Tips for Breastfeeding from a new Mom

A mother shares her breastfeeding advice including expressing, and breastfeeding after a c-section

The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to breastfeeding as “…the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large”. The key words here are “information” and “support”. I attended the Rotunda hospital and found their classes to be absolutely valuable in the first few days following birth. Advice is given on everything from latching, positions, nutrition and you can chat to other mums in your position. 
I decided before giving birth both times that I would give breastfeeding a go and if it worked it worked and if it didn’t I had formula as a backup. I found that the more relaxed I was the more relaxed baby was and as a result my milk supply was good and for the most part I was able to feed successfully. I thought being as it is so natural that it would come naturally but breastfeeding has to be learned….
The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months with continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods until two years of age. In this article I will focus on infant breastfeeding
Skin to skin.
Colostrum is the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy and is commended by the WHO as the perfect food for the new-born with feeding being introduced within the first hour after birth. This is where skin to skin contact as soon as possible following birth is essential to encourage infant feeding and therefore milk supply. Some women fear that this will not be possible especially after C- section. I have had C-sections with both my babies and I was able to have skin on skin almost immediately. It is essential to express this wish to the midwife taking care of you but more often than not this is encouraged. 
Positioning your baby while feeding
There are many different ways you can hold your baby to ensure the most comfortable position. Post C - section I found the football or rugby hold to be the easiest to minimise baby pressing on my wound. This took a little getting used to and the nurses were amazing in helping me find the most comfortable position. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
How to encourage a sleepy baby to feed
  • As baby is really cosy when held so close to your body he or she can easily fall asleep mid feed. I found different ways of gently encouraging them to feed while allowing them to snooze away!
  • A gentle squeeze of their big toe can make baby more alert
  • Rubbing a piece of cotton wool dipped in water along the forehead
  • Opening of the bottom part of baby grow
  • And if all else fails gentle breast compression or massage and/ or massage of baby’s cheek can encourage the baby’s suckle as a gentle reminder to resume feeding
Combination feeding
When my little man was two days old both he and I slept a lot. Whenever I woke I worried that he wasn’t feeding enough. I was taking strong opiate pain relief post C- section and it made both of us sleep for Ireland. I had one nurse tell me that it was ok and that baby will feed when necessary and the next nurse looking after me panicked by my lack of feeding. As it turned out second nurse was absolutely right and little man had become a little dehydrated and his weight had dropped significantly from birth. Roll on day three and my room is filled with breast pumps and small bottles of formula while I was encouraged to feed and “top up” with either expressed breast milk (EBM) or formula. This was all a little disconcerting and I worried that it wasn’t the right thing to do but it actually worked really well.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to combination feeding and while the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months this isn’t always possible as was my situation. When I came home I continued to breastfeed for the majority of the time and my husband gave our little man a bottle of either EBM or formula last thing at night. This really worked for us because not only did my husband enjoy his precious time with him it meant that I was able to sleep until baby woke during the night. I was well rested as a result which is really important when breastfeeding. Many health advisors will counsel against using bottle or soother as it may affect milk supply. I introduced both to my babies in the early days and had no problems but remember every baby is different!
Expressing milk can be very helpful to allow you flexibility if you need to go somewhere without baby or even just to allow Dad or other family members spend time with him or her. There are different ways to express milk such as hand expressing or by using a manual or an electric breast pump. I found the electric breast pump to be the easiest to use and the most convenient. These are available from most baby shops or pharmacies but you can also hire hospital grade ones. 
How much you express depends on individual needs. The average mum who expresses between breastfeeding sessions can express between one and three ounces per pumping session.
If you are trying to increase the amount you can express, try to pump for at least 15 minutes and maybe continue pumping for 5 minutes after your milk stops flowing.  Most mums need to express for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 20-30 minutes per session. Trying to express for any longer can lead to sore nipples and possible engorgement.
Be sure that you are comfortable and relaxed and have baby either close or a picture of baby with you to encourage milk flow. The time of day can make a difference in the quantity you express. It is normal for the volume to be less in the afternoon and evening compared to the morning. Most experts recommend, especially for the occasional pumper, to express their milk in the early morning, roughly an hour after nursing. The amount of milk you are able to express is not a reliable measure of how much milk you are producing or how much baby is feeding. The healthy breastfed baby is usually much more proficient at getting milk from the breast than a pump is.
Breastmilk can be thin and watery looking, and may have a blue or yellow tint to it. EBM will separate when stored in the refrigerator. There can be a thick layer of “cream” or fat on top with a thin layer on the bottom. Sometimes the milk looks lumpy and almost clear toward the bottom. These are all completely normal and does not mean the milk has gone off. Spoiled milk has a sour smell.
It is important not to shake breastmilk (as it is thought to break down the proteins) like you would when mixing formula in a bottle. Instead gently swirl the milk and if heating gradually do so by placing under running warm water. This will also help to mix the cream which may have stuck to the sides of the bottle. 
Storing milk
  • Remember to use a sterilised container to put the milk in-  breastmilk storage bags are really convenient
  • You can store milk in the fridge for up to 5 days (usually at the back, not in the door).
  • Milk can be stored for 2 weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to 6 months in a freezer
  • Defrost frozen milk in the fridge. Once defrosted, use straight away
Breastfeeding in public
Most people are very clued in nowadays to the benefit of breastfeeding and the obvious need for mums to feed in public. There are still the few that see it as “unsuitable” which unfortunately pushes mums to hide away. I recently queued for a baby changing facility in a department store only to realise that mum was feeding her baby in there. I find this very sad. I would always encourage Mums to breastfeed while out if they are comfortable however if like me they are private people and sometimes feel awkward feeding around people here are a couple of ways I have found to be discreet:
  • I wear clothes that are easily accessible for baby to feed. This doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on special breastfeeding clothes. A breastfeeding bra is essential but after that a shirt with vest underneath, a top/t- shirt with cardigan, wrap dresses are all very handy. I also invested in a “cover”. This is a cotton breathable nursing poncho which is very comfortable and ensures baby is cosy and content. Large muslins also work as great covers. Some don’t feel the need to cover up and that’s perfect too.
  • Being organised and having everything you need to hand such as your cover when out and about is helpful
  • Sit somewhere comfortable and relaxing if possible with minimal noise and a nice cuppa for yourself. I sometimes find that baby can get fussy when there are loud noises and distractions such as bright lights which can make you feel uneasy
Happy Feeding ladies x 
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