If you are reading this, you are probably a new mother or a mother-to-be. You are probably already aware of the benefits of breastfeeding your child. The emotional and physical benefits for not only the baby but the mother are extraordinary. Although however, wonderful breastfeeding is, it can bring on some questions and challenges. They shouldn’t be a reason to become stressed out though and you shouldn’t quit over some small problems.
This guide will help you with some common issues and some helpful tips.
How to Start Breastfeeding?
The best time to start breastfeeding is within the first hour after birth. The sooner the better. When the baby is nursing, the mother’s body is releasing oxytocin, which is a hormone that helps to shrink the mother’s uterus back down to its normal size. Most doctors and nurses will suggest breastfeeding immediately after the baby is born and the nurse will probably offer you help if this is your first time breastfeeding. The nurse can also show you a few different positions to hold the baby so that it becomes easier for you.
Latching on is an important part of successfully nursing. You can help the baby properly latch on by cradling the baby in the crook of your elbow with the baby’s hips and chest facing you. To further help the infant along, gently stroke the baby’s cheek with your breast. The baby will turn towards the breast and then you can guide the baby’s mouth onto the breast. Make sure that as much of the areola, the dark area around the nipple, is taken in as possible. Most babies are just naturals at this and it shouldn’t take too many times to get the baby to latch on correctly.
In the early days, the baby will probably nurse anywhere from ten minutes to twenty minutes at a time. The baby may fall asleep before finishing up. It is best to offer both breasts at each feeding so that engorgement does not happen. After a few days, the baby will get into the habit of nursing on both breasts without falling asleep so quickly.
The Signs That Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
Many nursing moms worry about if their baby is getting enough to eat. With a formula-fed baby, you can easily determine how much the baby has taken in but with a breastfeeding baby, it isn’t that easy.
You can be sure that your baby is getting enough to eat if the baby has six or more wet diapers a day, has two to three stools per day, is gaining weight at a good rate, and isn’t losing any weight. If the baby appears to be happy and not in distress and is alert, that is another good sign. A baby that isn’t getting enough to eat will not be happy. That baby will be hungry and you will know it.
If you can feel your baby sucking when nursing and you can hear and see your baby swallowing, that is another good sign that the baby is getting enough to eat. Just monitoring what is in the baby’s diaper each day and keeping a log if you are concerned will probably squash any fears that you may have about food intake.
Newborn babies will want to nurse every one and a half to three hours in the first few weeks to months. If the baby is not happy in between feedings, then it may be possible that the baby is not getting enough. A low milk supply is not as common as one might think.
Another good way of making sure that the baby is getting enough breastmilk is to buy a baby scale and monitor the baby’s weight a few times a week. If the baby is gaining weight steadily and not losing weight, chances are that the baby is getting enough to eat and is thriving.
Baby scales are easier to find nowadays and you can get a good one for under fifty dollars. It is worth the expense if you are stressing about the baby’s well-being. Many doctors will allow you to come in and just weigh the baby whenever you feel the need to as well if you don’t want to buy a baby scale.
How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Breastfeeding comes with challenges sometimes. If you feel that your supply is getting low for some reason, there are things that you can do to boost your milk supply.
Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and that you are staying hydrated and eating well. You should be eating about 500 extra healthy calories a day when breastfeeding.
There are many different herbal options to help increase breastmilk. Fenugreek is one of them. You can find this herbal supplement in a health food store. Many different herbal teas also promote breastmilk supply. They can also be found at a health food store.
There are also reports that oatmeal and brewers yeast help to increase breastmilk. Sometimes, just increasing your food and drink intake and getting a little extra rest might just do the trick. Also, nursing is on-demand and more often helps to increase your breast milk supply.
How to Overcome Breastfeeding Problems?
Clogged milk ducts and mastitis sometimes strike a nursing mother. These can be painful issues to deal with but they do not hurt the baby or your breastmilk at all. They are also easily remedied. A tender spot on your breast is usually a clogged or plugged milk duct. Frequent nursing and warm compresses are the solutions to this problem. It usually passes fairly quickly.
If you develop flu-like symptoms, a fever, and have a red hot area on your breast as well as a lot of pain, you probably are suffering from mastitis. This usually requires antibiotics to clear this up. Make sure if you have the symptoms of mastitis, that you call your health care practitioner. They will instruct you on what to do. Keep nursing through this though so that you don’t decrease your milk supply.
