Getting Started With Breastfeeding
Every parent wants the best for their baby and it is important to start right. Breast milk is the perfect nourishment for your baby
Why is breastfeeding best for my baby?
- Breast milk meets all of your baby’s nutritional needs as it contains all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients for your baby’s complete growth and development.
- Breast milk is more easily digested and your baby is less likely to develop stomach upset, constipation and diarrhoea.
- Breast milk is supercharged with antibodies which will improve your baby’s immunity and reduce the risk of infections.
- The close body contact and interaction during breastfeeding aids in creating a special bond between you and your baby.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot deaths), obesity and diabetes in adulthood.
- Babies who are breastfed are known to have higher IQ scores and better eyesight.
Why is breastfeeding best for me too?
- Early suckling helps your womb to contract faster and reduces blood loss after childbirth.
- It delays the return of your menstrual period and exclusive breastfeeding is a natural (although imperfect) contraceptive.
- You burn calories during breastfeeding and this helps you to shed some of the weight gained during pregnancy.
- Your risk of developing breast, ovarian and womb cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis is lower.
Why is breastfeeding good for the family and the community?
- Breastfeeding is free and convenient.
- It is environmentally friendly.
- Your baby will not fall sick so easily, so medical cost is reduced. You are also less likely to miss work as a result.
- You can save money from the direct cost of formula milk, and from fewer visits to the doctor.
How long should I breastfeed?
For optimal growth, development and health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommend exclusive breastfeeding (with no other food or drink) for the first 6 months (i.e. 180 days) of a baby’s life. You are encouraged to breastfeed your child until he is 12 months old and thereafter as long as mutually desired, together with the timely introduction of solid food from 6 months of age.
When and how should I initiate breastfeeding?
If you and your baby are well with no medical concerns, place your baby on your chest for at least an hour of skin to-skin contact within five minutes after delivery. Your baby’s suckling reflex is most intense in the first hour after birth. Being close to each other after sharing the birth experience helps your baby to calm down, keeps him warm and encourages him to breastfeed. Guide your baby when he shows signs of readiness to feed.
You are also encouraged to room-in 24 hours a day in your room with your baby to promote bonding, facilitate breastfeeding and allow you to recognise the early feeding cues. Do not be afraid to seek help from the nurses or lactation consultants if you need to.
Observe for early feeding cues. Feed your baby when he does any of the following:
- Increases his eye movements under closed eyelids or open eyes. Opens his mouth, stretches out the tongue and turns his head to look for the breast.
- Makes soft sucking sounds. Shows a strong rooting reflex such as sucking or chewing on hands, fingers or other objects that come in contact with the mouth.
- Moves towards your finger when you place it near the corner of his mouth.
What are the signs of a good latch?
- Your baby’s upper and lower lips flare out to form a good seal on the breast.
- Your baby’s chin is touching the breast and the nose is slightly away from the breast.
- The areola is drawn into your baby’s mouth.
- The baby’s cheek is round.
- You may feel the initial tug on the nipple when baby suckles but you should not have nipple pain or discomfort.
- You can observe your baby’s sucking rhythm to ensure good milk transfer. Suck > Swallow > Breathe (pause) rhythm.
How should I position my baby to feed him?
You can breastfeed sitting or lying down.
- Sit comfortably, making sure that your back and the arm which you hold your baby with is well supported (with a pillow or cushion).
- Gently massage your breast to clear any blocked milk ducts. Hold your baby at the breast level with your baby facing you (chest to chest). Support your breast with the other hand.
- Tease your baby to open his mouth as wide as possible and direct your nipple to the roof of your baby’s mouth.
- Make sure your baby takes in the whole areola and not just the nipple.
- Finally, take a breath, sit back and relax.
You can breastfeed in various positions. Pick a position that is comfortable for you.
1. Cradle hold is suitable when you and your baby are able to co-ordinate well and latch on easily. Support your baby’s head in the crook of your arm and hold buttocks with your hand with the baby’s face and body turned towards you.
2. Cross cradle hold is ideal for newborn, small or premature babies. It is also good for mothers with a short nipple. Support the back of the baby’s head and shoulder at the nape of neck using your palm, and the baby’s body and buttock with your forearm.
3. Football hold is ideal for small babies, mothers with large breasts and short nipples or mothers who have undergone a caesarean section. Support your baby’s head and shoulder at the nape of neck with your palm and the baby’s body and buttock with your forearm. Tuck your baby under your arm so that the legs are behind you and the head is at your breast.
4. Lying down is ideal after a caesarean section, forceps delivery or for feeding at night. Lie on your side with a pillow under your head and behind your back, with your baby facing you.
If you have any problems, approach your hospital’s lactation consultants for help.
How do I overcome some possible problems with breastfeeding?
Do not worry or be discouraged if you encounter some difficulties when you first breastfeed. By being aware of the possible problems, understanding their solutions and asking for help, your beastfeeding journey will be a smoother one. Here are some examples of the common problems encountered and their solutions.
Sore or cracked nipples
Cause: Your baby is not positioned or latched on properly.
- Gently take your baby off your breast and re-attach and re-position him.
- Reduce the nursing duration but increase the number of feeds.
- Initiate breastfeeding on the unaffected breast.
- Express a few drops of breast milk on the nipples to soothe them.
Cause: Missed feeds
- Express some breast milk before nursing if your baby has trouble latching on.
- Massage your breast gently while you are feeding and express after feed if your breast still feels hard or swollen.
- Use cold packs after a feed to be comfortable.
Cause: A blocked milk duct which is not draining well into the nipple.
- Start nursing from the affected breast first when your baby’s suckle is vigorous and strong.
- Keep the affected breast as empty as possible by nursing frequently.
- Apply mild pressure with a warm towel on the lump gently pushing it towards the nipple.
- Change feeding positions to help empty the breast and hand express breast milk if necessary.
Breast infections (mastitis)
Cause: A bacterial infection that usually affects one breast. The affected breast may be red, hot and swollen or may have a painful lump.
- Get help from your doctor or lactation consultant.
- You may be given antibiotics and painkillers for pain and fever.
- The breast infection will not affect your baby and you may continue to breastfeed if it is not too uncomfortable.
Cause: A yeast infection caused by Candida albicans that affects both you and baby. You may experience itchy, red or sore nipples and your baby may have white patches in the mouth.
Solution: See your doctor who may advise antifungal medication for you and your baby.
This article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with permission.