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Breastfeeding 101 for new moms in India
Breastfeeding is the first and amazing gift from a mother to her new born baby. You cannot compare a baby’s joy and satisfaction with anything else when mother nurses baby. In India we have well supporting culture for breastfeeding which is a great help for a new mom. First time expecting moms lack knowledge and have many questions about breastfeeding. But it’s a common observation that breastfeeding lessons are also needed for second time pregnant women, either to revise breastfeeding techniques, or more often because they have not known or missed the proper techniques earlier.
Let’s go step by step.
How to start and what is a good latch?
To start breastfeeding, place your nipple between baby’s nose and upper lip and then encourage baby to open mouth widely by gently moving nipple and tickle baby’s upper lip. If this doesn’t work, you may try brushing baby’s cheek with nipple, which will make baby open her mouth and turn towards nipple. Talk to your baby, call her, this will help her to stay awake and encourage opening mouth. Wait patiently for baby to open mouth wide, as soon as baby opens mouth act quickly and direct your nipple into the center, put nearly all of the areola and nipple into the baby’s mouth. Do not lean forward (Leaning forward is not good for your back, so avoid it strictly), but pull baby close to you. Start over several times but do not continue the wrong position or imperfect latch.
Hold your breast with your thumb on top, and palm and fingers underneath the breast. Keep your fingers away from your areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple).
In early days you may feel little pain for first 30-60 seconds. If you feel pain, stop feeding and re-position your baby.
To make sure baby has a good latch:
- Baby’s top and bottom lip should be turned out (like mouth of a fish).
- Baby’s nose should be almost touching your breast. (make sure it is not pressed against breast)
- Baby’s chin should be pressed into the breast
- Baby should take as much of the areola as possible in her mouth, with more areola showing at the top lip than that at the bottom.
- Baby should suck areola as milk sinuses are located beneath the areola. Remember, if baby sucks just on the nipple, you may get very sore nipples and baby will not get enough milk.
- Baby’s throat should look like she is swallowing. Sometimes you will see a soft click in throat indicating the milk is going down. Also you will see baby’s jaw working all the way back to her ear.
- Relax: Mother should be relaxed for successful latch.
Watch this youtube video for more understanding:
Complete feeding from one breast first before switching to the other
Once you start breastfeeding, baby swallows and pauses frequently. As baby gets full, the pauses become longer. When baby stops swallowing and if she does not let go on her own, take her off your breast. Burp baby properly. After that offer the second breast, if baby is hungry then she will take, if not then offer that full breast at next feeding. By finishing one breast till end, baby gets get the high calorie hindmilk that comes at the end of each feeding. If you switch the breasts before one is finished, baby will get only foremilk and no or less of hindmilk. This also helps in maintaining the breast sizes equal.
Foremilk and hindmilk
When you start breastfeeding your baby, the baby first receives low-fat watery milk called foremilk, which quenches baby’s thirst. Foremilk contains higher water content, vitamins, carbohydrates and protein. Hindmilk is milk at the end of a feeding, which has a higher fat content than the foremilk. Hindmilk gives fat calories for growth and foremilk gives lactose for energy and brain development. Thus baby receives the perfect food. However, if mother’s milk production is too high, baby may get overdose of foremilk which is difficult to digest. This is called as foremilk-hindmilk imbalance/oversupply. (How to avoid it? click here)
How long does one feeding session take? And What should the frequency be?
One feeding might take as short as five minutes or even as long as an hour to complete. If baby is gaining weight adequately do not worry if duration varies.
A newborn needs 8 to 12 feeds per day for first month. Remember every baby is unique and so is breastfeeding. There is no hard rule of frequency and duration of feeds. Some babies might feed every 1 hr or 1 ½ hr, whereas other babies might need 2 or 3 hours between feedings. This frequency will reduce next month and so on. So 1 to 2 months old baby needs seven to nine feeds a day. Also your baby will develop a more reliable schedule. More or less frequency is not an issue. Frequent feedings help stimulate milk production in first few weeks. Breastfeeding should be on demand (when your baby is hungry), which is usually every 1½ to 3 hours (could be more during night).
