Breastfeeding is a very special and intimate experience between you and your newborn. It is a unique and powerful bond that connects you and your baby on a very deep level. Breasts are an extension of your heart and are therefore the tools of unconditional love and nurturance. Breastfeeding your baby not only provides them with perfectly customized nutrition, but also liquid love that nourishes their whole being.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding isn’t always blissful and glorious. Truth be told, it can also be painful, emotional and downright frustrating! Postpartum challenges like breastfeeding often take mothers by surprise, and can leave you feeling unprepared and exhausted. Make sure that you do your homework on postpartum care, as well as baby care, in order to have the best possible breastfeeding experience with your newborn.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Mother and baby both benefit greatly from the practice of breastfeeding. This not only includes physical benefits, but emotional as well. Mothers can actually transmit subtle knowledge and feelings when breastfeeding. Babies are extremely receptive and will be tuned into their mother above all.
Benefits for Baby
- Contains antibodies that fight off bacteria, viruses and infection
- Provides customized nutrition for your baby
- Lowers the risk of developing asthma and allergies
- Nurtures positive attachment and strengthens bonding
- Reduces the risk of SIDS
- Nurtures sense of security and love
- Reduces the risk of respiratory and ear infections
- Promotes a healthy digestive system
Benefits for Mama
- Maternal fulfillment
- Promotes healthy recovery
- Reduces uterine bleeding and helps the uterus regain its original size
- Lowers the risk for ovarian and breast cancer
- Releases feel-good hormones that produce emotions such as love, compassion and joy
- Promotes deep connection and bonding
- Burns excess calories (Don’t you worry about losing weight, baby will suck it out of you eventually!)
- Can delay the onset of mensuration
The quality of your breast milk makes a significant difference in the health and vitality of your baby. It is important to eat an appropriate postpartum diet, in order to ensure the digestibility and quality of your breast milk.
Qualities of Breast Milk
- natural white color
- sweet taste
- mixes easily if swirled in water
- medium consistency
- no foam
- soothing effect on baby
- highly digestible
- promotes healthy growth
If your breastmilk doesn’t seem to meet the above qualities, it may be out of balance. If so, you should first look at your own digestive fire.
Are you having gas, constipation or loose stools? How is your appetite? Are you ravenous or do you have to force yourself to eat? Does the food feel heavy in your body?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it is likely you need to adjust your diet. It doesn’t work to just eat whatever, if you want to have a smooth and healthy recovery. Diet is very important, please prepare accordingly.
“Let thy food be thy medicine” -Hippocrates (The founder of modern medicine)
Colostrum ~ Baby’s First Food
Colostrum is a concentrated superfood packed with nutrition and antibodies, that nourish and protect your newborn in the first few days of life. It is extremely easy to digest and is measurable by the teaspoons, rather than ounces. Even though the volume of colostrum may seem small, this nutrient dense golden superfood satisfies their needs until your milk comes in. This nectar coats their digestive tract and prepares it for healthy assimilation of breast milk and food thereafter. It also has a laxative effect, which helps them pass meconium efficiently.
If you are a first time mother, you may experience extra anxiety about your newborn getting enough nourishment. Know that you are naturally endowed to produce plenty of milk to feed your baby. Trust in your body’s own intelligent nature. Be present with your baby while nursing. Utilize this time of sacred connection to relax and bond with your baby.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand feedback system. The more your baby suckles, the more milk your body with produce. Supplementation and/or complementary feeding with formula is not recommended, as it disrupts the supply and demand of your milk supply, leading to a unsuccessful breastfeeding experience.
The most important things that influence milk supply is frequency of baby’s suckling, proper latch as well as your own postpartum health. If your baby is producing 6 wet diapers a day, you have nothing to worry about. To optimize your milk supply, add lactation tea and mother’s hot milk tonic to your daily postpartum diet 🙂
Initiation of Breastfeeding
It is best to initiate nursing within the first 90 minutes after birth. Newborns are particularly alert during this window. It is an important initiation of bonding, as it connects mother and baby outside of the womb.
First Few Days
For the first few days after birth, you will be producing and feeding your baby colostrum. This is a yellowish, sticky nectar that provides your baby with essential nutrients and antibodies that will give them a strong, healthy start in life. What it lacks in volume, it makes up for in nourishment. Breastfeeding may feel uncomfortable and you might feel like nothing is really coming out, but stick with it. In a couple of days, you will have more milk than you know what to do with!
