Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breastfeeding Basics - My Handout

This is the first handout I provide to the families who take childbirth education classes with me. It is a summary of what I feel is the most important, basic information.

TYPICAL FEEDING SESSION: NURSE AS LONG AS BABY WANTS ON SIDE #1. WHEN BABY COMES OFF OR FALLS ASLEEP, BURP, CHANGE (MANY BABIES POOP ABOUT NOW), AND OFFER SIDE #2 FOR AS LONG AS BABY WANTS. THIS COULD TAKE 15MIN OR – MUCH MORE LIKELY! 45 MIN OR MORE. START WITH SIDE #2 FOR NEXT FEEDING & REPEAT.

Many newborns need to nurse every two or three hours, including the nursing session. So, a mom may breastfeed at 12pm for 45min, and then need to nurse again at 2pm or 2:30. The best way to make a good milk supply is to nurse a lot – whenever the baby displays any hunger cues or is fussy. It’s a lot easier to get a newborn to latch properly when (s)he starts to seem hungry instead of waiting for desperate “rooting” and crying. Offering the breast frequently, even if you’re not sure whether milk is what’s being requested, will not hurt. The “worst” that will happen is baby will fuss and turn away. Milk is made by supply/demand, so the more the baby empties the breast, the more milk is made.

You may read or be told (by the peanut gallery, almost certainly not by a lactation consultant) that you should only nurse for five or ten minutes per side. There are many “reasons” a person/book might suggest this, mostly about decreasing the likelihood of nipple soreness or that ten minutes is all a baby needs, getting the baby on a schedule etc. In almost all cases, this is incorrect. Nipple soreness is primarily caused by a poor latch, not length of time at breast. Breasts are never empty – baby can always get a little more.

In fact, it’s very important to let baby nurse as long as (s)he wants to: it increases milk supply and helps insure that baby is getting both foremilk (the milk that comes first has more sugar and protein; it is thinner and more “thirst-quenching”) and hindmilk (the fattier milk that helps make the baby full and gain weight). If a baby is moved from one side to the other on a schedule, (s)he may not have had time to get to the hindmilk on the first side, which can cause growth and digestive problems. Babies who get a good balance of fore/hindmilk typically have the typical “mustardy” color poops, with a seedy or curdy consistency (lovely, I know – but it smells much less than formula-fed baby poop).

As babies get older, they typically become more efficient and are able to get more milk in a much shorter period of time, so these marathon nursing sessions decrease and/or disappear for the most part (common exceptions: during a growth spurt at three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months and sometimes as a baby gets better from being sick or stressed).

All the nursing can be a little overwhelming for some new moms, or worrisome (why is baby nursing so much – is (s)he getting enough?) – do what you need to do to reassure yourself and know that all these feelings are normal. Do what you can to make the long nursing sessions comfortable (set up a comfy nursing station or two ahead of time; learn to nurse lying down; have good reading material/the phone/tv/music available) and remember that the long periods of time you may spend nursing in the beginning also give your body time to rest and heal, and are wonderful snuggle/bonding times with your new baby.

Finally, here is a short list of issues that some moms experience at some point during nursing: sore nipples, engorgement, plugged ducts, mastitis (breast infection), oversupply (and much less commonly, undersupply), thrush (yeast infection) on nipple or baby’s mouth, inverted nipples. A good lactation consultant can almost always help mom overcome any/all of these issues and establish a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby. There is also lots of information on reputable websites on these issues, as well as help available through La Leche League Leaders.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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