Preparing to breastfeed
To prepare for breastfeeding, you really don’t need anything other than good breastfeeding education and support whenever you may need it.
World Health Organization recommendations
The World Health Organization recommends the early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life (nothing but breastmilk), and the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond. For as long as both the mother and child desires.
Why should I breastfeed?
This is a decision that only you can make, but I can give you the information on what makes breastfeeding so special and important for both you and your child.
Breastfeeding protects the child from a range of illnesses by lowering the risk of respiratory and other infections, gut health issues asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) in premature infants and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Consistent neurodevelopmental outcomes of breastfed children in comparison to formula fed children have also found overall higher IQ’S, better school performance and higher income in breastfed children, and so much more.
Breastfeeding protects the mother by reducing the risk of postpartum blood loss, postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast and ovarian cancers in addition to many other benefits to the mother.
All of this health benefits also results in economic gains for the parents because of the reduced health costs and the fact that breastmilk is free.
Not to mention how eco-friendly breastfeeding is. Nothing gets manufactured or transported, and there’s no waste afterwards. There is absolutely zero waste when it comes to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is especially important when disasters struck. Breastfeeding is always available and easily accessible no matter what’s going on in the world.
What to expect?
For the first few days you won’t have mature milk (white milk in copious amounts), you have colostrum, it can differ in color and texture in each individual and even in each breast, but it’s usually a clear or bright and sticky yellow substance and babies only need a few milliliters of it, so even though it’s not a lot, it’s more than enough for them. They don’t call colostrum liquid gold for nothing, it’s amazing and it’s incredibly nutritious to babies and it offers them great protection. It’s been called natures first vaccine to babies, because of all the health benefits it offers.
The delivery of the placenta will signal your brain and breasts to start producing more copious amounts of mature (white milk), this will usually start between 2-5 days postpartum. You may feel a little or even a lot engorged when this happens, this is normal. Your body doesn’t know how much milk your baby needs yet, but it will soon. If you feed frequently, you should feel the minimum discomfort. If you’re very uncomfortable from the engorgement or your baby struggles to latch on due to the fullness of the breast, you can hand express (pump milk by hand) only enough for you to be more comfortable and for your baby to be able to latch on more easily. Remember not to hand express too much milk, as you don’t want your body to start making even more than it should. Severe engorgement or engorgement that isn’t resolving, may signal a problem and it would be best to see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to help you resolve any issues there may be.
It’s best to avoid pumping, pacifiers and bottle feeding in the first 6-8 weeks when possible. Pumping can cause your body to eventually produce an oversupply of breastmilk. Pacifiers can cause you to miss your babies feeding cues, which can cause inadequate milk intake, which will then cause their growth to falter. Both bottles and pacifiers can cause confusion between the breast and the artificial teat, this can cause issues such as a swallow latch or even breast refusal.
It’s very important that you feed your baby on demand, which basically means you feed your baby whenever they want to feed. So, when your baby shows early feeding cues, you should offer the breast. You can never overfeed a baby if you only feed them directly on the breast, unless you have an oversupply or baby receives supplementation or solids. You need to breastfeed baby a minimum of 8-12 or more feedings in a 24-hour period during both the day and the night, this ensures that they’re getting an adequate amount of milk so they can grow as they should, but it’s also to help establish and maintain your milk supply.
Some newborn babies are very sleepy, especially if you were administered certain medications during or after labor. This can cause them to feed even more frequently than usual because they tend to fall asleep before they even finish a feed. It’s important that you feed frequently and that you offer both breasts. You feed one side for as long as baby wants to and once baby is finished with that breast, then you can offer the other side, it’s baby’s choice if they want the other side or not. Some babies will only take one breast, some will take both and some will take both more than once, all of this is very normal. Sometimes when baby falls asleep very quickly, you’ll have to wake them up to finish the feed. This can be achieved by rubbing their feet, hands and face, changing their diaper or in serious cases using a warm damp cloth to wipe their face.
For the first few weeks to months, babies may want to be on the breast at all times and this is normal behavior. As long as your baby is growing as expected and they’re having adequate amounts of wet and soiled diapers and they’re growing as expected, everything is just fine and as it should be.
How many diapers should they have?
On day 1 it should be 1 wet diaper and 1 soiled diaper, on day 2 it should be 2 wet diapers and 2 soiled diapers and so it picks up for the first 4-5 days. After that, baby should have enough wet and soiled diapers as follows, 5-6 or more wet diapers per 24 hours and 2-5 or more soiled diapers per 24 hours in the first 6 weeks. After 6 weeks babies should still have 5-6 or more wet diapers per 24 hours, but some of them may only have soiled once every few days (up to 10 days) or multiple soiled diapers in 1 day.
There are a few reasons why babies may want to be on the breast at all times, including:
1. Cluster feeding
This is when they’re feeding even more frequently than usual, this is usually to help build up your milk supply to establishing it in the first 4-8 weeks and also during growth spurts, mental development and sleep regressions. This is the most important period in one’s breastfeeding journey and it’s very important that you feed regularly.
2. The fourth trimester
This is where a baby has been safe inside their mother’s womb for so long and then they suddenly enter this big and scary world. Mom is all they know; you are your baby’s safe place. It’s so normal for your baby to just want to be with you and the breast, and that’s perfectly normal. You can never spoil your baby by holding or breastfeeding them as much as the both of you want to.
3. Growth spurts
There are very frequent growth spurts, the in the first 4 weeks, at about 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months and at 12 months and even in the toddler years. Babies grow especially fast in the first year. When this happens, babies will usually want to drink more frequently than usual, the reason for this is to build your milk supply to keep up with their growing needs while going through the growth spurt.
Babies don’t just breastfeed for hunger, but for various reasons such as for thirst, when they are tired and want to go to sleep, when they are in pain, or even when they just want comfort. All of these reasons are valid and normal and it’s good for your baby, for your bond with your baby and of course for your milk supply too.
Babies can also start breastfeeding more frequently when they’re teething or just when they’re not feeling well. There are so many reasons a babies breastfeed for. It’s incredibly important that you breastfeed your baby as often as your baby wants to. I promise you it’s going to get much easier once you both get the hang of breastfeeding, after the learning curve, breastfeeding will be one of the easiest and most convenient things you will ever do as a parent.
It’s so normal for a baby to cluster feed or even just to breastfeed frequently for various reasons. It’s biologically normal for them to feed very often, even as often as every hour or every half an hour during cluster feeding.
Your milk is enough, and your milk is nutritious enough, never doubt it, and if you do, remember the signs of adequate milk intake so you can be assured that your baby is getting enough milk.
These are the basics and the most important things you need to know.
Very important tips
Enroll in a breastfeeding preparation class such as Evidence Based Babies’ prerecorded online introduction to breastfeeding class, this will help prepare you for everything by giving you a good overview of all the basics, from the very first day to the very last day.
It’s always a good idea to get yourself a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) as well, to help with latch and positioning, assessing baby for any oral or other issues, and for concerns you may have.