Ann Marie Brennan, clinical specialist dietitian explains how to begin breastfeeding your baby.
Some mums may perhaps be undecided about whether they are going to breast or artificially feed before having their baby. It’s recommended that you start off with skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, as it’s easier to change from breast to artificial feeding than the other way around.
A short period of breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial. Colostrum, the first milk, has been dubbed baby’s first vaccination. It’s present in small amounts and as the baby’s tummy is tiny, you can practice breastfeeding with small volumes before the milk ‘comes in.’
Breastfeeding is also said to prevent against ovarian and breast cancer and osteoporosis. Skin-to-skin contact directly after the birth or as soon as possible afterwards initiates bonding between you and your baby; helps baby settle; keeps them warm and helps maintain a healthy temperature; settles their heart rates after birth and assists with breastfeeding. It’s also a lovely experience for mum.
If breastfeeding is the plan, doing your homework before you have your baby will be a great help. Familiarise yourself with people and groups that can assist you like Cuidiú, Friends of Breastfeeding, La Leche League of Ireland and breastfeeding classes in the hospital.
How to breastfeed
A midwife will assist you in getting the baby to latch on and feed. Bring your baby to your breast, placing their nose to your nipple. Ensure their tummy is facing you and check that their mouth is wide open. Aim your nipple at the roof of baby’s mouth. Hug your baby’s body and bum into you. Don’t hold their head but snuggle them into you closely, as newborns don’t have a lot of strength to stay attached well.
Different breastfeeding positions
Ask a midwife to show you the different positions before you leave the hospital, including the baby across abdomen or under arm hold and lying on your side. The idea of ‘laid back’ breastfeeding or biological nurturing is popular. All that is involved is that you and your baby simply help each other to get comfortable. Put the baby on your tummy and let them find your breast. Make sure to support baby’s whole body with yours and to keep their feet supported. Comfortably lean back on a bed or chair so that when you put baby on your chest, gravity will keep them in position with their body moulded to yours.
Your head and shoulders should also be well supported. The idea is to let your baby’s whole front touch your whole front. Your baby can rest in any position you like and their cheek can rest somewhere near your breast.
It takes practise
It takes most first-time mothers a couple of weeks to feel really confident about breastfeeding, but it gets much easier as the weeks go by. Every feed you give your baby counts.
If you have opted for artificial feeding, it should be started within the baby’s first hour of life. Formulafed babies should be fed every three to four hours for the first six weeks. They may start to have a longer sleep during the night and they may now be feeding four hourly during the day and sleeping up to six hours at night. The amount they take ultimately depends on the baby’s weight. It is recommended that a baby should take approximately 150ml of formula per kg of body weight.
Hygiene is vital
Artificially-fed babies have a higher incidence of gastroenteritis due to poor hygiene or incorrect storage of feeds. It is vital that you practise proper hygiene at all times – washing your hands, cleaning kitchen surfaces, and washing and sterilising storage containers correctly to maintain a pristine environment for the preparation of feeds. Making sure the kettle has freshly boiled water, which is allowed to cool for 30 minutes, and preparing the feeds according to the manufacturer’s guidelines are important too. Storing the storage containers on a fridge shelf – not on the door – once they are cooled down is also very important.You can buy a special thermos carrier, which will keep your baby’s storage container cool. Once a feed is taken out of the fridge and heated, it must be discarded within two hours.
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