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Breastfeeding: You Got This, Mama!

By breastfeeding, you are making the best choice for your baby and you. It’s the most natural way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. All new mothers are naturally equipped to be able to breastfeed. For some, it comes as naturally as eating and drinking, while for others, some info, support and encouragement of their family and the health care system may be needed.

Is breast really the best for baby?

Ask any doctor and you’ll get the same answer: Breastmilk is the healthiest food for your baby. Babies who are breastfed from birth are much less likely to be ill during the first few months of their life. Apart from that, they are also less likely to develop the following:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Urinary tract infections Eczema Ear infections

Life long benefits

Breastfeeding reaps long-term health benefits for a child. People who were breastfed as babies have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and are less likely to develop type two diabetes in adulthood than those who have been formula-fed.

Mothers benefit too!

Breastfeeding helps a mother lower her risk of getting breast cancer before she reaches her menopause. It has also been shown to protect women against ovarian cancer and weak bones (osteoporosis) later in life.

Complete, natural and wholesome

Breastmilk is a complete food. It contains at least 400 nutrients as well as hormones and disease-fighting compounds, most of which simply cannot be duplicated in formula milk. Its nutritional make-up naturally and perfectly adjusts to a baby’s needs and development. Furthermore, apart from all the nutritional benefits breast milk has to offer, the act of breastfeeding helps to build that special bond between mother and baby.

The World Health Organisation and also our own Health Ministry recommends that babies be given only breastmilk for their first six months. It is also highly recommended that women should carry on breastfeeding after their babies have started on solid food, if possible, right up till the end of the first year.

Colostrums, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of a pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for newborns, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.

Where do I begin?

Once established, a breastfeeding session may take up anything from five minutes to half an hour or more. Firstly, choose the most comfortable spot possible for you to breastfeed. The right atmosphere and environment will help greatly, especially when you are still new at breastfeeding and are trying to get the hang of it. Every mum has their own unique preferences. If you are easily annoyed by noise, then select a peaceful, quiet spot. However, if you are bound to get bored easily, you might want to breastfeed your baby while watching television, for example. Get comfy and enjoy your precious time with your baby.

Holding your baby the right way

When it comes to breastfeeding, being comfortable and being able to get your baby to your breast easily are the two things that count. Hold your baby properly or there is a possibility you might end up with aching arms and even a sore back! While many first-time mums find the cradle position works well, it really depends on the individual. The most important is that you and your baby are both comfortable before you even start feeding.

Comfy breastfeeding positions:

  • Hold your baby across your lap. Using the opposite arm from the ‘feeding’ breast is said to be the most comfortable for beginners.
  • Hold your baby in a comfortable underarm position, across your lap, supporting him with the same arm as your ‘feeding’ breast.
  • For lying down positioning, breastfeed with your bodies parallel.
  • If you are breastfeeding twins, hold your babies in any combination if you desire to feed them together.

Beginners might find it easier to use the same arm at first, meaning, hold your baby across your lap to feed on one breast, then under the same arm to feed from the other breast. With patience and perseverance, you will soon find the best breastfeeding position that works for baby and you.

How hard can it be, really?

Some women adjust to breastfeeding easily, encountering no major hurdles and some run into some difficulties. After being discharge from the hospital, some may start to feel overloaded and may even find breastfeeding complicated and tiring. There are even those who entertain the feeling of resentment of not being able to go out and being ‘confined’ at home.

New moms are also known to worry about not having enough milk or feel uncertain if the baby is drinking the right amount. These feelings are quite natural, so let’s take a calm look at things. It helps to keep in mind how lucky you are to be able to breastfeed – even if it worries you a little bit as a new mom.

As a general rule, your newborn will need to be fed every two to four hours. The time between feeds will start to increase because the composition of your breastmilk naturally changes and also, your baby will drink more at each feed. You’ll soon be able to establish a regular feeding pattern.

Your body will find a way to assist you too. Some women find that their breasts swell whenever it is feeding time – some even several minutes before the baby starts crying for milk!

Breastfeeding is a magical experience, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Whenever you feel doubtful, remember that breastfeeding is something that can be learned. Remember too, that you’re not the only one. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns that may impede successful breastfeeding. If you need professional advice, contact a breastfeeding counselor or join a breastfeeding forum for encouragement and free advice! Our local www.susuibu.com is one good option.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding takes practice. Give yourself as much time as you need to get the hang of it. Take it a day, a week or even just a feed at a time. If you’re having a ‘bad’ breastfeeding day, remember that you are doing the best you can for your baby and that tomorrow is always a new day to make it better.

