Mom may have spent her pregnancy days dreaming about holding the little one, all bundled up in warm clothes, and gazing at them as they feed blissfully. Breastfeeding a baby is indeed one of the most fulfilling experiences for a woman.
When a baby is born, a mother is also born. Till then we are all just 'women', not moms. A 'mother' is a different breed altogether. We find in ourselves a new purpose, strength and resolve to take care of that little one who is so tiny and dependent on us. We, once selfish creatures, suddenly become selfless, as far as this one tiny human being is considered. There is nothing a mother wouldn't do for her little baby and this feeling of overpowering love and protectiveness continues to get stronger as our baby grows older.
A simple example of a mother's hard work, sacrifice and struggles is her effort to breastfeed her child. It is a task that seems so natural and simple, but the truth is, it's not always that easy. It's quite complicated and takes a lot of hard work. Until you get the hang of it and become a breastfeeding expert, this process can be quite a confusing one.
Here are some things first-time moms find surprising when they attempt to breastfeed their child. Mom may have heard or read about many of these, but when it comes to the real-life action of feeding their baby, new moms tend to forget these 20 things about feeding their baby.
20 The First Feed Window
When a baby is born, it's an exciting and confusing time for all involved, including the dad, mom, the nurses and even the doctor handling the birth. In all that excitement and confusion, the birth may not happen as you pictured in your mind in those final days of your pregnancy. Once the baby is born, the hospital staff may give it a quick clean up and bundle it off to the hospital nursery. They may only bring the baby back to you only after a few hours.
Their intention may be to give you and the doctors involved the time to stitch up your episiotomy, clean you up after the whole messy delivery process or you may have to sleep off the sedatives given to you if you had a c-section. Whatever be the case, it's important to get the baby to the mother at the earliest as the first couple of hours after birth is a time when the baby is most alert and his instinct to latch on for breastfeeding is very strong. The first fluid that comes during this feed is called colostrum and this 'first' milk is loaded with immune boosting nutrients and natural antimicrobial agents.
19 Feeding Should be on Demand
When my first child was born, I heard all kinds of advice from my mom, the doctor, friends, and neighbors. Most of the advice regarding feeding was contradictory. Some said feed all the time while others said to feed every 4 to 6 hours. My breastmilk supply was low in the beginning, so I had to supplement with formula. I was careful to give only the amount mentioned on the label based on his age in terms of weeks or months.
Still, my baby was not on the small side...he was a big kid compared to others his age. He needed much more milk than recommended by all these people or companies. The poor thing used to keep crying after finishing off his prescribed dose of formula. I eventually learned on my own that demand feeding is best for newborn babies. Feed them till they stop own their own. Feed them again after a short while if they demand it. Simple as that! Timetables are applicable only after they are a few months old.
18 Signs That Baby Is Hungry
Now that you understand the concept of demand feeding you may be confused by what exactly is the 'demand' here. How do you know the baby is hungry, especially if you just fed him an hour ago. Breastmilk digests much faster than formula, so unless the baby was sleeping in the past one hour, it's no surprise that he may be hungry again. If he is sleeping, he may wake up hungry only after a couple of hours.
Crying is obviously a sign that your baby wants something. He may be hungry, sleepy feeling cold, wants to be held, needs a cuddle or simply wants our attention. I find that breastfeeding solves all these needs at one go and is the master solution. If he's not really hungry, he will not drink much, just nuzzle against your chest and be at peace.
17 The Let-Down Reflex
The milk let down is a physical sensation that new moms feel as milk is released for the baby's feeding. This is something I dreaded during my breastfeeding phases. Let downs are not only painful they are a warning that you are going to be in a really embarrassing situation if you are out in the public. You feel the letdown reflex and the next thing you are aware of is that embarrassing wet spot that's forming on your t-shirt.
Some moms may not find these sensations painful, they may feel just a tightening or a strange sensation in the chests. But for many others, this milk ejection reflex may feel quite painful. As the baby grows older, the sensation of the let down reduces and the leakages stop. After a while, you may not even notice it
16 Allow The Baby To Latch On Correctly
If the baby does not latch on properly while feeding, the whole experience can be quite painful for the mom and frustrating for the baby. If done the right way, breastfeeding is a rewarding experience of the mother-baby bonding ritual. It should not be equated with pain. But if the baby latches on only on the nipple, he will not be able to suck properly and get the milk. This manner of latch on can cause pin for the mom.
The right latch on will include the areola, the colored part around the nipple. If the baby has not latched on correctly, do not attempt to pull him away from your chest. This can be even more painful for you. You need to ease your finger in between your body and the baby's mouth to break the suction first. Now you can try again for a deeper latch on. Patience is key here.
