Motherhood does not come with an instruction manual, and every woman’s experience of breastfeeding is different. Xing Li, Lactation Consultant at Alvernia Parentcraft Centre, shares some reassuring expert advice for first-time mums.
Some first-time mothers worry that their milk supply will be insufficient, while others fear the pain associated with engorged breasts and babies’ first attempts at latching on.
While these concerns are understandable, Li shared that breastfeeding does not have to be more stressful for first-time mothers than second- and third-timers. Having just one child on which to focus your efforts can actually be less stressful than having to divide your attention between a toddler and a newborn.
Li emphasised the importance of managing stress and first-time nerves, since these emotions can suppress the release of the breastfeeding hormone oxytocin, which in fact helps induce a state of calm.
FEED ON DEMAND
The old school regime of scheduled feeds has fallen out of favour, according to Li.
“Feeding on demand is the definite answer, as only your baby knows when he is hungry and how much he wants to take from the breasts,” said Li. Since many newborns are sleepy within the first two weeks of life, mothers should wake them up for a feed every four hours or so, she added.
When all goes according to nature’s plan, pregnancy hormones prepare a mother well for breastfeeding. Typically, a woman starts producing breastmilk at around 16 weeks into her pregnancy. Hence, almost all mothers have plenty of milk readily available for their babies after delivery.
“Feeding on demand with good latching or a correct expression technique will almost always stimulate the breasts to produce ample milk for your baby,” assured Li. Milk-boosting products are occasionally recommended when not enough milk is being produced, but only after it has been established that the baby is latching on correctly and/or the mother is expressing correctly.
BE EMOTIONALLY PREPARED
First-time mums are often unsure of what constitutes ‘correct latching on’. Li offered this simple checklist:
• Baby’s mouth is wide open and covers a large portion of the areola
• Baby’s nose is free and their chin touches the breast
• A ‘suck, swallow and pause’ rhythm is observed
• There are no clicking sounds or drawing in of baby’s cheeks
• Breast softens while baby latches on and drains it of milk
WHEN RETURNING TO WORK
If a mother has to return to work before her baby is ready to be weaned, she should express enough milk for the feeds she will miss while she is away from her baby. Efficient electrical ‘double pumping’, of both breasts concurrently, is preferred by most working mothers.
Li stresses the importance of always labelling expressed breastmilk with dates and times. Safe storage times vary according to different temperatures.
Storage of Expressed Breastmilk
|Room Temperature (<25°C)||4 hours||Cooler bag with Ice pack (<15°C)||24 hours||Refrigerator (<4°C)||48 hours||Freezer (<-18°C)||6 months|
For those lucky mums who are able to work from home, Li recommends the continuation of demand feeding and suggests investing in a baby carrier and nursing bib to maximise mobility and minimise mess.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
Breastfeeding should be a beautiful, natural bonding experience that brings joy, not pain. If a mother feels pain during or after feeding, she should visit a board-certified lactation consultant.
Similarly, if repeated attempts to breastfeed are unsuccessful, the mother should seek help from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding mothers’ support group. It is important to gain the support of family members and friends, too.
If you are a first-time mum contemplating breastfeeding, fret not. Breastmilk is nature’s healthiest fast food and chances are you will be a ‘natural’.