All About Breastfeeding
As any new parent quickly discovers, all your new bundle of joy really needs is a place to sleep, clothing, love and affection (that's easy), and food. Breastfeeding is the best method to get nutrients into your child, as well as mommy's antibodies to help fight sickness and disease. Plus, it is the most special way for a mother and child to bond. But it can be difficult, and it is not for everyone. What I anticipated before breastfeeding my daughter and what I actually experienced were wildly different. And I'm not alone; many women have difficulty breastfeeding, and each mother's experience is different.
Questions about Breastfeeding
Why is breastfeeding so important?
It is the most natural way to feed your baby. Your breast milk will provide all the nutrients he needs for healthy growth and development.
What is in breastmilk?
In addition to vitamins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, your breastmilk is composed of two types of proteins: whey and casein. These proteins contain specific ingredients that help your baby grow and stay healthy. These include Lactoferrin which help the bacteria level in the gastrointestinal tract, Lysosome which protects against E. Coli and Salmonella, Secretory IgA which boosts immunity and protects against illness and disease, and Bifidus factor which helps promote healthy bacteria.
How quickly after birth should I breastfeed?
Your doctor, nurse or birthing guide can certainly help you as to what is best for your child, but within an hour or two of birth is a great time to try. And of course, skin to skin contact between mom and baby is encouraged immediately after birth.
How long should I breastfeed my child?
The World Health Organization recommends children breastfeed exclusively for six months, and should continue to breastfeed in addition to appropriate foods through the first two years and beyond. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see two and three year old children breastfeeding (Source).
Is formula bad?
Certainly not bad, but doesn't provide everything that can be found in breastmilk. Due to a variety of reasons women are unable to breastfeed. Children can grow up healthy and happy on an exclusive diet of formula, but breastmilk is certainly preferred by all experts. Also, in some babies formula may cause stomach irritation.
Will my baby know how to breastfeed?
The suck reflex is one of seven reflexes a newborn baby already knows. That means that instinctively, your baby can. However, the process is different for all moms and babies. My son had a difficult time latching, and we needed help from a lactation consultant. Hospitals will provide them to consult while you are still at the hospital to make sure everything is going smoothly. Lactation consultants also pay house calls so no need to worry if you leave the hospital or birthing center and latching hasn't happened yet.
What happens when I go back to work?
Some moms have to go back to work too soon. Some moms want to go back to work as soon as possible. Wherever you fit on the spectrum (and everywhere on the spectrum is okay, there is no judging here) you will need to make a plan on how to feed your child while you are away. No matter whether you work or not, there will be times when you need (or want) to be apart from your child. So plan ahead and your little one can blissfully continue her feeding schedule uninterrupted.
Breastfeeding Methods and Tools
What does it take to breastfeed? The easy answer: you, your breast, and your baby. Of course, there are a lot of external products and devices that can help make breastfeeding easier on both you and your baby.
When you are ready to breastfeed, there are a variety of positions you can try. You'll quickly figure out which works best for you, and feel free to shake it up as you see fit.
- Cradle Hold (Tummy to Tummy)
- Cross Cradle Hold
- Football Hold (a great position for moms recovering from a caesarian birth, or for moms with large breasts)
- Side-lying Position (great for recovering moms who need to lie flat on their backs)
Supplies and Tools for Breastfeeding
It would be easy to say that all you need are your boobs and your baby. Yes, those are the basics. But even moms with the easiest time breastfeeding have aids for their comfort. Even before your child is born, make sure you have enough supplies.
Nursing bras are a must. Two different kinds, for daytime and nighttime. Daytime bras offer support; make sure you get a size larger than what you were wearing while pregnant. Nighttime bras don't offer much support, but they hold breast pads so you don't leak while you are sleeping. You will also want button down shirts, for easy access. Similarly, shirts or pajamas with nursing panels. And you need clothing to protect your clothing: burp cloths and bibs.
Furniture and Supplies
A comfortable chair is a must. A glider or a rocker will keep you comfortable and your baby happy during feeding time. Movement is key. Also, you will want a good nursing pillow. You can purchase pillows specifically made for breastfeeding, but I was happiest using my favorite pillow from my own bed.
Health and Hygiene
Nursing pads are your best friends; otherwise you will get breast milk on all your shirts. Also, lanolin cream for cracked or sore nipples.
Some moms will go back to work while still breastfeeding. Other moms will have activities taking them away from their baby every now and then. Regardless of your schedule, pumping is your friend. This is especially important in the early days when your precious little parasite needs near constant feeding. Working out a schedule with your partner is extremely important during these early days as you will want to get some sleep. For example, my husband used to handle any feedings between midnight and five a.m. and I would get feedings after then and he would sleep in a little later. Pick a schedule that works best for your family.
But familiarizing yourself with pumping will bring freedom to your life. It is not easy, and it certainly isn't comfortable or pleasant (I felt like a cow in a machine!) but many moms swear by it. Freshly pumped milk will last three to six hours at room temperature depending on the temperature of your room. Refrigerated breast milk will last two to four days. Frozen breast milk, depending on the freezer, can last up to six months or a year, depending on your freezer. Check here for more specifics.
An electric pump is a must for when you are going to be away from your child and miss a feeding. You can buy a variety of pumps, but check with your health care as most providers (including the Affordable Care Act) will send you one, free of charge. You may also want to get a hand pump, for when you only need it occasionally or need to do it somewhere tricky, like in a car. And, of course, you will need somewhere to put the milk, such as collection bags or bottles. Bags are much better for long term storage, but you will definitely need bottles for feeding (let your partner feed while you sleep). Bottles need both newborn nipples and bottle covers to save it for later. And don't forget a cooler! you don't want the milk to spoil before it gets to your child.
It can't all be about your needs (spoiler alert: you no longer are allowed to have needs. It's all about your little adorable dictator now). A few supplies are necessary to make sure breastfeeding can continue, even when you cannot be there all the time. Make sure to keep these in your house, and many of these in your diaper bag. In addition to non-breastfeeding supplies like a baby carrier, diapers, wipes, and spare clothes, make sure you bring what you need to either breastfeed or bottle feed while out and about. This includes bottles, pacifier, a pump, and if you are breastfeeding you may want a cover.
In almost every state you are allowed to breastfeed in public or private so it is all about your comfort level. There are horror stories about moms being harassed about their public breastfeeding, but with very few exceptions, you are legally allowed to feed your child in public. No need to feel any shame for this natural act.
And to minimize any fussy behavior, you may want to have formula for gas or colic in your bag if your baby is prone to either. That diaper bag will fill up quickly!
A big breastfeeding tip: make sure to hydrate! Think about it; your little one is taking your milk, which is mostly water, out of your body at regular times. Make sure you drink water much more frequently than you did before your baby was born. Don't worry, you won't be going to the bathroom nearly as often as when you were pregnant.
Breastfeeding is the best way to get important nutrients into your child. It is a natural act and the best way for mommies to bond with babies. Some mothers pick up breastfeeding immediately, while some take more time. With proper supplies, you will be able to make sure your baby will never go hungry, even if you are away from home. Nowadays, mommies can have it all, either staying at home with their baby or going back to work. Breastfeeding is no longer a limitation in how women lead their lives, and nowadays women can breastfeed in public almost everywhere without any repercussions. Whether you choose to breastfeed for a few months, a year, two years, or more, your child will benefit from all the nutrients, antibodies and healthy bacteria that you provide.