Are you expecting a baby and want to breastfeed, or maybe you have already started this exceptional adventure, but your head is full of questions and doubts? As in many cases it is not an easy and problem-free task. We will help you to prepare for breastfeeding and adress your doubts. Read about most common and, at the same time, basic breastfeeding mistakes.
Consultation: Agata Serwatowska-Bargieł Ph.D., International certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), neonatologist
versus feeding on demand. In the schedule for natural feeding with woman's milk, feeding on demand is strictly recommended. Feeding should respond to the needs signaled by the baby, provided, however, that it should take place at least 8 times per 24 hours. As his stomach volume is small and natural milk is easily and quickly digested by the baby, the newborn or the infant can demand breast more frequently than every 3 hours. There are babies, "little snackers" who at the beginning, according to their mums, just "hang" at the breast all the time. If it is possible, let him do that, apparently this is what your baby needs. You must remember that suckling milk from mother's breast does not only satisfy the baby's hunger, but also his need for closeness, safety, and tenderness; furthermore, this situation will not last forever as the baby's environment quickly becomes competitive as a source of increasingly interesting stimuli.
However, note that the rule of breastfeeding on demand applies to healthy children, full-term and gaining on weight correctly. Sometimes the babies who are ill, premature, too weak or sleepy to demand a breast, do not gain on weight properly or even lose weight. Then, after consulting a doctor, it may be necessary to latch the baby on to the breast at specific times, wake him for feeding or find other methods like adding an enriching formula to female milk or supplementing with infant formula.
Not every time the baby cries, it is hungry. This is probably the most frequent cause of baby's crying, but you should also remember about other possibilities.
Sometimes, the baby will stop crying when you pick him up and hold him, then there is no need to give it breast. But when the baby continues to cry when is picked and held, or cries also when has been given the breast and does not want to suck it, then you must look for other reasons. And they can be numerous, including: overheating, belly ache, colic, teething, illness (typically, e.g., middle ear infection), tiredness (overstimulation) or discomfort related to uncomfortable, irritating clothes or wet nappy.
And do not yield to this cumbersome cliche that the mother always knows why her baby is crying. Usually, she knows, due to her intuition or from her experience with the baby, but there still is a lot of guesswork and elimination of possible causes here.
You should also remember that baby's behaviors change with age. In newborns, putting fingers into their mouth, suckling of a nappy or a blanket are first signs of hunger and you do not have to wait until he cries to feed your baby. In a several-month-old infant, sucking fingers can mean that he has just discovered he had them, or that he is teething. When latched on, he can be angry, because this is not what he wants at this moment.
When the baby breastfed on demand is healthy and gains on weight correctly and regularly, this means he eats as much as he needs. The breastfed baby cannot be overfed. And even when he is large or, as some may say, fat, he should not be put on a diet! Here, it is important to monitor changes in the baby's weight using a percentile chart; when the baby puts on weight steadily, everything is alright, even when he is on 97th percentile. But when you notice any significant change (by two or more percentile bands), both increase or decrease in the chart, you should consult this with a pediatrician and search for a cause together.
When feeding is too short or a breast given during breastfeeding is changed too early, the baby may not eat enough and the risk of milk stasis is increased.
The first phase milk contains more water and less fat, so it mainly satisfies thirst, only the second phase milk contains more fat and calories, so it satisfies hunger better. When feeding is stopped or the breast is changed too early, the baby gets only the first phase milk and will still be hungry.
Furthermore, when breasts are not correctly emptied of milk accumulated there, this may lead to milk stases and, eventually, to mastitis.
Night milk is important for the baby's development, it contains more calories and unsaturated fatty acids, so early elimination of night feedings is not recommended. However, some babies are sleepyheads, who would sleep longer and catch up later, and they do not have to be woken for feeding. But when the baby wakes up in the night, it is better to latch him on to the breast than appease him with a pacifier.
Mums often stop breastfeeding when they are ill, because they do not want to infect their baby. This is a mistake, as it is exactly the other way round. While ill, the woman passes to her baby antibodies against her illness in her milk. So, even when the baby is infected by droplet contact, it will get through the illness quicker with antibodies received from its mum.
Usually, mastitis is a consequence of incorrect management of milk stasis, limited intake of fluids, stopping breastfeeding with the infected breast, or strong and painful squeezing of breasts. The woman, scared of her high fever and muscle ache, stops breastfeeding, particularly, as her breasts are painful and swollen, and often it is difficult for the baby to grasp the nipple. This is a mistake. One of the recommendations for mastitis management is frequent, every 1.5–2 hours, and long latching on of the baby and use of various breastfeeding positions, to empty the breasts thoroughly. When nipples are too stretched and swollen, which makes them difficult to grasp, you can help the baby by extracting a small amount of milk manually at the beginning.
During the breast fullness, use a breast pump to extract only enough milk to feel slight relief in your breasts, and not to empty them completely.
The amount of milk removed from breasts, regardless of whether by the baby or by a pump, signals the demand to woman's body, that is, how much milk it should produce. Therefore, extracting too much milk with a pump is wrong. This may cause "false" breast fullness, and the baby will not be able to eat all this milk, and its accumulation in the breast poses a real risk of the stasis. Similarly, during the physiological breast fullness, between 3rd and 5th day after childbirth, extracting too much milk with the pump will lead to its excessive production.
When after consulting a doctor it turns out you need to supplement the breastfeeding, remember that a type of a teat used is important. Select a teat that will help your baby to maintain the natural suckling rhythm and reflex. Select a dynamic teat of heterogeneous silicone layers; this way you will be able to breastfeed and use the bottle alternately, and, if you wish and the doctor recommends so, return to breastfeeding.
