How To Get a Successful Start to Breastfeeding (Part 2)

Some time ago, I posted How To Get a Successful Start to Breastfeeding (Part 1).  This is Part 2, with Part 3 to follow. To read Part 1 and the comments that followed, go here.

For the record, I have been breastfeeding for 66 months now. Does that make me a breastfeeding junkie? Some people think it’s weird. One friend asked me in a naughty way if I get a kick out of it! Especially when tandem nursing 2 kids. (You know who you are, that was sick, I love you still, and no, I don’t get kicks that way!)

Actually, I never planned on breastfeeding this long. I became a stay-home mum after the birth of Puppy, my first, and it became the easiest and most natural thing to do. There were challenges, though, especially when I first progressed to tandem nursing, but that’s for another post.

For now, here’s 7 more tips on how to start breastfeeding successfully. 20 tips altogether in this series, continuing where we left off.

..

7) Breastfeed properly.   Learn breastfeeding techniques – how to recognise when your baby is hungry, the different ways of holding your baby to the breast, how to latch your baby on, how to unlatch him, etc. Breastfeeding comes easily to some women, but some others struggle – it doesn’t come as naturally as you might think! If necessary, get the help of a lactation consultant to check whether your baby is latching on properly. The majority of problems in breastfeeding stem from a poor latch, so enlisting help does pay off.

..

8) Breastfeed frequently.   Feed on demand, not by the clock. This means not restricting your baby’s feeds to a certain time (not scheduling her feeds) and feeding her whenever she’s hungry. This will satisfy her suckling needs and increase your milk supply.

A one-day old baby doesn’t feed much, maybe only 5-6 times in 24 hours. But from the second day, your baby could feed about 1 ½ to 2 hourly, and feed about 10-12 times in 24 hours. Each feed can last anywhere from 20-40 minutes, or more. By then, you may have a very short time left before the next feed! It will seem like you’re constanstly feeding.

However, if your baby is continually on your breast for hours on end without wanting to unlatch, for what seems like the whole day, visit your lactation consultant to make sure her latch is ok. She may not be getting enough milk because of a poor latch, and you will soon develop sore nipples. You MUST have a good latch – Every. Single. Time.

..

9) Initiate breastfeeding when necessary.   You shouldn’t watch the clock to restrict feeds, but do check if your baby is not feeding enough. In the early days, a baby is sometimes more sleepy than hungry. Strive to feed frequently as above. This will build up your milk supply to meet the demand as it grows. If your baby is sleeping past 2-3 hours from her last feed, wake her up to feed.

..

10) Believe in colostrum.   Sometimes, well-meaning relatives may ask you to supplement with formula because they say, “Baby is crying, he isn’t getting enough!”

Well, in the initial days, the very little milk that you produce (colostrum) is more than enough for your baby. What is enough could be as little as one tablespoon. Be assured that your baby isn’t starving in the time before your milk fully comes in (usually between 3-5 days) and meanwhile, work on your nursing technique.

You and your baby have both a lot to learn about breastfeeding, so be patient while learning it. There may be a lot of trial and error before the demand-supply gets established. (On supplementing with formula, see Part 1.)

,,

11) Build up a good breastmilk supply.   To do this, feed frequently day and night, get sufficient rest, make sure you are eating well and drink plenty of fluids. If necessary, get domestic help, ask relatives or friends to help with meals, and limit visitors if you think you need the space and energy to focus on getting breastfeeding established.

When I was a newbie, I had to limit visitors to the hospital for a couple of days because it was so hard for me. It was difficult saying no to friends, but it gave me the rest that I needed.

Building up a good milk supply was easy after that. I followed the above simple steps, without needing anything like fenugreek or other traditional foods.

..

12) A good night-time feeding tip.   In the first few months, feed every 2 hours from after 6.00 pm until 12 midnight. This will ensure that your baby’s tummy is kept full before you turn in for the night, so that he won’t be waking up so often in the wee hours.

Feed again at 2.00 am or 3.00 am (if your baby hasn’t yet awakened earlier to feed) and again at 5.00 am or 6.00 am. Two in-the-middle-of-the-night feeds is not considered too much for a young baby.

When Piglet was 2 days old, he nursed for almost 3 hours in the middle of the night and woke up again less than an hour later to nurse again. I was so tired, putting it mildly! Thankfully he gradually settled into a more predictable night time pattern soon after.

..

13) Give yourself time to understand your baby.   Learn what are the signs of your baby having enough milk. Follow them to check that your baby is getting enough. This will assure you that you’re on the right track and give you confidence to continue breastfeeding exclusively.

Enjoy your baby, and happy breastfeeding!

..

Do you have any breastfeeding stories to share? How did you start breastfeeding? What worked best for you? What didn’t?

Continue Reading

How to get a successful start to breastfeeding (Part 1)

..

World Breastfeeding Week 2011 is over but since I breastfeed everyday, it might as well continue for me! Daily, I celebrate the breastfeeding relationship that I have with my children – the safest, healthiest, most natural milk for them, perfect with hugs and snuggles.