Sore nipples are sometimes a concern to a new nursing mom. This usually says that the baby is not latching on correctly. Getting the baby to latch on correctly should solve this problem. If your skin is cracked, it may be sore as well. There are over-the-counter creams that can help remedy this problem.
Avoid using soap on your nipples as this will dry them out thus making the skin crack and hurt. Early attention to these problems can mean the difference between continued nursing and stopping early.
Healthy Diet Plan for a Nursing Mother
A nursing mother should be eating a well-balanced diet to ensure that the baby is getting the proper nutrients and that the mother remains healthy. Here is a chart of the food groups and the servings that should be taken in each day.
- Dairy – 3-5 servings a day: A serving consists of one cup of milk, 8 oz of yogurt or 2 oz of cheese
- Meat, poultry and fish – 6-8 oz a day: 1 egg, it’s egg freezing related to below, not cooking eggs. (check out why do it: egg freezing, 2-4 oz of cooked lean meat of fish, or a half a cup of cooked beans
- Vegetables – 3-5 servings a day: 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables, 1/2 cup of raw vegetables, 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
- Fruits – 2-4 servings a day: 1 whole piece of fruit, 3/4 cup of fruit juice, 1/2 cup of berries, 1/4 cup of dried fruit
- Breads, cereals, pasta, rice – 6-11 servings a day: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cereal, 1 tortilla, 3-5 small crackers
At least 8 -10 glasses of water a day. Make sure you are never thirsty. This will ensure that you are hydrated. Before exercising, drink an 8 oz glass of water, and immediately after working out, drink another glass of water.
Making sure that you eat foods from each food group daily will help to ensure that you are getting enough of each vitamin and mineral that is required for not only you but for your baby as well. Taking your prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding is recommended. This way you are sure to be getting your vitamins and passing them on to the baby.
Also, be sure that you are eating enough calories a day. Be sure to add on about 500 extra calories each day to what a normal amount would be for you. 500 calories are just usually one extra healthy snack a day, such as a glass of milk and a piece of fruit.
Don’t go overboard, you are not eating for two. You just need to make sure that your body has enough to continue making an adequate supply of milk.
Additional Tips for First-Time Mothers
During the first few days of nursing, you will be providing colostrum to the baby. That is the yellowish fluid that is sometimes referred to as the pre-milk. Colostrum is rich in protein and vitamins and contains many antibodies that will help to protect the baby from illness. Around day three to ten, your baby feeds off of transition milk, which is a mixture of colostrum and mature milk. After day ten, the actual, mature milk is what feeds the baby. This is all that your new baby needs until about six months of age. That is when you will start to add baby cereal and fruits and vegetables into the baby’s diet.
If you decide to go back to work or to leave the baby in someone else’s care for a while, you may want to pump so that you do not become engorged. Pumping is easier than it sounds and it shouldn’t be painful. You can store your pumped breastmilk in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. You can freeze it in the freezer for up to three months. Be sure to date the bottles or containers. This way you will know which ones to use first.
Breastmilk that was frozen should be thawed in a container under hot water only. Never put breastmilk in a microwave. Do not let it stand at room temperature either. If you use a stove or microwave to thaw, you are killing all the powerful antibodies and nutrients that the baby needs to thrive. Microwaves kill all nutrients in food as well. Never use a microwave to heat any food for the baby.
When you feel it is time to start weaning, it may be a hard decision to finalize. Some people let the baby lead the weaning process. Some babies self-wean around their first birthday, others wait until they are over 18 months old. That is around the time that many babies just lose interest or the need to nurse. They become more independent and are now eating a whole variety of food.
You should try to wean over some time as to not upset the baby and not to injure yourself. Taking away one feeding every few days is a gentler way of weaning. It should take you about a month to wean slowly. By the time you do your last feeding, you should both be ready to stop nursing. If you wean cold turkey, you risk the problem of engorgement as well as being a very cranky baby for a few days. Doing it slowly is recommended for everyone’s sake.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful time in a woman’s life. It helps to create a special bond between mother and baby. You will be giving your baby the best start to a healthy life. If you breastfeed for only a few weeks, at least it was something. Do not feel pressure to continue nursing if your heart is not totally into it. If you enjoy it as much as I think you will, do it for as long as you can. The baby will grow up so fast. Enjoy every moment you have holding that baby close.