During pregnancy, your breasts swell as milk-producing cells grow. Milk flows through ducts into small “pockets” under the dark area around the nipple (the areola). When these pockets are compressed by your baby’s mouth, the milk can flow easily from your nipple. Early breast milk is liquid gold, also known as colostrum. This is the thick yellow first breast milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can hold.
Taking Care of Your Breasts
- Wash your hands (including your nails) with warm, soapy water before touching your breasts.
- When you bathe or shower, don’t use soap products or shampoo on your breasts. These products can dry your skin and wash away the oils that keep the nipple and areola soft and naturally moist.
- You may want to gently dab a bit of your milk on your nipples after each feeding. Then let them air-dry for at least 5 minutes.
- Nursing bras can be helpful to provide support during nursing. Choose nursing bras that are comfortable and well-fitting. They should be snug to provide support but not so tight that they cut into your breasts or your back. Cotton cups are better than synthetic cups because they let more air circulate to the nipples.
A Good Latch
A good latch is important for your baby to breastfeed effectively and for your comfort. During the early days of breastfeeding, it can take time and patience for your baby to latch on well. It may take several tries, at least, to get a good latch. If your baby is not latched on properly, start over. And if the first feeding doesn’t go perfectly, take a break. You and your baby are both new at this, so patience is often needed. Just try again in half an hour or so.
- The latch feels comfortable to you, without hurting or pinching. How it feels is more important than how it looks. You will see little or no areola (the black part), depending on the size of your areola and the size of your baby’s mouth. If the areola is showing, you will see more above your baby’s lip and less below.
- Be sure your baby’s entire body—not just his head and face—are facing you. Ask yourself if you could draw a straight line from the baby’s ear to the shoulder and hip—if so, the position is good! Bring the baby close to you by using our Baby Banda Breastfeeding Pillow that is specially designed for your comfort and supports the baby properly.
- When your baby is positioned well, his or her mouth will be filled with breast.
- The tongue is cupped under the breast, although you might not see it.
- You hear or see your baby swallow. Some babies swallow so quietly, a pause in their breathing may be the only sign of swallowing.
- You see the baby’s ears “wiggle” slightly.
- Your baby’s lips turn out like fish lips, not in. You may not even be able to see the bottom lip.
- Your baby’s chin touches your breast.
- Keep track of which breast your baby finishes nursing on and start the next feeding on the other breast.
Factors To Note When breastfeeding:
• Note these signs of hunger i.e. rooting (turning head towards the breast), mouthing movements, tense appearance, grunting, other sounds, hand-to-mouth activity i.e. kicking, waving arms and crying.
• Note signs of a good feeding i.e. easy latch on, stays latched-on, hearing swallowing, noticing that the breasts are softer after feedings, feeling strong, deep “pulling” sucking, seeing milk in your baby’s mouth, leaking from the other breast or the feeling of a “let-down” reflex, 15 – 20 minutes vigorous sucking on each breast or 20 – 30 minutes on one side and wide jaw movements and consistent sucking.
• Note signs the baby is full i.e. drowsiness, sleepiness, the baby comes off the breast spontaneously, relaxed appearance, hands and shoulders are relaxed, sleeps for some time before rousing to feed again.
What is a letdown reflex?
A let-down reflex or milk ejection reflex is a conditioned reflex ejecting milk from the alveoli through the ducts to the sinuses of the breast and the nipple. This reflex makes it easier to breastfeed your baby. Let-down happens a few seconds to several minutes after you start breastfeeding your baby. It can happen a few times during a feeding, too. You may feel a tingle in your breast or you may feel a little uncomfortable. Keep in mind that some women don’t feel anything.
Let-down can happen at other times, too, such as when you hear your baby cry or when you may just be thinking about your baby. If your milk lets down as more of a gush and it bothers your baby, try expressing some milk by hand before you start breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is more than a way to feed a baby – it becomes a lifestyle. And fathers and other special support persons can be involved in the breastfeeding experience, too. Partners and family members can:
- Support the breastfeeding relationship by being kind and encouraging.
- Show their love and appreciation for all of the work that is put into breastfeeding.
- Be good listeners when a mother needs to talk through breastfeeding concerns.
- Make sure the mother has enough to drink and gets enough rest, has help around the house, and also help to take care of other children at home.
- Give emotional nourishment to the baby through playing and cuddling.
The bond between mother and baby is important, but so is the bond between father and baby. Babies need cuddles and hugs from their dads, too! In fact, skin-to-skin contact helps baby and father bond much like it does for mother and baby.
Low Milk Supply
Perceived low milk supply (LMS) has been a concern of new mothers forever! When you are breastfeeding you certainly can’t see the amount of milk flowing into your baby’s mouth as a bottle-feeding mother can. Most moms say, “I don’t think I have enough.” Don’t feel alone and remember human breast milk is best for baby. Medical research recommends breast-feeding for at least the first six months, and preferably for more than a year.
What is interesting about Low Milk Supply (whether perceived or actual) is that it is a huge stumbling block for mothers. When new moms begin supplementing with infant formula they begin a downward cycle of less nursing, and thus, less milk supply. Remember the best way to ensure adequate milk supply is to:
- Nurse frequently; stimulating the breast to produce milk. The infant sucking at the breast and stimulating it is what makes milk! Nurse frequently, 10-15 minutes on each breast every two to two and a half-hours; breastfeeding at least 8 times in 24 hours.
- Drink lots of fluids, preferably an 8-ounce glass of water every time you pick up your infant to feed. Consume as much juice, milk, herbal tea as you wish in addition to a lot of water. Try beverages like Ginger Ale, but avoid too much coffee or colas.
- Check to see that your baby has 6-8 wet diapers in 24 hours.
- Use hot compresses and hand expression to help initiate let down and encourage your baby to nurse.
Here is all you need to know on preparing to breastfeed.