How to identify if baby is hungry?
Before crying baby will show you some early signs like: licking lips, increased body movements, rapid eye movements, sucking on fingers, breathing fast, trying to position for feeding, turning head back and forth.
Impatient hunger cues: crying, agitated body movements
Try to avoid late signs, as fussy and crying baby may refuse to feed even if very hungry. In such case, calm your baby down and then take for feeding.
Feeding on demand
Feeding on demand simply means feeding baby whenever she is hungry. Feeding on demand is better called as on-cue-feeding or baby led feeding. A new born baby has a small stomach (around the size of a walnut) and breast milk is easily digested so baby will be hungry frequently. Especially during first few weeks, you will be feeding your baby constantly. If your baby seems hungry soon after feeding you should feed baby again. But if your baby is sleepy and doesn’t wake up and doesn’t show signs of hunger for more than 3-4hrs, be sure to wake her up and feed. A newborn specially needs close monitoring to make sure she gains enough weight. Baby-led breastfeeding is best for your baby and is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation). Feeding on demand, helps to make sure your baby is receiving enough milk and baby gains weight quickly. It will also help you produce enough milk, prevent engorgement and promotes better bonding between you and baby.
Should I wake my sleeping baby up for feeding?
It’s a call a mother has to take depending on few points: During early weeks, If baby is sleeping more than 3-4 hours in day time then you may want to wake her up and feed. But if it is during night time or after first few weeks and baby has developed a schedule, then you may let her to sleep long hours. Sometimes you will experience with constantly feeding (cluster feedings), baby may sleep deeply for several hours. These long sleeping periods are fine if the baby is getting her minimal number of feedings in a day (24 hrs) and her urine and stool output and weight gain is adequate.
Burping after each feeding:
Burp the baby without fail after each and every feeding, if you don’t burp at all or not properly then the air which baby has swallowed during feeding will be released and can lead to gas, spitting up and crankiness. Burping properly is one of the very important things to keep her happy. Learn how to burp your baby.
You may experience sour nipples, lumps and/or engorgement during breastfeeding, read this to know causes, solutions and prevention.
Breastfeeding on first day:
On the very first day, within 1 hour of birth, the baby must receive the mother’s milk which is called colostrum. It’s a super powerful concentrated liquid food a mother is been creating during her pregnancy. Learn more about breast feeding on first day here.
What is exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby is fed only mother’s milk. No Water, No formula milk, no semi solids/juices, no ghuti, except medications/supplements if only prescribed by baby’s pediatrician or your gynecologist. WHO recommends that baby should receive exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for optimal growth, health and development.
Why exclusive breast feeding for 6 months?
There is a great amount of research done worldwide suggesting exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is best for baby. Most health organizations like WHO recommend and support this. Breast milk provides the energy and nutrients that your baby needs for the first 6 months of her life. Diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition and allergies are less likely in exclusively breast fed babies. Long term benefits for baby: protects child against a variety of chronic disorders. Baby’s weight gain is better in exclusive breastfeeding. It is best for you too, it reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Before 6 months baby’s digestive system is not ready for solid food. Breast milk is easiest to digest.
Skin to skin contact with your baby
Mothers are encouraged to make skin contact with their babies; this helps a great bonding with baby. It makes newborn’s heart beat rate and temperature more stable. Click here to know more on first day bonding.
Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists, who are trained to teach mothers how to feed their babies. They help mothers having breastfeeding problems, such as problems with latching, low milk production, milk engorgement, pain in feeding. Contact lactation consultant near your area.
Watch this very informative video on breastfeeding is best
Breast milk is the only best food, is super nutritious and sufficient for your baby for first 6 months. We hope this guide made for Indian mothers will make your life easier as a nursing mommy.