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The prospects of breastfeeding are probably top on the list of new mom anxieties. To be honest, one can never be fully prepared for the journey of breastfeeding as a first time mom until the newborn takes a first suckle at the breast.
Breastfeeding your baby by latching takes teamwork between both you and your baby. Therefore, it takes time to build this teamwork which also includes finding the most suitable nursing position and understanding the baby’s needs and also your own body.
Here are four essential breastfeeding tips to help first time moms embark on a much smoother breastfeeding journey with the new baby.
1. How to have a good latch
First and foremost, there has to be a good latch! This is THE MOST IMPORTANT breastfeeding rule!
You should feel some pressure when the baby latches and starts to suck. One good way to ensure a proper latch is to gently pull down the baby’s chin so that their mouth covers the entire areolar and not only the nipple.
You should be able see the baby’s ears moving slightly as they suckle and their cheeks should be full and not dimpled.
After a few weeks as the baby’s vision improves and gets accustomed to the latching routine, they wouldn't need further prompting to have a good latch.
2. How to care for your nipples
Nipples might feel a little sore the first few days but it shouldn't be unbearable. Applying some nipple cream helps to form a protective barrier on the nipple and it's safe even if the baby swallows it.
You could also express a little breastmilk and rub it on the nipples after each feed and leave them to "air-dry" for several minutes.
3. How to know your breastfed baby is drinking enough milk
It can be worrying if you are not sure how much baby is feeding if they are exclusively latching. But if the baby is having enough milk at each feed, they shouldn't have to nurse so frequently.
I was advised by my lactation consultant that the baby should be able to last for at least 1.5 hours to 2 hours until the next feed. Back then, I was nursing my baby almost every hour, hence resulting in very sore nipples. (Read related post here)
Keeping track of the number of wet diapers a day is a good way of monitoring if your baby is having enough milk.
Day 1-3: 1-3 wet diapers a day. Bowel movements are expected to be dark, stick black/ green
Day 3-4: 3-4 wet diapers a day. Regular bowel movements
Day 5-6: 5-6 wet diapers a day. Diapers are heavier than the first few days. Stools tend to be rather mushy.
Day 6-8: 6-8 wet diapers a day with bowel movements 2-5 times a day
This is when you might experience the baby’s explosive poop fest and their amazing ability of having ‘input’ and ‘output’ simultaneously.
4-8 Weeks: 4-6 wet diapers a day with 2-3 bowel movements
Subsequently as the baby's digestive system matures, the bowel movements generally reduce to about 1-2 times a day, or even once every 3-4 days.
Every baby will fall into their own regular cycle with regards to bowel movement. It is helpful to keep a record so you would know if things get out of the regular pattern.
It is natural for babies to fall asleep while nursing especially for newborns. If you realize that the baby doesn’t seem to be drinking very much at each feed and is crying for milk every hour, you could gently nudge the baby’s cheeks when the baby seems to be dozing off while the nipple is still in their mouth.
This is to encourage the baby to continue feeding so that they can have a fuller feed each time before falling into deep sleep.
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4. What to do to during breast engorgement
If you feel engorged or experience some small lumps in the breast due to the blocked ducts, it is helpful to massage your breasts when your baby is latching.
By forming a C-shape with your hand, cup the breast and massage the breast in the direction towards the nipple to promote milk flow. This is also very helpful in emptying the breast at each feed to prevent further engorgement.
If there are any small lumps, use two or three fingers to press on the area and massage in a circular motion to help release the blockage. Then forming the C-shape, use your hand to massage the breast again with your thumb rubbing the lump in the direction towards the nipple.
If you find it difficult to massage your breast while nursing and experience engorgement, you could massage and express some milk by hand while in a warm shower. You can also apply a warm compress on your breast to help ease off the lumps.
I personally find it easier to relieve the lumps by hand expression rather than pumping. It is easier to target the lumpy areas and soothe them out by hand instead of using the pump.
It is important to relieve the blocked ducts as soon as possible, otherwise before your breast becomes really tender at the areas of blockage and this causes a risk of having an infection.
After relieving the blocked ducts, you can leave some cold cabbage leaves on your breasts to reduce engorgement as well.
During my breastfeeding journey, I encountered engorgement issues several times. The large amount of milk built up in the breasts can result in a rather high pressure and very often, the milk ends up squirting out like a water gun, sometimes even spraying at my baby's face.
When the milk gushes out too quickly, the baby tends to gag at the breast. In this case, it is helpful to hand express some milk to release the pressure just before latching the baby. In such situations, breast pads are really helpful to avoid the embarrassment of having wet clothes around your chest.
I'm thankful that God has given moms such a wonderful gift of being able to nurse their babies.
I find it really amazing that our body can produce something so nutritious to feed our babies without us having to do anything to control the milk production process.
I fully understand that breastfeeding can be very painful, stressful or even traumatic. It is indeed a precious bond that only you can share with your baby who is feeding right from your body.
Even then, the baby is given no less attention or love when you cuddle him in your arms and feed him bottled milk.
If you are convinced of the benefits of breastfeeding your baby, then I suggest you try your best. But it also means you don't be too hard on yourself when the going get rough on the nursing journey. (read related post here)
Remember, no matter what kind of milk you give your baby, you are already taking very good care of him. Meanwhile, don't forget to take good care of yourself!
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