Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally for many women, so the early weeks can be especially challenging. And it’s easy to become worried and upset if things go wrong, especially if you don’t know whom to turn to for help. It may take just a reassuring phone call, or a chat with a skilled expert to overcome your problem in order for you to continue breastfeeding happily.
New mums are shown how to breastfeed in hospital, but breastfeeding hiccups usually don’t arise until day four or five when milk comes in ― when the mothers are already out of the hospital. You can seek help yourself ― by phoning a breastfeeding helpline or seeing a lactation consultant. Don’t give up.
Understand the principles of breastfeeding
To ensure that you’re off to a good start, you’ll need to understand the basic principles of breastfeeding. As you and your baby are new to the game, it’s a skill you’ll both need to learn together. In the early days, focus on learning to position your baby properly and helping her latch on correctly.
Shrug off all comments, no matter how well meaning, that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. During her first days, your newborn won’t be drinking milk, but colostrum ― a creamy liquid that’s packed with protein, water, sugar, vitamins, minerals, as well as antibodies, to boost her immune system.
Never forget the fundamental principle of breastfeeding ― that supply equals demand. The more milk your baby takes, the more your body will produce, so you should always have enough to satisfy her.
Instead of combining formula feeds with breastfeeding, let your baby nurse frequently, especially in the early days before your supply is established and when you think your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Studies show that breastfeeding problems, like a poor milk supply or if the baby is not sucking well, are usually caused by supplementary bottle feeds. Nurse frequently and consistently to overcome such setbacks.
Here’s our guide to give yourself the best chance of succeeding at feeding baby:
1. Be prepared
Arm yourself with as much information as you can while you’re pregnant. Read books, go online, talk to friends who’ve breastfed, and attend antenatal classes. It’s vital to be aware of what will help get your breastfeeding efforts off to a flying start ― from positioning and how to latch baby on, to what to expect and whom to contact if you run into a roadblock.
Above all, make sure you recognise the signs that your nursing efforts are paying off. Your baby is getting enough milk if, after the first three days, she is producing six to eight wet diapers a day. She’ll also feel contented and settle in after a feed.
Other signs of a well-fed baby are bright eyes, a wet tongue and mouth, and firm thighs. If you suspect that your milk supply isn’t up to scratch, seek professional help as soon as possible.
Don’t forget that breastfeeding support groups, which offer a wealth of resources, can also help you feel more at ease with nursing. They even provide useful tips, from where to find the best-equipped shopping mall nursing rooms, to what’s the most efficient breast pump on the market.
2. Act fast
Make sure to have skin-to-skin contact soon after delivery ― it’s been shown to have positive effects on the outcome of breastfeeding. Aim to breastfeed your baby within the first two hours of giving birth as this is when your baby is most alert (and awake!), and her sucking reflex is strongest.
3. Seek help
Make sure to get help if you encounter problems ― most setbacks can be sorted out with skilled support. Don’t be shy to ask for help in the maternity ward, get the nurses to demonstrate (repeatedly, if necessary!) correct positions, or ask to see a lactation consultant if you have any questions. Talking to a friend who has breastfed also helps. If you can’t solve your problem on your own, contact a lactation consultant.
Don’t wait until it’s too late, as minor problems can quickly escalate and spell the end of breastfeeding. Nursing problems are often a vicious circle. For instance, if a baby doesn’t latch on well, the mother develops sore nipples and feeds her baby less, or starts mixing formula with breastmilk. The result: Her breastmilk supply drops, leading to insufficient breastmilk for her baby.
4. Have faith
Above all, believe in yourself. Mums often doubt their ability to breastfeed, maybe because it did not go well previously, or if they hear from other mums who did not succeed. Be patient and persevere as you adjust and learn to cope with the demands of breastfeeding. Always remember, most problems can be resolved with the timely help and information. Indeed, with the right advice, there’s nothing to stop you from breastfeeding for as long as you wish!
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