Breastfeeding is mostly instinctual, but it is not without its challenges. Mothers would know how to breastfeed their babies, even without consulting a book or a lactation consultant.
Everything comes naturally. But even so, breastfeeding mothers still worry that they may be doing things the wrong way. They start to-second-guess themselves when they experience lactation difficulties.
There’s also the tendency to compare their breastfeeding experiences with that of their mothers and friends. They fear that if they do not go through the same things, they are making breastfeeding mistakes which should not be the case because every mother’s breastfeeding journey is unique.
This Q&A answers the most frequently asked questions and provides breastfeeding tips to help you have positive breastfeeding experience and enjoy the moment with your baby.
1. Why should I breastfeed my baby?
Breast milk has everything your baby needs to grow and develop. With the combination of vitamins, protein, and fat, breast milk supplies all the necessary nutrients in the right quantity.
Exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months helps babies as they are likely to develop fewer infections, allergies and illnesses. And since breast milk is more digestible than formula, babies are less likely to have bouts of diarrhoea.
Breastfeeding also has benefits for mothers. It contributes to weight loss because when you breastfeed, you burn extra calories. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, and post-partum depression.
2. Is it OK not to breastfeed my baby?
There may be compelling reasons for not wanting to nurse your baby, and the decision to do breastfeed or not is entirely up to you. Medical experts strongly recommend breastfeeding because of the wealth of benefits it can provide the baby and the mother.
In exceptional cases, if you are ill and require intake of specific medication that may be harmful to baby, it is advised not to breastfeed. As it is a case-to-case situation, you should consult your health care provider regarding this matter.
3. Is it normal for my breast to hurt while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, but you are likely to experience some level of discomfort in the first few days after childbirth. You may experience sore nipples when the baby is not latched correctly to your breast. If breastfeeding hurts as a result of an improper latch, it can reduce the supply of milk.
The key to pain-free breastfeeding is a deep latch wherein the breast fills the baby’s mouth. With a deep suckle, the baby can reach more milk, which reduces the chances of painful nipple pinching.
4. Should I wash my nipples before and after breastfeeding?
It is not necessary to wash your nipples before and after breastfeeding because they have the ability to self-clean and self-lubricate. Besides, the nipples produce a substance that contains good bacteria that help build and strengthen your baby’s immune system.
5. When does my milk arrive?
Milk production begins during the second trimester of pregnancy when your body starts to produce colostrum. Colostrum is a low-volume breast fluid that is high in nutrients.
About 30 to 40 hours after childbirth, your placenta detaches from your uterus and is then expelled which causes your milk production goes into overdrive. The drop in progesterone levels triggers milk production.
You will start to notice milk coming in within two to three days after you have given birth. During this time, the colostrum is replaced by transitional milk which would, later on, become the mature milk
6. How do I boost my milk supply?
Mothers always worry about low milk supply. There is nothing to worry about if your baby is latching on correctly. As long as your baby is emptying your breast, the milk supply will continue to increase. That milk removal must happen because if it does not, the milk production will effectively shut down.
If you suspect that you have a low milk supply, make sure to breastfeed on demand. You will produce more milk if your baby nurses more often. Another way is to express milk using a pump. Do this after every breastfeeding session for about 20 minutes for 2 to 3 days. The emptying of breasts sends signals to the body to produce more milk.
You can also eat healthy lactation slices to boost milk production. It is also advisable to seek guidance from health care providers and lactation consultants.
7. I’m sick, should I breastfeed my baby?
Mothers who are sick can continue breastfeeding as usual. The antibodies that your body makes can be passed on to the baby and can strengthen your baby’s immune system. Breast milk’s protective properties, including antibacterial and antibacterial elements, can lower your baby’s risk of contracting colds and infections.
Continuing to breastfeed while you are sick can be extremely tiring. So you need to practice self-care and make sure you drink lots of fluid, eat well, rest, and get the right treatment. Do not take any medications without consulting your doctor.
8. Will exercising affect my milk supply?
There is no evidence to suggest that exercise affects milk production nor the nutritional content and quality of the milk. Even with an intense workout, the quality, quantity, and taste of milk are not affected. Babies will continue to accept the milk.
Exercise is encouraged because it provides positive effects on physical and mental health as well as the overall well-being of the mother.
9. How long should I breastfeed?
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months. Mothers can introduce complementary food when the baby is six months old. Breastfeeding up to 2 years is beneficial for both mothers and babies.
10. When is the right time to wean my baby from breastfeeding?
Do not think that it would be more difficult to wean your baby if you breastfeed for two years because there is no evidence supporting that belief. The decision when to wean depends on you and your baby. You have to consider different factors like body weight, tooth development, interest in solid food, and milk supply, among other things.
Breastfeeding can be daunting, especially for first-time mothers, but the more breastfeeding facts you know, the easier the transition would be. You may struggle in the beginning, but with guidance from healthcare providers, you will be more confident in your decisions, and you will eventually appreciate the wonders of breastfeeding.