Mums often think they do not have enough milk because their breasts are small, or their breasts are soft, or the baby wants to suck all the time, or he cries frequently or wakes up in the night to be fed. Then, often encouraged by people around them, they give formula to the baby, so he "finally" gets enough.
Giving formula to the baby without consulting a pediatrician and their recommendations, when the baby is healthy, develops and gains weight properly, is a mistake.
This mistake can have serious consequences. The baby that is not hungry, because it has just satiated his hunger with a formula, will not suck the breast actively, so lactation will drop to the demand signaled by the baby, and the amount of milk will be significantly reduced. And then, if the mum does not notice this vicious circle on time and does not stop feeding the baby with formula, does not latch the baby on to the breast more frequently instead, when she does not stimulate breasts with a pump, the amount of her milk will drop and supplementation with formula will really become necessary.
There are some stereotypes driving mums' decision to give formula to their baby. So we would like to explain:
In no way is the breast size reflected in the amount of milk the mum has.
Breasts become soft when lactation is stabilized, and this is a natural and good sign that your breasts produce the amount of milk corresponding to your baby's demand.
Even when the baby is at your breast for hours, it does not mean he eats actively all that time; to a large extent the baby also satisfies his other needs like tenderness and safety.
Hunger is possibly most common, but not the only reason why the baby cries, you need to check for other causes.
The baby wakes at night because he needs milk of different composition, containing more calories and unsaturated fatty acids - this is natural, and even desirable during the first weeks of his life.
Many mums are convinced that for the baby's good they would endure, that they must endure uncomfortable positions, pain during breastfeeding, sore nipples. This is a mistake. It is important for a woman to ensure her comfort during breastfeeding, so it is also a pleasure and a source of joy, and not of stress and pain, as this can contribute to a risk of postpartum depression and be negatively reflected in the amount of milk.
Find a breastfeeding position comfortable to you, do not be afraid to try different ones, or to experiment with regular or nursing pillows. At the beginning, when you are still learning how to latch the baby on, we would recommend the underarm position. In this position, you can put the baby's mouth sufficiently far on the nipple by directing his head with your hand.
Knowledge is your ally in natural feeding.
Sometimes, it is worth asking a lactation consultant for advice to overcome these transient problems with breastfeeding, so the moments with your baby at your breast may become unforgettable and pleasant time filled with closeness.
The elimination diet is a method for diagnosing and treating allergies. Before implementing it, contact a doctor.
At the beginning of breastfeeding young mums often eat only boiled turkey with boiled carrots, being convinced that rice can be allergenic, too. This is a mistake. You cannot take it for granted that your baby will have an allergy, particularly, as when he was still in your belly, he had contact with food you ate during your pregnancy. Furthermore, the elimination diet used without any need and incorrectly often results in anemia, reduced amount of milk, or is a drain on young mum's energy and affects her mood.
It is recommended for a breastfeeding woman to drink at least two liters of fluids a day. The best and most healthy fluid is mineral water of medium or low mineral content. Juices are also good, particularly those squeezed of fresh fruit and vegetables, as then you can be sure they do not contain unnecessary sugar, color additives and preservatives. You also supply fluids in soups, compotes and fruit.
Water deficiency in a diet of the breastfeeding woman, which can easily happen as the little snacker suckles a lot of water-based milk from his mum's body, means a risk of dehydration. This condition contributes to mum's psychical and physical discomfort, and can also promote development of circulatory diseases.
What a breastfeeding woman eats, gets to the baby's body with milk, therefore, similarly as during the pregnancy, there is a list of products forbidden to her:
alcohol - a safe dose of alcohol that a breastfeeding woman can drink is not known, therefore, its complete elimination is recommended; toxic substances passing with milk to the baby's body affect shaping and development of his brain and other organs;
large quantities of caffeine, theine or energy drinks, e.g., containing guarana or taurine, these stimulants have a negative effect on baby's nervous system stimulating it artificially, causing anxiety, as well as resulting in incorrect functioning of baby's kidneys and heart;
raw meat and fish (steak tartar, undone beefsteaks, sushi), as they can be a source of zoonoses;
drugs - they pass with milk to baby's developing body; they pose a high risk of damage to the nervous system; moreover, a person under influence of substances affecting consciousness cannot provide sufficient care to the baby.
A simple rule applies here - according to current nutrition standards for breastfed babies, when the baby develops and gains weight correctly, until the end of six month of his life mother's milk is enough, as it is both food and drink for him. Therefore, you do not need to give the baby extra teas or glucose to drink, even during a heat wave; then you just need to latch him on more often and ensure increased amounts of liquids in your diet. Also, you should not introduce solids earlier than the feeding schedule specifies, without explicit recommendations of a doctor.
Mums feeding on demand do not have to choose between feeding or going out. They also do not have to expose their breasts in public places, if they found it embarrassing. Although, the larger our number is, the stronger effect we have on attitudes and shaping of the public space. :)
Anyway, the increasing number of places, such as cafes, museums, or shopping centers, have rooms for breastfeeding and changing a baby; when choosing a place you want to visit, you can check availability of such facilities on-line. Also, you can dress appropriately for breastfeeding, wear a blouse or a dress with a partial opening at the front, so you will avoid exposing also your belly. Maybe you can use a baby sling, or take a tetra nappy or a large shawl with which you can cover your baby to protect him against distracting stimuli and ensure some intimacy for yourself.
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