Saturday, February 16, 2008

breastfeeding, the first week

Breastfeeding has been making a comeback, thanks to the middle-class moms taking up the advocacy and making breastfeeding cool... especially in public.

However, no matter how many books you read and advice you get, you would still be anxious. You would still wonder if you have enough milk. You would still wonder if you can hack it. You would still wonder if you're doing it right.

And I say, for the first week... better focus on doing it right. And I mean, getting your baby to latch right.

You know what the perfect latch is, it's where the baby opened his mouth wide to accommodate both the nipple and part/most of your areola in his mouth, his chin and nose pressed on your breast and with both of you tummy to tummy.

To make it easier to insist on getting it right, remember that a baby is brimming with nourishment from your placenta at delivery, so he is essentially not hungry in the sense that he really needs to eat.

But he will cry because he's scared of his new environment and the mother's warmth, voice and breasts will comfort him. He will also cry because even if he doesn't exactly need food, his body is innately wired to seek it.

How will this knowledge help?

Well... if you know that he isn't essentially starving, you are more likely to insist on proper latch. You would gently push on his chin to unlatch him if it really hurts, if it's only your nipple he's sucking on, or he's making loud noises when he sucks (not to be confused with gulping noises).

It is very critical for a mother to insist on the perfect latch because this will greatly affect breastfeeding success. Soreness is to be expected, especially in the first week when your nipple is just getting used to being sucked constantly, and the baby is seeking much comfort and will probably insist on being hinged to your breasts. If you don't insist on the perfect latch, your nipples will feel more raw and the baby might not get to empty your breasts... which can lead to more painful engorgement and other problems.

You might also be tempted to introduce the bottle and add to your breastfeeding challenges.

Another thing that you should remember is that the liquid milk will come in its own sweet time. So, if on the day of delivery you're still not seeing milk, just relax and know it's okay. Especially since you're supposed to have colostrum first (it's very thick and doesn't really flow) before the milk comes (after three days or so).

How would knowing this help?

It should stop you from interrupting feedings because you want to check if the baby is really getting milk. It should also stop you from switching to formula because you can't see any milk or you're not pumping 'enough' milk. It should also stop you from basically just worrying, which will affect your milk ejection reflex (MER) and supply. And why fret, when the baby isn't really hungry yet at this point?

Have faith that the pregnancy hormones will conspire to bring the milk around, even if the baby was born preterm. But to bring the milk around, you'd need proper and direct stimulation.

It's actually a sort of vicious cycle, is it not?

How do you know the baby is really getting milk? You'll know when he stops fussing/crying and when he passes his first poop (meconium). Meconium will evolve into something more runny and wet and within the next day or two, expect the baby to poop every few hours (around 6-10 diaper changes, basically).

But let's not be distracted by the poop.

Remember, proper latch and direct feeding (on demand) the first week. Of course, lots of good diet and sleep too. So that you'd have enough energy to remember everything else that you read in those baby books and have the wits to apply them.

Really great resource sites:
kellymom :: Breastfeeding and Parenting
Ask Dr. Sears
BabiesOnline Breastfeeding Articles


For preggos based in Manila, there's a Breastfeeding Workshop happening this March. At P750 per couple, this is a truly great investment. I attended the same workshop last year and my son and I are perfect testimony to how breastfeeding workshops really empower women to give the best to their babies.

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