It is very common for women to struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning. People may think that since women have been doing this since the beginning of time, it is something that “just happens”.
However, adapting to these new circumstances takes time and patience just like anything else.
This section in the comprehensive guide is all about the basics of breastfeeding. We advise new moms and moms who are expecting to educate themselves as much as they can about the process of breastfeeding.
1. How to Prepare to Breastfeed
Just like you prepare yourself as much as you can for giving birth and for what is to come after, you should do the same for breastfeeding as well.
During your pregnancy, get the best advice you can from your doctors, family and friends – i.e., people who have done this before. You can schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant who will let you know all the fundamentals you need to know regarding breastfeeding.
“How do I prepare my body to breastfeed?” Your body has taken care of this from the beginning of your pregnancy. The tingling sensation in your nipples, your breasts feeling tender, and leaking of colostrum is your body preparing to breastfeed for when the baby arrives. In the duration of the pregnancy, the milk producing cells increase, and continue to develop till you have the baby.
After your baby is born, it is important to have skin-to-skin contact. Your midwife will assist you with a breastfeeding position that is most comfortable for you after delivery.
Your baby may use their rooting reflexes and latch on to your breast instantly or they may rest for a while and then feed later.
During this entire process, it is important to remember that your body will adjust to this new endeavour. Breastfeeding may be painful in the beginning but it is a matter of adapting, and pretty soon it will be the norm for you.
2. How to Make Breast Milk Flow
In the first week after delivery, your body will produce breast milk whether or not you are breastfeeding.
After then, the continued production of breast milk will be based on supply and demand. This means, in order to establish and maintain breast milk flow for your baby (the supply), you will have to either breastfeed or pump regularly (the demand).
Breastfeeding every two to three hours will cause your breasts to get empty, keep your prolactin levels up (the hormones that signal the milk-making glands to make milk) which will stimulate the milk production to keep going.
3. How to Get a Good Latch with Newborn
This is the moment that you have been waiting for: Your baby taking in a chunk of your nipple and “latching on”, beginning to suck and drawing out the milk.
A good latch is when your nipple doesn’t feel extremely sore, and your baby gets all the food they need until their next meal.
If all of this sounds like too much for you, or you are worried about something going wrong, it is important to know that babies are hardwired to find their mother’s breast and latch on. They often need very little help to do so as well.
Here are some ways you can ensure a good latch right from the start:
- You need to find a sweet spot you can stay in for some time. While some experts recommend a reclined position, you can do whatever is comfortable for you. Get all the pillows you need, and ask your partner to be there to help you with the baby.
- On your bare chest, put your baby in such a way that their chin and cheeks touch your breasts.
- By having your hand on the baby’s upper back and neck, stimulate their interest in your nipple so that they open their mouth.
- You can squeeze out some colostrum by rubbing your thumb back and forth across the nipple, and then gently pressing your areola.
- Your baby’s lips should be close to your nipple, so that when they smell the colostrum, they will open their mouth and latch on.
- You will know your baby is swallowing when you see their temple and lower jaw move in sync, and their sweet occasional exhales.
While it is common for new mothers to experience some nipple soreness, it should go away a little while after the baby has latched on. If you feel discomfort lasting the whole feeding session, and if your nipple is cracked or bleeding, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Sometimes issues arise that interfere with breastfeeding but there is almost always a solution for it.