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There is an enormous amount of literature on how and how not to breastfeed. There are lots of Dos and Don’ts, as to the How, When, and Where. Some days I wish that my baby came with a perfect pre-written manual for breastfeeding her. Problem solved!
Every newborn’s mom has the best intentions for him. As we get from one milestone to another in the daily ordeal of trying our best, we jump from one recommendation to another, from one suggestion to another, surrounded by the constant guilt of whether or not we are doing the best our babies. So, I want to share what has worked and what hasn’t, during the 4 months of exclusive breastfeeding that I have personally experienced. This is from one mom to another!
1. No food is good or bad.
Don’t go burying yourself in guilt trips every time your baby just whines and whines, and the many advisors around you who keep asking you what you ate last. It’s scientifically proven that breast milk has a very fixed composition that is not normally changeable by your intake of rajma or chole. There are very few known allergens that can pass from you to your baby, which include milk, milk products and eggs. And, that’s where only your paediatrician will be required – no tips from elders will be good enough here. Just go ahead and enjoy a healthy diverse diet with occasional binges. You should eat healthy, that’s all that matters.
2. Trust your gut.
If you think something is actually causing those cramps and discomfort in your baby, guided by your personal experience and intuition, never ignore your feelings. We mothers have a very strong intuition about the well being of our children. Give it a trial of omission, observe the change, and slowly introduce again. Work scientifically, not emotionally. Remember, a trail of omission requires a scientific procedure to be followed. It’s not a simple hit and trail.
3. Having a drink or two is okay.
Don’t force yourself away from that alluring glass of wine or vodka or beer, if you want to take one. The best practice that I found that actually works is to feed your child, pump some extra milk, and then enjoy that drink. Even if it’s not possible or you don’t want to do that, having a drink does no harm. That does not mean I recommend binge drinking – that is dangerous for you and your baby for sure! But, having an occasional drink on that lovely evening with your mates or soulmate is worthy, and needs no guilt tripping.
4. Don’t let the nipples crack.
If there is one blunder that can be committed, it’s not taking care of the nipples. The powerful sucking on a sore nipple can make even the strongest of us shiver with pain. And here starts the vicious cycle of ever-increasing chance of feeding failure. Even if your maternal instinct would want to bear that pain, your subconscious self-care will make your body pull away. Nipple creams are a great relief.
5.Good support bra is all you need.
If you want to keep away from engorged sore breasts that keep dripping milk, please wear a good support all the time. After trying many, I found that bralettes work well for me, especially at night time. The padded nursing bras help keep sensitive nipples shielded from rough touch, and give you much needed comfort. Don’t wear sizes that don’t fit you – this could lead to a long lasting backache due to wrong weight-bearing of these heavy breasts done by your body.
6.Change the breast pads at least 3 times a day.
If you want to feel fresh and avoid that nasty milky smell fuming out of your body, don’t linger on for more than 8 hours with any breast pad. Not only is the collected milk a source of bacterial growth, the odour that follows is such a downer!
7.Take a shower.
A shower bath does increase milk production. This one I am so sure of! Taking a warm shower instead of a sitting bath does make a difference. But, if you have a problem with engorged, over-producing breasts, please avoid taking a shower. If, on the other hand, you have low milk production, then definitely try taking a shower.
8. Use a breast pump.
The more you pump, the more you produce. If you want to increase your milk production, regular pumping is a good way. Not only does it help in feeding breast milk off the breast, it also makes the supply better. A manual pump is a good enough choice, but a motor- powdered one decreases the effort and time significantly.
Please make sure you maintain good hygiene while collecting and storing the milk, as maximum lapse will occur here. I have kept bottles at room temperature for up to 4 hours, and in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. I haven’t tried freezing yet, but as it goes, you can freeze and thaw your milk for as long a time as you desire. No limits.
Don’t microwave the bottle, as milk products are known to degrade in the presence of microwaves, which is not a very healthy alternative. Use a hot water dip or a custom made heater specifically marked for the purpose.
One more thing to consider – is pumping in oversupply a problem? This, we shall discuss next.
9. The oversupply.
Do you make more milk than your baby can handle? Yes, it can happen. It may be an actual oversupply, or in many cases, simply an exaggerated let down problem. Whatever be the science behind it, there are a few simple tricks I followed, being a sufferer myself. It scared me to see my infant fighting for breath, coughing, struggling all the time on my breast. After a thorough dive into literature and never ending advice, I figured out that pumping repeatedly during the first few weeks is a bad idea. Our newborns are adjusting to the tune of their newfound nutrition supply with their immature reflexes. Pumping does increase the supply dramatically for them. The initial milk is mostly water, followed by thick milk. Discarding a few ml does not do any harm.
As much as possible, feed sitting up, and try to keep your baby propped up, even sitting facing your breast if he has problem handling the supply. This very much eases the discomfort they face, and significantly decreases chances of aspiration.
Don’t squeeze your breasts. It is ineffective and painful.
A 4 to 6 hour cycle also helps in offering the same breast every time. The child demands till 4 to 6 hours, followed by rotation to the other breast. It helps in rationing the supply, and aids in providing both foremilk and hindmilk to the baby.
Avoid hot water showers if you are over-producing.
Wear a good support.
Whatever you do, try your best not to go on a guilt trip. This is a common thing that happens to many of us.
10.Introduce the bottle early.
Despite the many suggestions on exclusive breastfeeding, I have realised that you must introduce a bottle in the baby’s routine as early as 4 weeks. You can give pumped milk if you want to keep it exclusive, but a bottle of good brand milk is not a bad option at all. Kids are clever, and if you delay this introduction when it’s a “catch-able” time by your child, you may actually miss that bus.
With my elder son, I made sure to give him a bottle of pumped milk once or twice a day since he was 3 weeks, and it worked wonders. I was able to take a good nap, watch a movie, go on a dinner date with my husband, and son on. But as I was destined to, I failed to pounce on this opportunity this time with my daughter. I have realised what a mistake I made. She is 4 months now, and totally in refusal of any kind of nipple/bottle/milk combination. It’s so tough making any plan that does not include her. And, as I now approach the time when I would wish to rejoin work soon, this comes as a very significant and tough road-block on the map.
I really hope you can draw some easy and workable Dos and Don’ts regarding breastfeeding from my personal experience.
Motherhood has been my most beautiful ride;
Its ups and downs, both, I own with pride.
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