeding from and catch any letdown from the breast. This can be stored and used later – waste not want not!
- Sore Breasts – If your breasts are very sore and engorged put cabbage leaves straight from the fridge in your bra. The enzymes in the leaves will give you some relief. This is also helpful when you are weaning.
- Let Down – If your breasts are not ‘letting down’ for any reason try a warm washcloth and a massage. This should help get the milk flowing freely.
- Set Up – When feeding at home, set yourself up with everything you might need before you sit down. A bottle of water, a healthy snack, some relaxing music, a blanket if it is cool. You should be as relaxed and comfortable as possible so you can enjoy the bonding with your baby.
- Mastitis – is an infection in the breast tissue, and sometimes occurs while breastfeeding. It can be caused by a blocked milk duct or bacteria in the breast. Your breast will feel sore, swollen and hot and you may experience fever and chills. You can treat Mastitis easily at home with a combination of hot showers and wheatbags, to help increase milk flow; massage, to help unblock the duct; and cold packs to combat inflammation. If you have trouble with persistent mastitis, it may be worthwhile investing in a Lactation Massager which uses vibration to help unblock the duct. It is also helpful in improving milk flow, increasing milk supply and helping ensure you breast is fully emptied. I recommend the LaVie Lactation Massager – www.laviemum.com.au.
- Making Milk – If you are worried about your milk supply there are some teas and tinctures that can help. You might like to try the More Milk Tincture or the Breastfeeding Bliss tea from www.blissfulherbs.com.au
- Hydrate – Drink plenty of water. Good nutrition is important while breast feeding – both to keep up your energy levels and to ensure you produce sufficient milk to keep baby growing. This is such a huge subject that it will get a blog all of it’s own in coming weeks, which will include recipes for smoothies and lactation cookies, as well as what foods to limit or avoid. In the meantime, keep up the water!
Myths that don’t help
Theories on pregnancy, birth and raising babies are changing all the time. Well-meaning advice from people who had babies many years ago might not be supported by current research. Always fact check with a trained expert, and follow your instincts. Some myths you may hear include:
- You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. Breast feeding is not a contraceptive! When you have first given birth you may not feel like you will ever need contraception again, but you will. Many couples have been taken by surprise thinking that since mum has not yet had a period they are safe from pregnancy. Not so.
- You won’t have enough milk if you have small breasts. Small breasts do not mean less milk. Most women are able to produce enough milk to feed their baby. If you are having trouble with this your doula, baby health nurse or a lactation specialist can help you.
- In hot weather your baby will need water from a bottle. Babies do not need extra water in hot weather. Your breast milk will adjust naturally to provide your baby with everything they need.
- You can’t breastfeed while you are pregnant. You don’t have to stop breast feeding when you are pregnant with your next baby. It is fine to continue, although some babies wean themselves, and some mums find their milk supply is reduced. Still others find it very tiring. Do what feels right for you and your baby.
- You shouldn’t use dummies. Dummies are not for dummies. You will hear lots of theories about how dummies interfere with breastfeeding. In fact, recent research suggests the use of dummies is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome. So allowing your baby to go to sleep with a dummy is not a bad thing at all.
- Stop breastfeeding when your baby gets teeth. Teeth don’t interfere with breast feeding. Just because your baby has developed teeth, you don’t have to stop breastfeeding. If you and baby are happy to continue, do so. It is very rare for a baby to bite the breast.
- You can’t breastfeed if you have small/inverted nipples. The size and shape of your nipple will not affect your ability to breastfeed. Even women with inverted nipples can breastfeed with some advice and assistance.
- Formula is just as good/better than breast milk. Formula is not ‘just the same’ or ‘better’ than breast milk. Breast milk is biologically designed to provide your baby with everything it needs, and changes over time with your baby’s needs. Formula does not contain antibodies, growth factors or digestion enzymes. Nothing is better for your baby than breastmilk.
- Get your partner to feed with formula at night so you get enough sleep. Breastmilk production has little to do with mum sleeping through the night, so getting your partner to feed baby with formula will not work. In fact, it is likely to reduce your milk supply, which is stimulated by feeding. If you are tired – which is inevitable with a new baby – aim for a nap when baby is sleeping.
- You must feed from both sides every feed. If your baby has had enough after only one breast you don’t need to worry. It is not important to drink from both breasts at each feed. You can feed from the alternate breast next time!
- Babies are sometimes allergic to breastmilk. Your baby will not be allergic to your milk. They may, however, be allergic to something you ate. If your baby is showing signs of allergic reaction remove the suspect food from your diet.
