Breastfeeding week: Top tips for moms

By Drum Digital
05 August 2014

The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Awareness week. We bust a few breastfeeding myths and give you some top tips from the experts.

Jenny Wright of Milk Matters, a Cape Town breast-milk bank, says a lot of women expect breastfeeding to come easily and naturally. “It comes as a shock to find that this is not always the case – it is a skill moms need to learn.”

Wright suggests moms who struggle with this consult a lactation consultant or a good clinic sister. “They should be able to help you ensure your baby is well-latched and feeding well and frequently enough so your milk supply is good, you can feed in comfort and your baby is gaining weight and doing well.”

If anyone tells you to stop breastfeeding, Wright advises you to consult a lactation consultant (known as an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). “There is a lot of misinformation being given that results in moms stopping breastfeeding unnecessarily. Often proper breastfeeding management can resolve the problem.”

She adds this encouragement: “Moms and babies are designed to breastfeed so it is rare that a mom truly cannot breastfeed her baby for biological reasons, or that a baby cannot tolerate her mother’s milk. This means that with the right help you too should be able to successfully breastfeed your baby and enjoy the immense satisfaction of knowing you are giving life and health to your baby along with the very best start in life.”

Jenny’s top tips

1. If you’re going to remember just one thing then this is it: If your nipples are sore (even if not cracked), be it early on or later, then something is wrong and you need to get help urgently from a breastfeeding expert and fix the problem. You need to do this for the benefit of both you and your baby. Breastfeeding shouldn’t involve sore nipples!

2. Nipple cream and laser treatment can help heal sore, cracked nipples but won’t solve the problem – the latch needs to be corrected. Go and get help. Urgently.

3. A good latch is essential. Without it, breastfeeding problems arise – sore nipples, hungry baby, poor weight gain, poor milk supply, to name a few.

4. Exclusive demand breastfeeding works with a good latch to ensure a plentiful milk supply and a well-fed, healthy baby.

5. The sooner you ask for help the sooner any problems can be picked up and the more easily they can be rectified or even prevented.

6. You’re not expected to “just know what to do”. Getting good support and guidance from someone who’s up to date and experienced in breastfeeding management, such as a lactation consultant, is key.

7. Get expert breastfeeding help before resorting to a bottle of formula if at all possible, or as soon as possible if you have to use it.

8. However much breast milk you can give your baby is valuable, even if breast milk at every feed isn’t possible. Every breast-milk feed counts. This is true of older babies as well as young ones.

A few common myths debunked

1. Myth: Breastfeeding is painful and cracked, sore nipples are to be expected.

No! Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. A little tenderness or discomfort in the first few days may be acceptable but pain or any damage to the nipples isn’t. The baby latching on to the breast poorly causes pain and damage, and needs to be corrected urgently. A poor latch can result not only in pain for the mom but in the baby struggling to get enough milk (poor weight gain, excessively long feeds, baby fussing at the breast or refusing the breast) and in a poor milk supply. It can be corrected!

2. Myth: Babies should be fed according to a schedule and stretching the time between feeds helps them get into a good routine.

No! Babies tummies are tiny when they’re born and breast milk is digested quickly so a baby truly can be hungry every hour or two in those early days. Frequent feeding in that period will help you make plenty of milk both initially and in the months to come and won’t create any bad habits.

3. Myth: My breasts are too big/small to breastfeed successfully.

No! The size of the breast is irrelevant. Breasts are factories rather than storage containers and breast milk is made on a supply-and-demand system – the more milk that’s removed from the breast, the more is made.

4. Myth: I won’t be able to breastfeed because my mom couldn’t breastfeed and it runs in the family.

No! Things can be different for you as we now know so much more about how breastfeeding works, and your mother probably didn’t get good support or was even told to do things that we now know undermine breastfeeding.

5.  Myth: Breastfeeding means I have to severely limit my diet so as not to cause wind in my baby.

No! Breastfeeding mothers should eat a healthy, balanced diet and don’t need to avoid certain foods. Although possible it’s unusual for babies to be affected by what their mother eats. It’s more likely to be a latch needing adjusting than a mom’s diet causing a problem. All babies have wind – it’s normal.

6.  Myth: My breastfed baby needs water when it’s hot.

No! Babies who are exclusively breastfed for as long as they want, as often as they want will get all the fluid they need from breast milk and don’t need water.

7.  Myth: Expressing will tell me how much milk I’m producing.

No! A baby is much better at getting milk out of a breast than we are when expressing. A baby may well be getting two to three times more milk in a feed than you get in one session of expressing, perhaps even more as some women initially find it difficult to express milk.

• Milk Matters supplies life-saving, pasteurised donor breast milk to premature babies in hospitals when their own mothers can’t do so. For more information contact Milk Matters at info@milkmatters.org or go to milkmatters.org.

-Suzaan Hauman

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