Breastfeeding challenges for new mums

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Dr. Shreya Sharma is a childcare expert and an M. D. in Pediatrics, she is currently a Pediatrician with fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology, Mumbai.

Though breastfeeding is a natural and instinctive process, it often turns out to be a source of anxiety for parents. Here are some common concerns that many mothers face in the first few days of the newborn’s arrival.

Q) Will I be able to breastfeed my baby? I have never done it before!

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All babies are born with the rooting and sucking reflex which helps them find their source of food i.e. the nipple. And the good news is that all babies are born hungry! If the baby is given skin to skin contact with the mother and  breastfed immediately after birth , the little one will surely find his/her way. There is absolutely no excuse to delay breastfeeding in a healthy baby.

Remember, the entire breast of one side should be emptied before shifting to the other side, so as to make both the fore milk and hind milk available to the baby. And don’t get worried when you see that your initial milk is yellow.

Q) Should the first day’s sticky yellow milk be fed to the baby?

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The first yellow milk i.e. colostrum is essential for the baby and though small in quantity, satiates the baby’s hunger and thirst. It also provides essential nutrients that help boost the baby’s immunity and develop resistance to infections.

Q) How can I support my baby in feeding?

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First and foremost a healthy nutritious diet and good fluid intake along with calcium and iron supplements must be ensured in the lactating mother. Avoid spicy food as it could affect your baby’s tender digestive system.

Attachment is a learned skill for both mother and baby and a few hits and misses should be expected until both are comfortable.

There are some rules of latching which can be followed :

shutterstock_1171410646Baby’s head, neck and body must be supported well and in a straight line.

Baby’s body should be turned towards the mother and in contact.

Wait for the baby to find the nipple, open his mouth wide and latch on, his/her lower lip turned and most of the areola inside the mouth.

Burping after each feed is equally important. To burp your baby, keep him / her upright for 5-10 minutes and stroke his / her back gently.

Q) Is my baby getting enough milk?

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There is no way to measure the volume that the baby is drinking, however, adequacy can be judged by the baby peeing 6-8 times a day, sleeping soundly in between two feeds and of course, weight gain. Remember that a happy and active baby is a well fed baby !

Let the baby feed on demand and decide the duration of the feed. Baby rules !

Also, not every cry is a hunger cry. A common mistake parents make is to attribute every one of the baby’s cries to hunger. In the process they end up giving top feeds, which is absolutely not warranted. This may even confuse the baby and disturb the breastfeeding process.

Care must be taken to not give any top feeds to the baby in the first 6 months, not even water.

Q) My breast hurts when I feed. Ouch !

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Breast engorgement and sore nipple are common problems in the early days of breastfeeding. The former can  be taken care of by warm compresses, gentle massages and manual or pump expression of extra milk. Timely feedings will help empty the breast and prevent engorgement.

Sore nipples are primarily due to incorrect attachment, so guidance of a nursing specialist can be sought, to correct the technique. Application of expressed breast milk on the nipple or usage of nipple shields may help expedite the healing process.

Q) Can I express and store my breast milk?

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Manual as well as pump expression is possible. Take the utmost care of hygiene by washing hands during expression, and sterilizing the pump and utensils regularly.

Breast milk can be stored for 8 hours at room temperature, 24 hours in a refrigerator and 3 months in a deep freezer. Care must be taken to thaw frozen milk slowly.

Exclusive breast feeding is recommended for the first 6 months,  as it is the most hygienic, unadulterated, customised and wholesome meal a baby can get, and a great way for mum and baby to bond and feel warm and loved by one another. Remember that a healthy and happy baby who is fed on demand keeps the milk flowing. So just relax and enjoy the most beautiful and natural process in the world.

Q) Does staying awake at night affect breast feeding?

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Most new moms have to stay awake at night to match their baby’s sleep and awake cycle. Feeding at night is a great way to maintain the flow of milk as the hormonal axis for milk secretion is most responsive to the stimulus of baby suckling on the breast.  Ofcourse, it is important for the mother to get sufficient sleep and relaxation whenever she can. The baby’s day and night cycle is expected to match our own in 3 – 6 months time.

Exclusive breast feeding is recommended for first 6 months,  as it is the most hygienic, unadulterated, customised and wholesome meal a baby can get.  A great way for mumma and baby to bond and feel warm and loved by each other.

Remember that a healthy and happy baby feeding at the breast keeps the milk flowing. So just relax and enjoy the most beautiful and natural process in the world.

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