15 Support Your Body
Pain seems a part and parcel of pregnancy and motherhood. Lower or upper back pain can start during pregnancy and continue on even after the baby is born. Breastfeeding is hard work, it's not as simple as it looks. The moms tend to focus too much on their babies' comfort and neglect themselves. If moms don't care for themselves as they should, this can have serious health implications later on in their lives.
So while sitting or lying down to breastfeed your baby make sure your body, especially your spine, is well supported. Use a chair or a couch to sit on and use cushions or pillows for added support. Do not lean forward to feed the baby, instead bring the baby towards yourself and lean back into a comfortable position.
14 Support Your Baby
You may have been advised against lying down and feeding. Personally, I have found it very comfortable to lie down and feed rather than sit up. Whatever the position, the key here is to ensure the baby is well supported and his nose is free to breathe easily. There is a tendency to press against the baby's nose with your body during feeding time. This can cause breathing troubles for the baby.
During the feed, the baby's back should be supported with a pillow. Keep the pillow or cushion under the crook of your arm which is supporting the baby's head. Extra attention should be given to supporting the baby's delicate neck.
13 Switch Nursing Sides
The milk that comes first during breastfeeding is more of water and protein while the 'second' milk that comes afterward has more nutrient content in it. So the baby needs to drink from the same side until he gets both types of milk. Switch to the other side during the next feed.
Just drinking a little from both sides means that the baby does not get much of the fat-rich milk, so he gets hungry again before long. Feeding on one side all the time is also said to make it larger than the other. So make the effort to remember which side you fed the baby on and switch to the other side during the next feed. Some hungry babies may need more milk. If so, feed one side for at least 20 minutes before switching sides.
12 Relax, No Stress Please
Many studies have proven that stress affects the breastmilk supply adversely. Some moms find the breastfeeding experience stressful while others find it fulfilling and relaxing. Life can be stressful, especially for working moms. Tension can result from sleepless nights of minding the baby, from work-related issues, financial problems or marital issues.
If you find yourself stressed, then find ways to de-stress before getting around to feeding the baby. Stress hormones negatively impact the production of oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates milk ejection. So breastfeeding moms are recommended to practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, etc.
11 Positions to Avoid
By the time, I had my fourth kid, I was a pro at breastfeeding. I could hold the baby in the crook of my arm, feeding him, while doing household chores. But I definitely do not recommend this to first-time moms. If your grip loosens, the baby may roll and fall off. It's important to ensure you have a firm grip on the baby while feeding him anywhere and at all times.
Another thing to note is the direction of the baby's body. Both his face and his torso should be turned towards you. If his face is towards your chest and his body is turned away from you, this can be a really uncomfortable position for your child. Babies tend to squirm and turn to odd positions, so such occurrences are more common than you'd expect.
10 The Cross-Cradle Hold For Feeding
Though it may seem to be the most natural experience in the world, breastfeeding doesn’t actually come naturally to everyone. For a new mom, this can be a confusing experience. She has watched other moms nursing blissfully and is left wondering why she is not feeling the same experience. Don't worry, you will eventually get the hang of it and start enjoying it too.
There are many different positions to hold and feed the baby. Experiment with different ways to find which suits you and your baby the best. The cross-cradle method is a popular method for breastfeeding babies. This technique requires moms to use their left arm to support the baby when the baby is feeding on their right side. The child's chest and tummy should be facing you. Cuddle him close, support his head with your hands and guide him to latch on correctly.
9 The Football-Hold for Feeding
The cross-cradle hold puts pressure on the stitches of moms who have undergone a C-section, so moms with such issues prefer the football style of breastfeeding. Just think of how a football is tucked under the arm as the athlete races down the field. Similarly, you tuck the baby under your arm to nurse him from the nipple on the same side.
You have to ensure that the baby is facing you as he feeds on your milk. The child's nose should be at the same level as your nipple while his hips go under your arms, towards your back. The child's upper back must be supported by your forearm. It is best if you put a pillow on your lap to rest your arm. This pillow will also support the baby’s shoulders, and neck.
8 Reflux and Spitting Up
You must have heard how important it is to burp a baby after a feed. The baby sucks in the air along with the milk and this can leave the little one feeling uncomfortable and gassy. So you put the little one on your shoulder and pat gently for the burp. Voila! The next thing you know is the something wet and curd-like drizzling down your back. Reflux in babies is quite common, especially in the early months.
