Naturally, breastfeeding can be a bit of a minefield for a mom-to-be. From lactation supplements to the calming Oxytocin hormone, there are a lot of phrases and buzzwords that may be unfamiliar to you. Here’s all you need to know about this miraculous bonding exercise…
It’s the best thing for your baby
Each new mom is different, and it’s important that you should always do what’s right for you and your child. Chances are, though, you’ll have heard the phrase “breast is best!” And there’s a good reason behind it. You see, breast milk is packed with nutrients, including virus and bacteria-fighting properties. Breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life can help lower the chances of your little one getting asthma or allergies, and reduces the likelihood they’ll suffer from respiratory and stomach issues. These facts are backed up by trusted names like the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
It’s a bonding experience
According to pickyeaterblog.com, there are so many elements to breastfeeding your baby that makes it a magical bonding experience. You’re enjoying skin-to-skin contact, you’re looking into your baby’s eyes, you’re getting familiar with each other’s scents, and you’re using your voice to soothe. All that skin-to-skin contact produces something called Oxytocin, often called the ‘Love Hormone’, which fights off anxiety and depression and promotes a calm state of mind. And that’s just what you need right now!
It might not be a bonding experience at first, though!
While the above is all true, disclaimer: breastfeeding may not be the ‘magical experience’ lots say it is right off the bat – and that’s totally normal. After all, if you’re a first-time mom (and even if you’re not), your body is experiencing something it’s never experienced before. Nipples are an incredibly sensitive part of the body, and having a tiny thing sucking on them will take some getting used to. Don’t worry if you don’t feel the spectacular bonding rush for a few days.
Your breast milk comes in three stages
The amazing thing about breastfeeding is the body’s ability to adapt based on your newborn’s needs. Breast milk comes in three stages. First, you’ll notice a yellow-hued substance known as Colostrum, which is packed with the antibodies needed to fight off infections in the early days after birth. This lasts for around three to five days, and then your Transitional Milk comes in – a mix of Colostrum and milk. Finally, after 10 to 14 days, your Mature Milk will arrive. It’s a little thinner than traditional milk, and don’t be alarmed if it has a blue-ish tinge at first!
Latching on can take practice
Try not to be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling on the breastfeeding front. While some babies will ‘latch on’ to the nipple right away, others can take a long time to attach properly. Patience is key. There are a few tips and tricks to bear in mind…
- Get comfortable in a chair that has proper support for your back and neck
- Make sure your baby’s tummy is in line with yours. Use pillows if you need to
- Guide the nipple into your baby’s mouth, and don’t lean towards your baby – bring them to you
- Listen out for the suck-swallow-breathe pattern, it’s how you know the baby’s getting the milk down
- Try again. If the latch isn’t solid. Place your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to release, and try once more
There are places to turn to if you’re struggling
Don’t despair if you feel like you and your little one are just not getting it. Ask for help – it’s really important and readily available to you. You’ll have specialists at your chosen hospital, lactation consultants that can conduct home visits, and breastfeeding groups and classes in your local area – do not suffer alone. Aside from the people you can turn to, there are lactation supplements that can increase your milk flow and supply, if necessary. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re producing too much milk your breasts can become engorged and very sore. That’s when a breast pump comes in handy.
It will help you shed the baby weight
Forget careful exercise to help get rid of the dreaded mom tum – breastfeeding will do it for you! According to years of studies and research, moms who breastfeed burn on average an extra 500 calories a day, compared to that of a non-breastfeeding mom. When you think about that, that’s the same as a small meal or the equivalent of doing around 45 minutes of gentle cardio! One argument suggests that this weight loss might also be down to breastfeeding moms making more mindful decisions (as a result of breastfeeding) about what they put into their body. For instance, healthier, less calorific foods. Bear in mind, because you’re burning calories and energy, you might feel more hungry and thirsty than you usually would, and this can last for up to a year.
You might experience period-like cramps
Another not-so-nice side effect of breastfeeding is the cramps you’re likely to experience in the early days. While you’re feeding your new baby, your brain will release a hormone called Oxytocin, which ultimately helps the uterus get back to the shape and size it was before you got pregnant. The good news? It’s only temporary.
It’s up to you when you stop
The only person in charge of your body is you, and if you just can’t get on board with breastfeeding and need to call it a day, then that’s absolutely fine. As we discussed above, the constant chatter about “breast is best” can make it incredibly difficult for new moms to give up without feeling an enormous amount of guilt. This is nonsense. A happy, healthy new mom is best for a happy, healthy baby. So, if breastfeeding is making you miserable, swap to formula. Similarly, ignore the chatter about stopping breastfeeding after a year. It’s down to you to decide when to make that transition.