Onset of Lactation
Your milk will come in within 2-4 days of giving birth, usually in abundance. Milk fever, a low fever less than 101 degrees F, is common right before your milk comes in. If you have a fever 101 degrees F or higher, contact your birth professional. Massaging your breasts with sesame oil will ease engorgement and help prevent clogged milk ducts.
Frequency of Breastfeeding
Nurse on demand for the first two weeks. 8 times in 24 hours is ideal. This will limit breast congestion and engorgement, as well as jaundice in your baby.
After 2 weeks, space out feedings every two hours or so. This is important for your baby to properly digest the milk given in each feeding. If you nurse more frequently than that, you will be putting fresh sweet milk on top of sour milk, which will cause digestive discomfort and the accumulation of toxins in your baby.
If your baby is going through a growth spurt or your milk is thin, you may need to breastfeed more frequently for a few days.
Night feedings are important aspect of successful breastfeeding. Your newborn will be hungry during the night and it is important to continue to meet their needs. Breastfeeding around the clock keeps the supply and demand feedback loop in check and ensures the continuation of ample supply, while not having uncomfortable excess! If your baby is having a nice extra long snooze, you may need to use a breast pump or expel some breast milk by hand.
Do not limit the time on each breast. Let baby suckle each breast until content. The fat content increases with time and is important to your baby’s health.
Breast Comfort & Health
Nipples can easily get sore from your baby’s strong sucking power. With my little one, I was convinced she would suck the entire universe into her mouth! Make sure your baby is nursing with a whole mouthful of breast, and not just sucking on the nipple. Also make sure your baby is sucking rhythmically.
Don’t use soaps or creams on your nipples. For tender or cracked nipples, rub your breast milk, ghee or Vitamin E oil into your nipples. Also exposing your nipples to sunlight, a little fresh air, and eating oils high in EFA’s will help with nipple discomfort.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue and can be extremely painful. It is caused by a backup of milk in the milk ducts. If left untreated it can become a breast abscess. Many women who have mastitis feel like they have the flu. The symptoms include fever (101 degrees F or higher), chills, achiness, inflammation in the breast tissue, lumps, tenderness and redness. If you feel like you may have mastitis, call your doctor or birth professional right away.
Mastitis often is the result of the mother being too active and not getting enough rest. Make sure you are taking plenty of rest. Mother’s massage, hot baths and warm compresses with ginger tea are stimulating for circulation and are helpful for breast congestion and mastitis.
- If you are having anxiety, go for a hot milk tonic rather than a glass of wine. It will calm your nerves, aid your digestion and boost your milk supply.
- Hold your baby across your body, or under your shoulder in the “football hold.” Make sure their feet are lower than their head while nursing to aid proper digestion.
- Make sure baby gets a mouthful of breast and not just the nipple. A good latch and suction is essential for successful breastfeeding.
- If your milk is flowing out too fast, your baby might gasp for air, accidentally swallowing air bubbles. This can cause them gas and discomfort. If this is a problem, gently unlatch their hold for a few seconds and press your forearm against your breast until the flow slows down to manageable.
- After breastfeeding, burp your baby by bringing them to an upright position and gently pat their back, encouraging any air bubbles to exit their mouth.
- If you are on medication, it is likely that your milk will not be suitable for your baby for the duration (make sure to consult your doctor!) Should you need to take a break from breastfeeding, you can use a breast pump to keep up your milk supply up and resume nursing once you get the go ahead from your doctor.
- If you have a premie, it is even more important for your baby to receive the specialized nourishment of breast milk that only you can provide.
- Have some experienced breastfeeding mothers to call on for support. They are a fantastic resource for questions and support. Don’t be shy!
- Find breastfeeding support in your area through La Leche League International. Click here to join La Leche League International’s Facebook group.
- For latch problems including inverted nipples and tongue-tie, please seek the advice of a professional lactation consultant.
Mama ~ You Got This!
Breastfeeding is a golden opportunity to expand your heart in selfless service and unconditional love. It is truly a beautiful gift from Mother Nature. In order to rest in the bliss of breastfeeding, it is essential to ensure that your breastmilk is well endowed with good qualities and is easy to digest. In order to achieve this, your postpartum care is of top priority. Eat well, rest well and get in your mother’s massage every day. Do this and the rewards will be endless.