Breastfeeding is the feeding of young babies with breast milk that begins immediately after childbirth. Most health experts recommend that a baby should be breastfed for 6 months exclusively before introducing them to other foods as breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants.
A mother gets to bond with her young one during breastfeeding and it also helps them shed extra calories and lose some of the baby weight gained during pregnancy. Breast milk has a lot of benefits to the baby as it contains antibodies that help fight viruses and bacteria, protects the baby from allergies, respiratory illnesses, constipation, and diarrhoea. With breastfeeding comes a lot of challenges for both the mother and the baby.
There are ways in which moms can overcome these challenges and some are outlined below:
- Low Milk Supply - Colostrum-the first breast milk, low in volume but rich in immune factors, begins to be made in the breasts a long time before your baby is born. A delay in the time when milk "comes in" sometimes occurs after the birth of a high-risk baby. If milk production is a problem, the sooner you intervene, the better. Infrequent breast pumping (milk removal) is the most common reason for a delay in the time when the milk "comes in," for insufficient milk production, or for any drop in milk production. Some women’s breasts don’t develop normally (for various reasons) and may not have enough “milk-making” ducts to meet their baby’s needs. Ducts do grow during each pregnancy and breastfeeding stimulates the growth of more ducts and tissue, so this may be less of a problem with a second or third baby. Other factors that can also lead to insufficient or low milk production include Maternal smoking, some medications & herbal preparations, breast surgeries & nipple piercings that may destroy the milk ducts and hormonal forms of birth control, especially any containing estrogen. There are ways in which you can boost your milk supply: Breastfeed more often, drain one side of the breast before switching to the other, express milk immediately after feeding your baby, nourish your body by eating the right kind of foods and alternatively, by using lactation cookies to boost your milk production.
- Difficulty Latching On- Sore nipples are a common phenomenon amongst breastfeeding moms, some assume it’s a normal experience but lactation experts believe that pain during breastfeeding means something isn’t right. Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt but if your baby is not latched onto the breast properly then it will hurt. To prevent the nipple from being pinched by the baby’s mouth, ensure that they have a mouthful of the surrounding breast tissue when they want to suck. Try out these positioning tips to help make breastfeeding easier.
Mothers’ nipples come in different variations of size and shape, while normal nipples protrude outwards, some may be inverted, flat or cracked making nursing a difficult experience. The amount of fat in your breasts, the length of your milk ducts and the density of connective tissues beneath your nipples all play a role on whether or not your nipples protrude, lie flat or an inverted.
The baby forms a teat from not only the nipple but the surrounding breast tissue as well. There are several steps to take to correct flat/inverted/cracked nipples but first of all it’s important to undertake a nipple pinch test to determine whether you have a common, flat or inverted nipple.
A truly inverted nipple is caused by adhesions at the base of the nipple that bind the skin to the underlying tissue. While the skin does become more elastic during the third trimester of pregnancy in preparation for nursing, some of the cells in the nipple and areola may stay attached. Sometimes the stress of vigorous nursing will cause the adhesion to lift up rather than stretching or breaking loose causing cracks in the nipple tissue and pain for the mom.
The degree of inversion varies ranging from the nipple that doesn’t protrude when stimulated but can be pulled out manually, to the severely inverted nipple that responds to compressions by disappearing completely. How much difficulty a flat nipple poses on a nursing baby depends on the baby and degree of inversion.
There are different ways to make your breastfeeding experience painless and stress-free and these include:
Use of a Breast Pump - If you’ve tried several methods to stimulate your nipples and they haven’t worked, you can use the suction from a breast pump to draw out flat or inverted nipples. There are different breast pumps available and these include both manual and electrical pumps. You can purchase a breast pump here.
Using A Nipple Shield - A nipple shield is a thin, flexible silicone nipple that fits over your nipples during feeding and they ensure that more stimulation reaches the areola and the reduction of milk volume is minimized. Nipple shields can however be addictive to your baby causing them to prefer it over the breast and if not worn well it can cause damage to your nipples. Always speak to a lactation consultant before using it. get one here.
Using A Breast Shell - A breast shell is used to collect excess breast milk and protect sore nipples and they can be worn discreetly under clothing between feedings to help draw out your nipples. See purchasing options for a breast shell set.
Using Suction Devices - There are some suction devices used to draw out inverted nipples and are sold under different names like nipple retractors/nipple extractors. Worn under clothing, they pull out your nipple into a cup and over time they help loosen the nipple tissue.
Hand Expressing - Hand expressing allows you to control milk flow from a particular side of the breast. Place a sterilized feeding bottle or container below your breast to catch the milk as it flows. Wash your hands with soap and water, gently massage your breasts, cup your breast with one hand then, with your other hand, form a "C" shape with your forefinger and thumb. Squeeze gently, keeping your finger and thumb near the darker area around your nipple (areola). Release the pressure, then repeat, building up a rhythm. Try not to slide your fingers over the skin. Drops should start to appear, and then your milk usually starts to flow. If no drops appear, try moving your finger and thumb slightly, but still avoid the darker area. When the flow slows down, move your fingers round to a different section of your breast, and repeat. When the flow from one breast has slowed, swap to the other breast. Keep changing breasts until your milk drips very slowly or stops altogether.
Stimulate The Nipple - You can try to gently stimulate your nipple by rolling it between your thumb and finger or touching it with a cold damp cloth. You can also try stimulating your nipple using the Hoffman Technique. Simply place your thumb on either side of the nipple at the base and not outside of the areola. Press firmly into your breast tissue, while still pressing down, gently pull your thumbs away from each other. Move your thumbs all around the nipple and repeat.
Shopping Guide For Breast Feeding Moms
Clothing - Successful breastfeeding involves knowing what to wear. Nursing mothers deserve clothes that are comfortable to wear, easy to flip sideways or pull up/downwards so that the breast can reach the baby quickly. Get a good nursing bra as flipping up a regular bra will cause them to loosen faster. Also recommended is a tank top, a V-neck shirt, a wrap dress, a button-down shirt or a crossover top.
Breast Pumps - If you need to relieve engorged breasts or are stashing milk for a night feed or work time, a breast pump is a good companion. Whether you opt for a hand pump (cheaper) or go for an electric version (quicker), it’s a useful item for your breastfeeding kit. Purchase it alongside items like storage bags and cups, feeding bottles and spare teats, replacement valves & membranes and tubings.
Nipple Cream - It’s very important to soothe sore nipples with a moisturizing balm to help prevent the dryness that can cause cracked nipples and irritated skin. Purchase a nipple cream here if you’re interested
Breast Pads - Are necessary as they help soak up excess milk from your breasts thus you won’t have stains on your outfit. Check out the variety of breast pads available here.
Nursing Cover - While it’s not imperative to cover up while you’re breastfeeding, if you’re feeling self-conscious, you can drape a cardigan, large muslin or even a special breastfeeding cover over you. Try out this Nursing Cover Infinity Scarf.