In my last post, I shared 10 factors I’m so thankful for this WBW. Here, I elaborate a little more in 20 steps (divided into Parts 1, 2 and 3, and posted in between several ramblings, permit me!). I have a little crazy hope that this may somehow help other women in their breastfeeding journey. Not every woman wants to breastfeed her baby, but if you’re one of those who do, this series of posts is for you. xoxo

So have fun reading, take what you deem helpful and ask your lactation consultant when in doubt. (Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, just a happy and experienced breastfeeding mom!)

1) Be prepared. Before you give birth, be well-informed about the benefits of breastfeeding, how to breastfeed, and anticipate the challenges. It won’t guarantee you a smooth-sailing start, but it helps a lot to have information beforehand. It can be tough going for most new mothers, and having the necessary knowledge will motivate you to persevere on difficult days. Use the most trusted and reliable resources. Go here, here, here, and here.

2) Get support. Get the full support of your spouse, family members and extended community. Discuss your intention to breastfeed. Bring your husband, mother and mother-in-law to breastfeeding seminars. Give them printed information, if necessary. Befriend mothers who have succeeded at breastfeeding, be inspired by them. Support is invaluable because you need encouragement to pull through (see No. 3).

3) Breastfeed early. If you can, breastfeed skin-on-skin with your baby within the first hour of birth, in the labour ward. Early nursers tend to catch on sooner. Don’t fret, however, if for some reason your baby doesn’t want to feed early, or if he can’t be brought to you to breastfeed within the first hour, or if you are too exhausted to try – you and your baby can still try later. Cuddle your baby at the breast and enjoy the moment! Breastfeeding early helps a lot, but it doesn’t guarantee instant success. Conversely, not having an early start doesn’t mean failure.

My 3rd baby breastfed for 45 minutes in the labour ward, just 30 minutes after he was born. He latched on beautifully with minimal help from me, and I could ignore the painful work of stitching my tear – almost! My 2nd baby did somewhat the same. Both babies took off remarkably well with breastfeeding.

My 1st baby, however, breastfed only some 5 hours after birth. It was a traumatic delivery, the doctors had trouble stopping my bleeding and my baby developed jaundice, requiring in-hospital treatment. Breastfeeding a sleepy, jaundiced baby was difficult, especially for the first-timer, beat-up new mother that I was. Looking back, it would have been easier if I had expressed milk during the intervals she didn’t want to feed on the 1st day. But guess what? This same baby breastfed until shortly after her 5th birthday.

So, although a woman can’t breastfeed her baby early, it is possible to do so later. I persevered for 5 days in hospital through lots of pain, a bleeding nipple, and countless tears. But I also had Sweet Man’s incredible support as well as tremendous encouragement from the hospital nurses.

4) Get together. Rooming-in with your baby can help you establish breastfeeding sooner. You will be able to watch your baby, learn his hunger signs, and feed him whenever he’s hungry. If rooming-in isn’t possible, ask to have him brought to you whenever he’s awake. Or room-in partially. Your baby can be with you all day for demand feeding, and you can rest at nights while a nurse brings him to you for night feedings when he wakes.

5) Ban supplements. Don’t give your baby water, glucose or formula milk. If you aren’t rooming-in with your baby, make your wishes clearly known to the hospital staff. If you allow your baby to drink anything other than breast milk, you are setting yourself up for breastfeeding problems. His appetite will be satisfied, he will be sleepy and not suckle at your breast. The lack of breast stimulation will result in a diminished milk supply. Furthermore, your baby may soon prefer supplemental feedings other than breast milk and reject your breast, because suckling at your breast is harder work than drinking from a bottle.

It helped me that I did not consider formula as an option. Besides, I was appalled at the cost of formula. I didn’t accept formula samples (they are NOT gifts!), and I didn’t keep any at home. Once you feel you have the option of formula, it is very easy to resort to it. If you choose to breastfeed exclusively, you may want to do the same – unless advised by a lactation consultant. Pediatricians are not necessarily the best advisors. Some are ill-informed and extremely unsupportive of breastfeeding.

6) Ban bottles, pacifiers, and other artificial nipples. (See No. 5.) When I had a bleeding nipple and could no longer tolerate the pain of my baby suckling on it, I expressed milk by hand for a few days and fed it to her from a baby cup. No bottles! I let her suckle at the other breast as usual. As soon as I could, I stopped expressing and breastfed directly again.

The baby cup I used to cup-feed expressed breast milk
(I have no vested interests in Medela, other than as a satisfied customer)

(..

Like many women I had a rocky start to breastfeeding, but with lots of perseverance, support and love, I’m so grateful that I am still breastfeeding my children today (so are they!). I have 5 years worth of cherished breastfeeding stories that I hope to post about someday, but for now, look out for Part 2 of this series.

Do you have any comments or stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

..

Continue Reading