- Breastfeeding is painful. Breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. You will feel a not unpleasant stretching sensation, but if it hurts there will be a reason – like cracked nipples caused by incorrect latching on.
The most important thing to remember in breast feeding is to relax and enjoy it. Listen to your body, and your baby. It’s the most natural thing in the world.
If you have any questions about breast feeding, a doula, baby health nurse or lactation specialist can help. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
Breast feeding can be one of the most beautiful experiences of mothering. It can also be frustrating and confusing. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do that will help make you a pro in no time.
There are a whole host of reasons for both mum and baby that make breast feeding the way to go.
- It helps to create that close and loving bond with your baby like no other single thing will do
- Breast milk is specially designed by nature to provide your baby with the ideal nutritional balance, and it changes over time with the needs of your growing baby
- It is by far the most convenient form of feeding – after all, wherever you go, your breasts go too! No need to carry formula, sterilise bottles, or find somewhere to prepare a bottle.
- It helps prevent breast and ovarian cancer
- Breast feeding will prolong the time before your periods return, and who wouldn’t love that!
- Breast feeding can help you shed that baby weight that all women get when pregnant.
Things You Might Need
All you really need to breast feed are a pair of breasts. However, there are a few things that will help make it more comfortable and enjoyable for you and baby:
- A comfortable chair with a high back to support your head, and low arms so you can hold your baby comfortably
- A feeding pillow that will help support the weight of your baby – even though they are tiny they do get heavy after a while
- Nursing bras. These are generally softer, without wires and have drop-down cups to allow comfortable access to your nipples.
- Breast pads. These are a bit like nappies for your breasts, and fit inside your bra. They will prevent embarrassing wet spots appearing on your top when you least expect them. All sorts of things can trigger the ‘let down’ response – even someone else’s baby!
- Breast pump. There will be times when you have to leave your baby, or when you want your partner to do some of the feeding. A breast pump will allow you draw off and store excess milk (in the freezer generally) for just such a time. This is especially useful if you are going back to work. A breast pump can also help you to increase your milk supply if it seems to be a little low.
Whilst breast feeding is a very natural process, some women and babies have trouble getting the hang of it. If you are struggling – persevere. There are plenty of people who can help you. Don’t be afraid to look for advice.
When you first feed baby – ideally within an hour or two of birth – you will produce colostrum, which is designed to provide your new baby with the nutrients and antibodies they need to build their immune systems.
Within a few days you will start to produce milk. Your breasts will start to feel firmer, and you will experience ‘let-down’, a tingling feeling in your breasts. Milk will most likely leak from the breast you are not feeding from. In the early days, this may also cause a cramping feeling in your uterus, which is your body’s way of helping return it to it’s normal size, and should ease within a few days to a week.
What is Latching On?
This is the term for how your baby takes the breast into it’s mouth. It is important for the baby to latch on properly, otherwise they won’t get sufficient milk, and you can end up with sore nipples. Don’t worry, this is generally quite an instinctive process, and any difficulties are usually resolved within a few of feeds.
Baby’s mouth needs to be open wide, with their bottom lip curled down. If the sucking hurts your breast or your baby’s cheeks are sucking in they are not latched on properly. Always bring your baby to your breast, not the other way around.
How Often Should I Breast Feed?
Generally speaking, in the first month a baby should be fed on demand. This might be as often as 10 or 12 times a day. Babies should never go more than 4 hours without a feed – even at night. As your baby grows, they may feed less often. By the way – count the hours between feeds from the beginning of the feed, to the beginning of the next. The length of the feed isn’t too important – some babies are guzzlers and some are grazers.
Your baby will let you know when they have had enough by slowing down or stopping sucking, turning away, or even falling sleep. Don’t worry if they have only drunk from one side – you can start on the other side at the next feed.
Breast milk is much more easily digested than formula, so you might find that breast fed babies feed more often than formula fed ones.
Is baby getting enough?
Some breastfeeding mums worry if their baby is getting enough milk. If your baby is happy, gaining weight and producing around 6 wet nappies a day, they are getting enough.
One last thing…
Don’t be surprised if as soon as you feel you have established a breastfeeding routine, baby changes things up for you. You may find that with sleeping, eating and behaviour, your baby seems to be one step ahead of you.
Try to be flexible, and if you are worried about how your breastfeeding is going, a doula, baby health nurse or lactation specialist can always give you advice and put your mind at rest. And to help with those middle-of-the-night questions, all my clients receive a complimentary copy of the Breastfeeding Video series by Amberley at Maternal Instincts. I would be happy to chat with you about any other concerns or questions you might have.