” Pregnant women who are planning to breastfeed for the first time often worry that they will not produce enough milk, or that their milk will not be sufficiently nourishing. These understandable fears are usually groundless. Bear in mind that every woman is equipped to feed her baby. No breast is too small and, in most cases, supply will automatically meet demand.”
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A baby can digest a full feed of breast milk in about an hour and a half to two hours (half the time it takes for a bottle-fed baby to digest a full feed of infant formula). Breastfeeding on demand thus means frequent feeding, but this will not deplete your milk resources, research has shown that mothers who breastfeed their babies on demand produce more milk than those who feed their babies at regular but less frequent intervals.
One study compared babies breastfed on demand with those fed only every three or four hours. The babies fed on demand got an average of nearly ten feeds a day, compared to an average for others of just over seven. However, the more frequent feeding didn’t mean that a daily amount of milk was being divided into more but smaller feeds, the opposite in fact.
The fed on demand babies got an average of just over 73 millimetres per feed (725 milliliters per day), while those fed at fixed intervals got only 68.8 milliliters per feed (502 milliliters per day). As gained more weight than the others, an average of 561 grams compared to 347 grams.
Milk production is quite a complex affair and many factors can affect it, including your emotions, health, and diet.
The change from colostrum to breast milk is initially triggered by hormonal changes after the birth, but the continuation of milk production depends on the sucking action of the baby. When he sucks, this stimulates nerve endings in the areolae, and these nerve signals go to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus receives these signals, it, in turn, sends out signals to the pituitary gland instructing it to release a hormone, prolactin, that stimulates milk production.
Consequently this response to the baby’s sucking os known as the prolactin reflex. The pituitary gland also releases oxytocin, a hormone that causes the muscle fibers around the milk glands to contract, squeezing the milk from the glands into milk ducts. This is called the milk ejection or ”let down” reflex and when your breasts are full, it can be triggered not only by sucking but also by your baby’s hunger cries or even simply his proximity to you.
The most important factor in maintaining your milk supply is frequent feeding so that the prolactin reflex and the milk ejection reflex are initiated frequently and engorgement(swelling of the milk-producing glands by milk) is prevented.
If the glands to swell, they are unable to make milk efficiently. At the same time, you will tend to avoid feeding because it is painful, and for these reasons, the reflex that promotes the release of prolactin diminishes and so milk production slows down. You can relieve the engorgement by expressing milk, and prevent recurrence by regular and frequent feeding.
Related: Hegar’s sign early pregnancy
As well as regular feeding, at each feed wait until your baby empties the first breast before switching him to the other. This will ensure that he gets not only the thirst-quenching, low-fat foremilk, fat-rich hindmilk that follows.
It is important to eat a nutritious diet at this time, as your body will be under even more nutritional stress than during pregnancy. You don’t need any special foods for breastfeeding, but try to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of protein, iron, and calcium, and lots of fluids, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Three good meals, with light snacks of fruit, cheese, or milky drinks in between, will keep your energy levels high and help you avoid fatigue. It is a good idea to keep taking an iron supplement daily. Taking care of an infant can be exhausting, so you should also take every opportunity to rest, or sleep, during the day. If you are diabetic, your doctor will carefully monitor your diet, and your glucose and insulin levels. When you resume lovemaking, don’t use oral contraceptives until you stop breastfeeding.
Related: chadwick sign early pregnancy
Occasionally, a baby will refuse to breastfeed. This happens most often during the early days, when he may be too sleepy to be interested in feeding. If this happens don’t give up, simply express the milk your baby would have suckled and wait for him to want food, babies feed much better when they are hungry.
However, should your baby tend to fall asleep soon after you have started to feed him, try lying on your side with him lying beside you so that he finds feeding a less tiring activity.
A refusal to feed may also be due to difficulty with latching on. This usually happens because your breasts are engorged the swelling this causes makes it difficult, even impossible, for your baby to latch on. If you express some milk from your swollen breasts he will be able to latch on more easily.
Breastfeeding your baby is a loving, nurturing experience that strengthens the bond between you. It is the continuation of the physiological relationship that began when your baby was developing in your uterus. Because your baby knows your milk will be there when he needs it and trusts it to be pure and good, it has been said that breastfeeding is the first way, to tell the truth to a baby and to keep a promise.
Until your baby learns to seek out or ”root” for the nipple, stimulate his rooting reflex by gently touching the check nearest you. He will then instinctively turn his head towards the touch, and so towards your nipple.
Hold your baby so that his stomach is facing yours. Hold him with his head higher than his body and, if sitting, keep your back straight. It will be more comfortable to place him on a pillow on your lap so that you are not holding his weight.
When he is feeding correctly, his mouth will be wide open and, as his tongue and jaw muscles work to suck milk from your breast, you will see his ears and temples moving.
When he has finished feeding or when all the milk has gone from the breast and you want to put him to the other, slip your little finger gently in between his jaws.
The key to happy, trouble-free breastfeeding is knowing how to get your baby’s mouth correctly fixed or latched on to your breast. Proper latching on ensures that baby gets enough milk and helps you to avoid breast and lactation problems. When your baby is properly latched on, his jaws will be clamped on your breast tissue rather than your nipple, which will be completely inside his mouth.
To encourage your baby to latch on as easily as possible, give yourself plenty of time to feed and make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. Hold the baby high enough so he can reach your nipple without effort. Cradle his head in the crook of your arm, and support his back and bottom with your lower arm and hand. Express a little milk to soften the areola and ensure that his mouth contains the entire nipple.
Correct latching on is important to both you and your baby for two principle reasons. First, it prevents your baby from sucking on the nipple itself, which would cause soreness and cracking. Second, it enables him to stimulate a good flow of milk, ensuring that he gets the rich hindmilk as well as the less nourishing but thirst-quenching foremilk. A good flow of milk also prevents your breast from becoming engorged because it has been inadequately emptied.
A baby first stimulates milk to flow into the nipple by pressing the tip of his tongue against the areola at the base of your nipple. Then he presses the back of his tongue up towards his palate to squeeze the milk from the nipple into his throat.
In the first few days of feeding, the nipples are delicate and need time to toughen up, so increase the length of time on each breast gradually. Two minutes on each breast will give your baby sufficient colostrum at first. Build up the time on each breast to ten minutes each side by the time the milk has come in an about the third or fourth day.
All babies suck most strongly in the first five minutes, during which they take about 80 % of the feed. When she has had enough she ‘ll lose interest and play with your breast or fall asleep. Alternate the breast you begin feeding with each time.
You will need to take special care of your breasts when you start breastfeeding. Buy at least two maternity bras that you afford and pat strict attention to the daily hygiene of your breasts and nipples. Bathe them every day with water, don’t use soap because it defeats the skin and can encourage a sore or cracked nipple to develop. Always handle your breasts with care. Never rub them dry always pat them.
After feeding, if possible, leave your nipple open to the air for a short time. Wear pads inside your bra to soak up any milk that may leak, and change these pads often. Don’t leave a wet pad in contact with your breast for any length of time. To avoid cracked nipples apply a drop of oil or cream (Arachis oil or olive oil or hypericum calendula cream) to the pad.
Leaking breasts can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, can cause cracked nipples, and stain your clothes. Breasts pads tucked in the cups of your bra will soak up the leaking milk, and are easy to wear. washable and disposable ones are available, although avoid ones backed with plastic.
Use lotion to relieve cracked or sore nipples. Apply often, especially after each feed.
Breastfeeding is simple if it weren’t so many millions of infants and mothers wouldn’t have managed it successfully.However, it can be challenging, so ask for help from friends, nurses, midwives, or the La Leche League, if needed.