14 Important Facts about Breastfeeding Every New Mom MUST Know

Breastfeeding is probably the best gift you can give your baby. Breast milk is packed with nutrients and antibodies which are beneficial to your baby in many ways. Here are some important facts about breastfeeding that will be useful in your breastfeeding journey.

Photo: Microsoft Office Image
If, like me, you are naive enough to think that breastfeeding comes naturally and will be a breeze - Sorry! I am going to burst your bubble. 

But, wait! 
Baby Gifts
It's not that bad either. You just need to have some awareness and you will be fine.

While I was expecting my baby, I studied (googled) everything about pregnancy and newborn care. What I overlooked was the intricacies of breastfeeding. I assumed it was as simple as putting the baby to the breast and he/she would just know what to do!!

Apparently they don't. 

And because I hadn't read anything about it...neither did I. So, there I was - with no access to google - struggling to nurse my newborn! 

Don't let that happen to you. 

Photo: Microsoft Office Image
If you are expecting your first baby, read up ALL you can on breastfeeding - especially how to breastfeed and various breastfeeding positions. Learn about laid back nursing positions and how to nurse a baby in the upright position (useful for babies suffering from reflux)

The following are important facts that I have learned from my breastfeeding journey and hope they will be of use to you to.

1. It is okay to use a nipple shield if required

Photo: Microsoft Office Image
Many women have the problem of flat or inverted nipples, making it difficult for the baby to latch on. As a result, the baby may pull away or just cry and give up. This situation is frustrating for both - baby and mother - and a nipple shield can be of great help.
Many pediatricians will probably disagree with this - as did mine. But, when I awoke one morning with painful, engorged breasts and the baby refused to nurse, I turned to the nipple shield. 
However, as the baby gets used to nursing, gradually stop using the shield. Offer the baby the breast directly first and use the shield only if and when he won't/can't take to the breast. Eventually, he will directly latch on to the breast.  

2. It helps to have a breastfeeding corner

You will probably spend a lot of your time breastfeeding in those initial days. So, make for yourself a comfortable breastfeeding corner, where you will have all the essential supplies ready. The things I kept handy were a notebook to keep track of feeds, a bottle of water, a box of snacks, a burp cloth, a nursing pillow and my cellphone (for music)!! You could also keep some books to read while you nurse and you could even read them out aloud to your baby.

3. Breastfeeding happens round the clock

Okay, so I was silly enough to think that I would have to feed my baby at fixed intervals and that was it. Apparently not! (You can laugh all you like!) 
For the first few weeks, most newborns nurse every 2 - 3 hours round-the-clock. However, babies may nurse even more frequently at certain times of the day. I was breastfeeding as often as every half/one hour in the mornings and 2-3 hours in the evenings.
Allow your baby to nurse as often as he likes, it will maintain your supply.

4. Frequency of feeds is not an indication of low milk supply

Many babies feed even as frequently as every half an hour  at some times of the day, during the initial stages. This does not necessarily mean that your milk supply is low. 
My little one, would often fall asleep within just 4-5 minutes of nursing and soon awaken for the next feed. 

5. Staying relaxed and comfortable is important

Although its easier said than done, try to relax. If you are anxious or stressed out, it will affect your milk supply and your baby's mood as well, making breastfeeding difficult. 
Also, make sure you and your baby are in a comfortable position as you may have to stay in that position for a while. You definitely don't want to disturb your baby once he/she is nursing contentedly!  

6. It is important to get the baby to latch on correctly

Learn how to get the baby to latch onto the breast. The baby's mouth should cover a large part of the underside of the nipple. I thought this wasn't important, until I tried it out.
Breastfeeding can be painful if your baby does not latch on properly. There are some great videos online that can teach you proper latching on techniques.

7. Breastfeeding can be painful in the beginning

In the first week or two, sore and cracked nipples, can make breastfeeding a bit painful. In addition, the baby is still new to the process and may clamp down on the nipple - and those little gums are harder than you'd imagine!
However, don't let that discourage you. It gets better with time and practice and you'll soon enjoy your sessions together. 

8. Growth spurts happen 

Be aware that babies go through growth spurts at various stages, during which they will want to nurse frequently. This helps to boost your supply to meet the demand during the growth spurt. 
Those growth spurts get annoying and keep happening when you think you've finally settled into a rhythm. But don't get discouraged, it will soon pass.

9. Moisturizing the nipples helps

Use a good quality nipple cream or better still use ghee or even some breast-milk to soothe cracked and dry nipples.

10. Eat well and stay hydrated

It is important to eat good and nutritious food. This will ensure that your baby gets the right nutrition too. Also, eat frequently or whenever you feel hungry. Don't worry about the extra pounds. Breastfeeding will take care of that and so will your baby when he/she is up and about!
It is also important to stay hydrated at all times. Breastfeeding can get you more dehydrated than you can imagine. It helps to drink at least a glass of water before and after nursing. I always kept a bottle of water and some snacks handy so that I could even eat or drink, if I wanted to do so, while I nursed! You can also have fresh juices or milkshakes. 
Avoid junk food, alcohol and caffeine.

11. Warm water compresses are helpful

During the initial days, a warm water compress done just before breastfeeding can be very useful in getting the milk to flow.

Massage your breast between your palms for a couple of minutes. Dip a clean towel in warm water and squeeze out the excess water. Gently massage the breast with this warm cloth for about 5 -10 minutes and then feed the baby. 

12. Leakages happen

In the initial days, when you supply has still not regulated, leakages can happen. The only thing you can do about it is to be prepared.

Make use of good quality breast pads, especially when you go out.

13. Offer one breast at a time

Most people suggest 20 minutes at one breast and then switch over to the next one. What if your baby nurses for only 5 minutes at a time, like mine?

What worked for me was alternating them. If the intervals between feeds are short, offer one side for a couple of feeds and then move to the next for later feeds. That worked for me. 

The initial breast-milk that your baby gets is more water and rich in antibodies, while the latter part is more of fats. So, if you keep switching breasts between feeds without emptying the breast, your baby is probably missing on the rich fatty milk!

14. Pulling away helps the baby stay awake while nursing

If tickling his toes or ears don't work to keep your baby from falling asleep while nursing, try these tips.

Un-swaddle the baby during nursing sessions. If he seems to be falling asleep while nursing, withdraw the nipple gently from his mouth. He will get back to action immediately. Worked for me! It  was like - "ok, ok i'm drinking, don't take it away!!" :)

That's enough from me! Now, let me hear from you..

Do you have any facts about breastfeeding that you'd like to share. Do share them in the comments below. It's great to learn more by sharing real experiences...

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