I believe that breastfeeding is the healthiest way you can feed your baby. I recognise the important health benefits now known to exist for both you and your baby and I want to do all I can to support you in your decision to breastfeed.
The way you hold your baby and how he latches-on to the breast, are the keys to comfortable feeding for you and your baby. Correct positioning and latch-on can prevent many of the common problems mother’s encounter when starting to breastfeed.
Although breastfeeding is natural, it is a learning process for both you and your baby. Allow yourself several weeks to perfect these techniques. At any time that you are unsure that you are feeding correctly, seek the help of a lactation consultant or other knowledgeable health care provider. Once breastfeeding is fully established, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of new motherhood.
Breast Changes in Pregnancy
You may have noticed your breasts changing throughout the months of pregnancy. As the milk-producing structures develop, most women's breasts get larger, gaining as much as a pound of weight each, as they develop more fatty tissue to protect the alveoli and ducts. Some women develop stretch marks from this growth. Veins become darker and more visible, as the blood supply to the breasts increases. The areola gets darker: this high contrast coloring helps baby to find the nipple more effectively.
You began producing colostrum, the first form of breast milk, during the second trimester of pregnancy. It is a thick, syrupy yellow liquid. Some women may notice colostrum leaking from breasts or as a dried crust on the nipples. Colostrum is packed with proteins and nutrients, enzymes to help baby's digestive tract develop, and antibodies to protect baby from infection.
Breast Milk Production
After birth, and the release of the placenta, a hormone called Prolactin signals the body to begin producing mature breast milk. Prolactin tells your alveoli cells to draw water and nutrients from the bloodstream to make milk. For the first few days of nursing, baby receives colostrum. During the first week, often day 3 - 5, mom's milk supply increases. Baby receives a transitional milk till day 14, then mature milk.
When baby begins nursing, he suckles in quick short bursts. The first milk your baby receives at each feeding is the milk that has gathered in the breast between feedings. This low-fat fore milk is high in protein and carbohydrates and satisfies the baby's thirst. As the baby continues to suckle, the nipple stimulation causes mom's pituitary gland, located in the brain, to produce a hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin causes a milk ejection reflex (often called let-down): the milk ducts widen and shorten, and the tissue around the alveoli contracts, pushing hind milk through the ducts, into the sinuses, then into baby's mouth. Hind milk is a creamy milk that is high in fat and calories, and will satisfy baby's hunger. For more on the composition of breast milk. Some women feel a tingling, itching, or warmth in their breasts when they have "let-down" and the milk flow increases. Others only notice that baby's suckling slows down, and baby begins to swallow rhythmically. They may also see milk in baby's mouth.
In the early weeks, let-down may take several minutes. Later on, it will take only a few seconds. Milk let-down happens best when you are relaxed, and feeling comfortable and confident.
The "24 hour cure"
Anytime you're worried about your milk supply, just nurse the baby more often!! If you really want to increase your milk production, take a "24 hour cure". Spend a day snuggled up skin to skin with baby in bed, doing nothing all day but snuggling baby, and feeding him anytime he is awake and interested. This much hormonal stimulation is guaranteed to increase your milk supply!
Some women are unaware of the specialist care available to them when they encounter breastfeeding problems. Many women stop breastfeeding their babies much sooner than they would have wished because of the lack of appropriate expert support. Lactation Consultants provide this professional, one to one breastfeeding care, information and help. Gráinne – Freya is a health care professional with over 30 years experience helping and supporting mothers and their babies to breastfeed. Her goal is to help women make informed decisions about the way in which they feed their babies.
- Painful breastfeeding- sore and cracked nipples
- Difficulty positioning and attaching the baby to the breast
- Babies reluctant or unable to feed at the breast
- Achieving and maintaining a good milk supply
- Breastfeeding and returning to work
- The introduction of complimentary foods