World Breastfeeding Week: 10 tips for new breastfeeding mothers

Maintaining a balanced diet is one of the most important things to consider while you are breastfeeding

A Dutch woman breastfeeding. Image courtesy David Leo Veksler/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Breastfeeding can be challenging for young mothers, but it is one of the most pleasant experiences in a woman’s life. Initially, breastfeeding can be a bit difficult but with due course of time mothers start feeling comfortable. Breastfeeding is not only about giving nutrients to the child, but it is also to strengthen the emotional bond between mother and child. Breast milk is crucial for a child’s growth. The advantages of breastfeeding for mother and child’s health have been emphasized over time. Here are some tips that can help new mothers ease into the process:

Tip 1: Try not to restrict the time and duration of nursing

Initially, a child is more aware of his or her requirement for milk than a mother. Mothers should not choose the time and duration of when and how frequently they should feed the child. They should not set a time limit between the number of feedings because depriving the child of food might make them grumpy. It depends on the child and how long he/she takes to get full. There is no reason to worry if the child takes 20 minutes or 45 minutes for feeding.

Tip 2: The significance of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth

Ideally, breastfeeding should begin within the first hour of birth. This helps in protecting the child from infection and helps to lower newborn mortality. Skin-to-skin contact promotes the emotional bonding of the mother and child and activates the reflexes of the child.

Tip 3: Do feed colostrum

Colostrum is a yellow fluid produced by mothers during the first two or three days after delivery. It is produced in small quantity but provides exceptional nutritional and health benefits to the child. Mothers should not discard or throw away colostrum, thinking it is impure milk. At least for the initial five to six months, mothers should feed their infants only breast milk. Other fluids like water, sugar water, and honey should be strictly avoided as this increases the risk of infection.

Tip 4: The supply of milk is never a problem

The supply of milk depends on the feeding needs of the child. Prolactin and oxytocin are released when the child sucks the nipples, which increases milk production. However, the process takes time, and it does not begin with the first sucking of the child. So, mothers should not worry about the supply of milk. Mothers produce more milk when the child nurses more frequently.

Tip 5: Take care of your nipples

Most women have sensitive nipples, so long durations of nonstop nursing can make them painful. However, the body adapts to the process naturally, and women easily adjust to nursing. If there is excessive dryness and cuts in the nipples, mothers may use their own breast milk to massage the nipples. Also, to avoid dryness, make sure the child is properly latching the tip of the nipple, so that it is covered by the child’s mouth.

Tip 6: Breastfeed from both the breasts equally

It causes great discomfort when a mother’s milk ducts are overflowing with milk and the breast blood vessels are bloated. This happens when the child is not being nursed effectively or frequently. This condition also arises when the child prefers to feed from a single breast. To avoid painful hardening and swelling of the breast, mothers should try nursing the child from both breasts.

Tip 7: Finding the most comfortable position for the child

The child will, over time, discover the position that is comfortable when the mother nurses them. Mothers must pay close attention to this position. These are a few positions that new mothers can try:

  • Position the child so that their mouth is parallel to the breast.
  • Their head should be tilted backward slightly
  • Their chin should be directly against the breast, leaving room for their nose

Mothers should not force any position on them as it can make them cranky and frustrated.

Tip 8: Avoid giving pacifiers to the child within a few weeks of delivery

Giving a pacifier between feedings can help a child to calm down, but doing so in the first few weeks can negatively impact the milk supply and can reduce the child’s demand to be fed. It is advised to wait until the child gets comfortable with breastfeeding.

Tip 9: Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol

Maintaining a balanced diet is one of the most important things to consider while you are breastfeeding. Mothers should not consume harmful products like tobacco, liquor, and junk food because the food they are consuming passes on to their children. So, certain items should be avoided to ensure that the child’s health is not impacted.

Tip 10:  Keep your diet and sleep cycle in check

Mothers should eat wholesome, balanced meals when nursing. Include a variety of lean meats, legumes, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet in order to produce adequate breast milk. They should take multivitamins and other supplements in consultation with their gynecologist. Staying hydrated is necessary as nursing requires a lot of fluids. Mothers should rest when the child is asleep so that they are not exhausted during breastfeeding.

The author is Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, CK Birla Hospital, Delhi. Views are personal.

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