Congratulations! You have survived 9 months of pregnancy, powered on through labor, and are now cradling your sweet newborn in your arms. But then she lets out a wail, soft at first and then getting louder by the minute. The nurse or your OB assist you in positioning her to your breasts to feed. And then you realize that breastfeeding is not that easy. It may be the most natural thing in the world (as everyone keeps telling you for the past few months), but it’s definitely not as simple as just plugging your breasts into your baby’s mouth.
If you’re overwhelmed with the hundreds of breastfeeding information on Google and your crying baby, then fret not mama. We’ve got your back, here are a few simple tips and facts on breastfeeding that you need to know:
1. Don’t expect milk to flow. For the first few days, most moms get worried that their babies are not getting enough milk because they could not see a drop of it. This is because the mom produces just enough milk or colostrum for her baby. A newborn’s stomach can only hold 5 to 7 ml (1 to 1.4 teaspoons) at a time and is about the size of a calamansi. So how do you know if your baby’s getting enough milk from you? A good gauge of this is if he/she fills his diaper, then you have provided him/her with breastmilk mama. Also, note that newborn babies should poop every day.
2. A good latch is important. Your breastfeeding success relies on getting a good latch, and to do this, here are a few things to keep in mind:
a. Settle in a comfortable position, preferably one with ample back support. Use a breastfeeding pillow if you have one.
b. Ensure that you and your baby are tummy-to-tummy at all times, so your baby does not have to tilt his head sideways just to feed.
c. Bring your baby into you, and don’t lean into your baby. Aim your nipple towards your baby’s upper lip or nose and not the middle of his mouth, so that he will tilt his head back, open his mouth wide and latch on.
3. It could hurt in the first few days. You and your baby might take a few feedings to perfect your latch and a few days to develop your routine, so sore (and even bleeding) nipples can be quite common at this stage. If your nipples are already cracked and bleeding, express a little milk and apply it to your nipple and let it air-dry. You can also try using nipple or lanolin creams or even ask your OB for a prescription for OTC painkillers. At the same time, be sure to correct your baby’s latch to ensure a painless breastfeeding journey.
4. Breastmilk is all a newborn baby needs. The World Health Organization (WHO) [http://www.who.int/features/qa/breastfeeding/en/] recommends children be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, and this includes water. Giving water to babies put them at risk for diarrhea and malnutrition, and could cause the baby to drink less breastmilk and therefore risk the mother’s supply. At the same time, breastmilk is composed of 80% water, so if the mother feels that her baby is thirsty, she can breastfeed him/her and this will satisfy the baby’s thirst.
5. Moms are “safe” for the first 6-months post-partum if she is exclusively breastfeeding. Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is a temporary contraceptive method that relies on exclusive breastfeeding. The effectivity of this method relies on the following conditions:
a. The baby must be less than 6-months old.
b. The mother must not have had her period.
c. The baby must be exclusively-breastfed – which means no formula, no pacifiers, no vitamins, and no water.
6. Don’t pump right away. Unless it’s absolutely necessary (such as if your baby’s in the NICU and direct-feeding is not possible), experts recommend that mothers pump 6 weeks after giving birth, as pumping too early could lead to oversupply and even mastitis.
7. Relax and start slow. You can start expressing breastmilk if you’re going back to work soon or if you just want to increase your supply. If you’re having a hard time getting your pumping rhythm, here are a few tips you can try:
a. Pump one breast while your baby is feeding on the other. Doing so can maximize your letdown and result in more milk.
b. Encourage letdown by massaging your breasts, gently shaking your breasts, or even applying warm compress. You can even cuddle your baby or have a picture of him/her nearby when you’re pumping away from home.
c. If you’re back in the office, you can use your baby’s regular feeding schedule as your pumping schedule to maintain your supply. If your baby feeds every 4 to 6 hours, then you should try to pump every 4 to 6 hours as well.
8. Properly store breastmilk. Since you’ve worked hard for your breastmilk stash, it is important to store it safely and properly. Here are a few tips on how to do so:
a. Breastmilk can be safely stored at these temperatures:
Room Temperature (16-29°C) – Safe for a maximum of 4 to 6 hours
Refrigerator (around 4°C) – Safe for a maximum of 4 to 5 days (don’t place breastmilk in the refrigerator’s door as the temperature in this area can be inconsistent).
Freezer (less than 4°C) – Safe for a maximum of 6 months (keep your milk in the middle as the temperature on the sides can fluctuate).
b. Proper breastmilk containers include hard-sided plastic or glass containers with well-fitted tops, BPA-free containers, and milk bags specifically designed to store breastmilk, or even milk bottles with disc caps (using teats as bottle caps could result to contaminated breastmilk). Also, make sure to mark your containers properly with the pumping date and time.
9. Ensure that you properly prepare your breastmilk before serving it up to your baby. If your breastmilk is frozen solid in the freezer, you can opt to take it out and place it in the refrigerator part one day before you intend to serve it to your baby. On the other hand, for breastmilk stored in the refrigerator, you can bring your breastmilk to room temperature by placing it in running tap water or in a bowl with warm water (you can also thaw frozen breastmilk this way). Do not boil or place it in a bottle warmer as doing so can damage some of the breastmilk’s nutrients. At the same time, do not shake the breastmilk in the container, as doing so could damage its live components. It is quite normal for stored breastmilk to separate into a cream and milk layer, and you can mix this by gently swirling the bottle or container.
10. To prevent nipple-confusion, you can try cup-feeding instead of bottle-feeding. There is a difference between how a baby gets milk from her mommy’s breast to how she gets milk from a bottle. So nipple-confusion could occur when the baby tries to use the bottle-feeding technique on the breast and gets frustrated when she has difficulty latching-on and sucking. So most doctors recommend using cup-feeding over bottle-feeding whenever baby cannot directly feed on the breast. To learn how to cup-feed your baby, you can check out Global Health Media’s informative videos .
Breastfeeding may be a bit overwhelming and may take more effort at first, but always remember that the benefits (both for you and your baby) are well worth it. If you think you need more help, you can consult or talk to your baby’s pediatrician or lactation consultant. Good luck on your breastfeeding journey mama!