Self attachment

Did you know that babies who are only minutes old are naturally inclined to move or ‘ crawl’ up to the breast from the mother’s abdomen, and start breastfeeding all by themselves? This process may take up to an hour or longer, but it is not often practiced in this modern, commercialized world of postnatal procedures hence the mother and baby are rarely given this time together to start discovering about each other. This is called ‘self attachment” and babies who are given this opportunity to “self-attach” run into far fewer breastfeeding problems. This skin-to-skin contact will also help the child feel warm and protected.

Breastfeeding issues and solutions

Here are the top challenges faced by nursing moms and tips to get around them.

Painful latch

It’s normal for your nipples to feel sore when you first start to breastfeed, especially if you’re a first-timer, but the pain should decrease and go away within a minute or so. If it does not, your baby’s positioning could be wrong. Your baby’s mouth should cover more of the areola below the nipple rather than above. To break the suction for repositioning, place your index finger inside baby’s mouth and ease off the suction. Next, tickle baby’s chin (or wait till the little bundle yawns!) and try again. A correct positioning is when baby’s chin and nose touch your breast, with lips splayed out and you can’t see your nipple or part of the lower areola. If you don’t get this the first few times, keep trying and you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Sore/cracked nipples

Improper latch, dry skin and even thrush can result in sore and/or cracked nipples. During the first week of breastfeeding, you may have bloody discharge when your baby is just learning to latch or you are just beginning to pump. This blood won’t harm your baby, though! Check baby’s positioning and also, try breastfeeding more frequently and at shorter intervals. The less hungry baby is, the softer the sucking will be. Do not use conventional soaps on your nipples. Instead, clean water is all you need. Also, try letting some milk stay on your nipples to air dry after feeding (the milk actually helps heal them). Alternatively, there are specially formulated nursing creams that work wonders for cracked or sore nipples and are completely safe to use.

Engorgement

Engorgement makes it difficult for baby to latch on to the breast because it’s hard and un-conforming to that tiny mouth. Try hand-expressing a little before feeding to get the milk flowing and soften the breast, making it easier for baby to latch on. Remember too that the more you nurse, the less likely your breasts are to get engorged.

Mastitis

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in your breasts marked by flu-like symptoms such as fever and sore breasts. The condition is most common within the first few weeks after birth, can be painful to endure and is caused by cracked skin, clogged milk ducts, or engorgement. The best way to treat the infection is with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Other methods include hot compresses, and most importantly, frequent emptying via pumping. Remember too, that it’s completely safe to breastfeed even with mastitis and it’s even recommended that you do so.

Inverted/flat nipples

You can tell if you have flat or inverted nipples by doing a simple squeeze test: Gently grab your areola with your thumb and index finger — if your nipple retracts rather than protrudes, it can be concluded that you have inverted nipples and breastfeeding could be more challenging. Use a pump to get the milk flowing before placing baby at your nipple and use breast shells between feeds. Once you feel like your milk supply is adequate, try using nipple shields if baby still has problems latching.

Breastfeeding in public

Although it is becoming an increasingly common sight in Malaysia, breastfeeding in public is still a matter of personal preference and choice.

You will have to ask yourself if:

  • You want to be confined to your home because you are a breastfeeding mom
  • You don’t mind hurrying home every time your baby needs to be feed
  • You are just too shy/uncomfortable at the thought of breastfeeding in public
  • You see your breastfeeding as a totally natural activity and you are doing absolutely nothing offensive by feeding your baby

Unless you are ready to hurry on home every time your baby needs to eat, there are many ‘discreet’ options you can look into. Some nursing wears are designed to allow you to nurse your baby so privately that hardly anyone would know what going on underneath! Avoid shirts that you have to unbutton as they are a hassle to work on while holding baby in one hand. Maternity stretch tops that have discreet openings at the sides work well.

