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“The moment a child is born, a mother is also born.” This quote cannot be truer, considering the rush of emotions and things to do that come with becoming a mother. One of the first “new” things I encountered on becoming a mother for the first was breastfeeding. While I breastfed for quite some time, there are a few learnings I picked up on my journey of breastfeeding that no one told me about, but I’m glad I embraced them.
- You will not get milk the minute you start breastfeeding, and stressing about it makes things worse. Colostrum is the first liquid which is produced for the first 2-4 days and looks clear or a golden yellow Color. It is liquid gold, rich in nutrients, highly concentrated and full of protein – the perfect first food for your little angel. The key to a woman’s mental health about breastfeeding is knowing that colostrum comes in small quantities naturally. Transitional milk then starts getting produced 2-5 days after delivery until 2 weeks, post which mature milk is produced.
- The power of pumping! I think it is vastly underestimated in breast milk production. Pumping after feeding empties the breasts making the body produce again to refill. Breast milk production follows a demand and supply method. The more the demand, the more the supply. If the baby is sick and may not feed that often it helps maintain the supply. Manual breast pumps and electric breast pumps are the options available. There are brands like Philips Avent and others which make good quality and convenient to use pumps. I personally have used the Philips Avent pump, which I found super comfortable and fast with few parts, so cleaning and sterilising isn’t a hassle. I would personally prefer the electric pumps because it saves time and effort. Using either type of breast pump has never been easier with the instruction manuals and videos available. It makes pumping a less daunting task than it appears.
- Rooting is a natural reflex which babies are born with. It basically is the turning of the baby’s head towards the “root” – the mother’s breast. But if the newborn hasn’t developed it yet, milk can be hand expressed to help guide their mouth to the nipple. It can also be triggered by gently stroking or touching the corners of their sweet little mouths, and which mom wouldn’t love to do that! Sucking is also a natural reflex, albeit different from rooting. When the roof of the mouth of the baby is stimulated, sucking comes in, allowing the baby to “drink”. There is a possibility that a newborn may need help with these reflexes, but it does not mean that breastfeeding is not possible. Any concerns regarding these reflexes should be discussed with a lactation specialist to get to the root of the issue and fix it.
- Breastfeeding made me hungry all the time. There are many myths regarding diet during breastfeeding, and while all advice may not be particularly wrong, it is best to consult a lactation specialist for proper guidance. Consuming a balanced diet which is rich in proteins is ideal. And importantly, hydration is everything! Since breast milk is composed of more than 80% water, replenishing the use of water in our bodies is critical to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Every baby is different, and so is the time they take to breastfeed. While there are some general numbers to get an idea, these aren’t set in stone and aren’t the best way to judge whether milk supply is enough or not. A better method would be to check for a count of wet diapers. Newborns may nurse for 20 minutes or even longer on one or both breasts, some may need 8 sessions and some 12 or even more. Feeding often and on cue is the best way to keep stress at bay. For mothers like me, who are fussy, keeping track of the feeding schedule of babies using apps or diaries kept me sane, knowing that there is a pattern and when to expect the next feed. Having said that, there should always be room for changes and updates in the baby’s feeding schedule as they grow.
All in all, questions about supply, whether or not the child has had enough wet diapers, and questions about your diet are all part of the breastfeeding journey. The key is to keep stress as far away as possible, eat a balanced diet and stay happy with the knowledge that your child is being given the best you can do and there is nothing better than that.
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