We Answer Your 5 Top Questions About Breastfeeding
Most pregnant women and new mothers will have heard the phrase ‘breast is best’, and in the UK over ninety percent of expectant mums say they want to breastfeed their babies.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding for you and your baby, but like anything new it can be daunting to get to grips with all the facts.
So what’s so special about breastmilk?
- Breast milk provides the nutrition young infants need, in the correct proportions. It also changes according to baby’s age. The very first milk produced, colostrum, is sometimes referred to as ‘high-octane’ milk, because it contains high levels of antibodies to protect the newborn from infection.
- The mature milk (produced after the colostrum) also contains antibodies and other helpful molecules to build your baby’s immunity to harmful infections. Researchers have found that when a breastfed infant has an infection, the breastmilk produced contains additional infection-busting leukocyte cells in response.
- Breastfeeding is good for mum too – it burns about five hundred extra calories per day and has also been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
Okay, so it’s a naturally healthy choice, but is it easy?
- Breastfeeding is different for all families and while some mums and babies will find it straightforward from the start, many have struggles and setbacks along the way.
- To begin with, your baby has to learn how to ‘latch on’ to the breast, and breastfeeding can be painful and laborious if this latch is incorrect. With older babies who are beginning to get teeth, a bite to the nipple can be painful and upsetting.
- If you have an issue with breastfeeding, there are many sources of help and support. Health visitors, midwives and other health professionals are trained to advise you and there are also dedicated helplines and support groups run by organisations such as La Leche League.
- Some mothers find the idea of breastfeeding in front of other people embarrassing or awkward and prefer to use a scarf or purpose made cover for privacy when feeding. Do take a look at our ever-popular multi-functional Boho Mama Breastfeeding cover. Other mums may find that they have a limited range of feeding positions that work for them and their baby, which can make breastfeeding whilst out of the house a challenge. Again, a cover may help get over this issue.
- But once breastfeeding is established and issues have been resolved, many mums find it very convenient knowing that they have milk ‘on tap’ when out and about, instead of having to carry around enough formula and bottles to keep their baby going.
Is breastmilk enough for my baby?
- When you breastfeed, it isn’t always easy to tell how much milk your baby is drinking, especially at first, and some mothers worry that their baby is not getting enough nutrition. Remember it is rare for mothers to be unable to produce enough milk for their babies.
- Wet and dirty nappies are a sign that baby is getting enough milk, as is being able to hear your baby swallow. It is also a good sign if your baby is relaxed and calm during feeds, and seems satisfied afterwards.
- However, if you are concerned about your baby’s weight or if you notice signs of dehydration such as fewer wet nappies, a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of a baby’s head) or sunken-looking eyes consult a health professional urgently.
What is mastitis – it sounds painful?
- Mastitis is a condition in which the breast tissue becomes inflamed and sore. It can lead to a red, swollen area or hard lump on the breast which can be very painful. Some women also experience flu-like symptoms such as aches, fever or tiredness.
- If you have any of these symptoms you should contact your doctor straight away. In the meantime, stay hydrated, continue to feed your baby and avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. You can also take paracetamol to reduce pain and bring down any fever.
What if I need medication while I am breastfeeding?
- Substances pass from the mother into her milk, so if you need to take medication it is important to know whether it is safe for your baby. You should make sure to tell any doctor, dentist or pharmacist who gives you medicine that you are breastfeeding.
- In the UK, the Breastfeeding Network runs a helpline for further advice about medication and breastfeeding, as well as producing fact sheets for download. In the US, the Infant Risk Center runs a similar helpline.
Top tips for breastfeeding
- Stay hydrated – you need lots of fluid to produce that lovely milk.
- Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of different vegetables. Try to choose healthy snacks such as nuts and fruit.
- Lanolin ointment is great for soothing sore nipples, as is a little bit of expressed milk rubbed around the nipple after a feed.
- Most importantly, if it’s not going smoothly, don’t panic and don’t blame yourself or your baby. There are many sources of help and support out there including helplines, forums and groups. The most important thing is for both you and your baby to be happy and healthy, whatever choices you make about feeding.
- Please feel free to download our free Guide to Easier Breastfeeding
Do you have any top tips for breastfeeding? We’d love to hear from you.