Nursing rooms

Most of the larger local shopping centres built or even refurbished within the last decade should have mother and baby rooms where you can nurse your baby in private, alone or in the company of either your close family members or other nursing mums. There is no denying though, that the typical Malaysian lifestyle can present some unique challenges for breastfeeding in public. For instance, if you are out at the hawker centres or local eateries, it’ll be quite safe to say that there won’t be any nursing rooms around. It may be much better for your hungry little angel and you to get comfy in your car for a while, with the air-conditioner on, for a private feeding time.

Use a nursing cover!

Something as simple and straightforward as draping a scarf or thin cloth blanket over your shoulder and chest as your baby feeds also helps you feed more discreetly in public. These days, there are nursing covers, also known as nursing aprons or ponchos, available in the market. They make nursing in public a breeze!

Maintaining a healthy diet while breastfeeding

There are many conflicting ideas about what you should eat and drink when you are breastfeeding. Here are some facts every breastfeeding mother should be aware of:

Extra fluids while breastfeeding

You may have been advised to drink plenty of water to increase your breast milk supply, but the fact is, you only need to drink enough to satisfy your thirst. Neither loading up on water nor going thirsty for a bit is going to affect the amount of milk your body makes. Your body is good at regulating its reserves to make sure it keeps your milk supply going.

It’s a good idea to have a drink nearby while you are breastfeeding, though. This is because, while you are feeding, your body releases the hormone oxytocin that might make you feel uncomfortably thirsty.

If you have concerns of becoming dehydrated, keep an eye on the color of your urine. If it is pale-colored, you’re getting enough to drink and are nowhere near dehydrated. However, if your urine is dark yellow with a strong smell to it, that could be a sign that you are indeed dehydrated. It also means you should drink more water or fluids. If drinking water to stay hydrated gets too boring for you, try fresh fruit or vegetable juices, unsweetened soya milk and even nutritious smoothies!

Extra calories – Do you need them as a nursing mother?

This is a tricky one, for there are no right or wrong answers here. The amount of calories you need depends on how active you are and also your body weight. Your body by itself is an efficient machine in producing milk, hence while extra calories do help, it’s not necessary to double or triple your food intake! Do keep in mind that your body has some storage of fats accumulated during pregnancy, and breastfeeding can help to use those up. Trust your instincts and let your appetite guide you, in other words, eat when you are hungry!

Breastfeeding would normally bring on some hunger pangs. If you are seriously lacking of appetite, it could be a sign that you need extra emotional support. In many cases, women who suffer from postnatal depression lose their appetite. If eating seems to be struggle for you, let your doctor know.

Breastfeeding & losing weight

If you have put on a significant amount of weight while you were pregnant, it’s alright to shed some while you are breastfeeding. Remember that the most important thing is not how you look, but rather how you intend to remain healthy and energetic as a nursing mother.

Do not attempt any kind of special diets to lose weight while you are breastfeeding as it may affect your energy and health. Stick to a healthy diet and light exercises and increase the level of those exercises only to your capability and not to the extent of exhaustion.

Is there any food to stay away from while breastfeeding?

Most rules about what can and cannot be eaten during breastfeeding are based on cultural beliefs rather than scientific facts. This is clearly apparent given the fact that in Malaysia itself, confinements practices within the different races somehow differ and at times even contradict each other – Yet, mothers who go through all these different and varying practices seem to do fine!

Diets vary vastly not only around the world but within the different races in a country or community as well. In one culture a certain food may be prohibited from the diet of a breastfeeding mum while in another culture, a nursing mum might be encouraged to eat that very item of food everyday!

While food consumed by nursing moms are believed to influence their babies’ well-being through breast-milk, (e.g. may be unsettling to a baby’s tummy and cause colic fussiness), there are no hard rules as to what to eat and what to leave out for every mom and her baby is different.

As many dieticians and doctors will advise, if you think a particular food has affected your baby, you could try cutting it out for a few days to see if it makes a difference. There have been cases where vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and even cow’s milk and chocolate were somehow associated colic symptoms. As long as you are having a good range of healthy food, there should be no harm in leaving out something which you suspect is causing your baby to become fussy and unsettled.

Breastfeeding and alternative diets

If you happen to have food constrictions stemming from beliefs and lifestyle and so on, do discuss with your doctor or refer to a dietician to work out how you can have a healthy diet without a certain food or food group. For example, if you are a vegan and do not consume meat or dairy products, a dietician may be able to help you plan out an alternative diet which is still nutritious and allows you to remain healthy and energetic while breastfeeding.

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