Babies tend to outgrow this reflux tendency as they grow older. When there is too much milk backed up, the mom should press some out before feeding the baby. Otherwise, all that milk come out too fast and the baby ends up swallowing too quickly, gulping down the milk with plenty of air along with it. Remember to put a towel on your shoulder when you burp the baby.
7 Sore, Cracked Or Painful Nips
The baby's suction is quite strong and it feels quite harsh on the tender nips in the days following the delivery. As a new mom, I didn't know how to get the baby to latch on properly. So this led to a sore and bleeding chest after a while. The correct latch-on techniques help avoid such occurrences.
Put a cold compress, a warm compress, cold cabbage leaves or whatever else that helps you feel better. Switch to formula or express your milk till your chest heals. There are many over the counter creams that help heal such blisters quickly. Apply a moisturizing cream to keep the skin soft, but remember to wipe the skin clean before feeing the baby.
6 Mixed Feeding Options
As I mentioned earlier, my milk supply was low for the first week after my delivery. But I was encouraged to feed the baby, so he lay sucking for 20 minutes on each side, though the poor chap was not really getting much milk. I would supplement him with formula afterward.
But this breastfeeding ritual had its own benefits. It stimulated my breastmilk production which eventually settled into a bountiful supply and it added to our sense of mother-child bonding. Combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding in such a manner is called mixed feeding. It is also called partial breastfeeding. Working moms can attempt mixed feeding from about 2 months if they have no other issues with breastfeeding such as low milk supply.
5 Cleaning Baby Bottles
The immune system in newborn babies is immature and underdeveloped. Though you need to be most careful in the initial months, up to one year, the child is more prone to infections. So moms need to be extra careful not to put their precious little one around disease-causing germs. Feeding bottles, if not cleaned properly can house many such infectious germs.
The bottle must be washed immediately after the feed. Wash it using warm soapy water. Use a bottle brush to clean the insides and get to the hard-to-reach corners. Air dry the bottle before closing it. It's better to keep the bottle in the refrigerator until the next use.
4 Sterilizing Baby Bottles
Feeding bottles and all their accessories such as the nipple and even the cap should be sterilized in boiling water once a day if it's being used multiple times during the day. If the child is older, simply washing with warm, soapy water might be enough. But for newborn and babies that are just a few months old, it important to sterilize the bottle.
It's best if you sterilize the bottle until the baby is at least a year old. Put all the bottles, teats, caps and other utensils you use for the baby, such as steel spoons, into a large saucepan. Add enough water to completely cover all the items in the saucepan. Bring to boil and continue to boil for five minutes. Remove from fire and allow to cool. Store the cooled bottles in the fridge.
3 Increasing Milk Supply
Low milk supply can become a major concern for moms. Most of the time, these worries are unfounded. The human body is simply amazing and it knows how to feed its young. Enough milk is produced to satisfy your baby's needs though you may feel otherwise. Since we can't actually see how much they are drinking, you should watch the baby's growth and overall health.
If the baby is healthy and growing well for her age group, then there is nothing for you to worry about. If you are still doubtful, the make sure to breastfeed often as this stimulates the milk production. Pump in between feeding if the baby is not an enthusiastic drinker. Ginger, garlic, fenugreek, etc are some foods that are said to enhance the production of breastmilk, so include them in your diet.
2 Expressing Milk
There is no doubt that breastmilk is the best baby food in the world. But breastfeeding is not as simple as it sounds. There are many circumstances in which a mom may find herself unable to feed her child as she wishes. The baby may be premature and unable to suck properly. You may be a working lady who can only breastfeed the child in the morning and night.
The reasons vary from mom to mom, but they all face the same dilemma, they want their child to continue having their breastmilk even if they aren't able to give it personally. This is where breastpumps come in handy. Expressing milk using pumps may feel painful and uncomfortable initially, but don't worry, you'll eventually get the hang of it. Massaging your chest while expressing your milk is said to speed up the task.
1 Storing Expressed Milk
Now that you have expressed your milk, how to store it such that it doesn't go bad? Breastmilk spoils quickly if kept at room temperature for long, so keep it in a cool box with ice packs, if you plan to use it within 24 hours. If you plan to use it after a day or two, then store it at four degrees C in a fridge. The milk will keep fresh for up to five days at this temperature.
Breastmilk stored at a temperature of minus 18 degrees C or lower can be used at any time up to six months. Store them in small ziplock bags, labeled with the date of expressing. Such ziplock bags can be stacked together in the freezer, so it's a practical and space saving option. Remember to keep these packs away from the non-veg section with meat or other uncooked foods, to avoid contamination.