By: Mandie C Medford, BA, HBCE, LE
Your breast milk will be one of the most precious gifts that you give to your baby. The time you spend nursing your little one will create a strong bond between you and your child that will last a lifetime and will help your baby to be healthier, happier and better able to form relationships and bonds with others later in life.
The benefits of breastfeeding are endless. Children who are breastfed have an average of 11 points higher IQ levels, lower cholesterol in adulthood and fewer cavities and allergies. These children are less likely to develop obesity, cancer, asthma, intestinal diseases, diabetes, heart disease, MS, arthritis and countless other diseases. Mothers who nurse have a lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis; they have a lower risk of hemorrhage during their postpartum period, and burn 500 calories per day breastfeeding alone!
ENJOY this time and enjoy your baby. Nurture and respect yourself rather than being critical of yourself as a parent. You brought human life into the world and you are amazing! Here are some tips and valuable information about breastfeeding that will help you to get a successful start and promote long term breastfeeding.
Your milk: Breast milk is easily digested and is made especially by your body to meet the specific needs of your baby. You will have colostrum for the first three days of your baby’s life. Babies receive about one teaspoon of colostrum during each feeding and it doesn’t take them much time to eat. Your baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble at birth, so your colostrum fills them up well. Colostrum is full of protein to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and immunity properties that seal the gut lining to protect against pathogens. Around day 3 of your baby’s life, your breasts will feel “full” and your transitional milk will arrive. This milk is creamier and higher in volume. It also contains lactose, calories and vitamins. When baby is 10 days old, and their stomach has grown, your mature milk will arrive. It will be higher in fat, protein and carbohydrates. Milk is never “too watery.”
Feed baby on demand. Do not worry about schedules. Your baby will be eating about every 2 hours and this is normal. Babies need to be fed 10-12 times per day, which averages out to be about every 2-3 hours. Your milk is the PERFECT food for your baby; it metabolizes quickly and then baby is ready to eat again! It is perfectly fine to let baby pacify at the breast; allowing him or her to spend time skin to skin with you will only serve to bring your milk in, in a timely manner. Babies will lose about 5-10% of their birth weight and will likely be back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age. Keep feeding through it, on demand.
The best way to build milk supply is to feed your baby. Breastfeeding is the model of supply and demand. The more baby demands, the more milk you will make, thus making it important to feed when your baby shows early signs of hunger.
Sleep: Your baby will wake up at night to nurse; this is normal. Your baby will likely wake about every 2 hours at night and throughout the day to eat. It takes breast milk about 90-120 minutes to metabolize, thus explaining why babies wake so often. Your prolactin (the hormone that makes you make milk) levels reach their peak between 1 and 6:00am and it is very important to feed during those hours to maintain a healthy milk supply. Your milk is the PERFECT food for your baby! Sleeping in the same room or co-sleeping with your baby is optimal for a healthy and long term breastfeeding relationship. Sleep when your baby sleeps!
Be sure to wake baby and feed at least every 2 hours during the day, until he or she is back to birth weight. The rule of thumb with my own babies is that we offer the breast every 2 hours or when they ask for it, whatever comes first!
Spend a lot of time skin to skin with your baby. It organizes them for nursing, encourages growth and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Most importantly, it encourages bonding between mother and baby because of the oxytocin that is produced. Partners should spend time skin to skin with baby too! Nurse baby skin to skin, with your shirt off and baby just in his or her diaper.
Babies will lose about 5-10% of their birth weight and will likely be back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age. Keep feeding through it, on demand.
Wear your baby in a sling or carrier. This promotes bonding and effective nursing.
Limit visitors. If people want to come by, give them a job! Ask them to do a load of laundry or dishes for you or bring a meal. If you are uncomfortable nursing in front of others while you get the hang of it, then limit who comes over, but never ever feel like you should have to leave the room or cover up when it is time to feed your baby!
Mom should consume 2500 good calories per day and a gallon of water.
Listen to your instincts. We cannot be perfect parents 100% of the time but when we are coming from a place of love and understanding we can’t do it wrong!
I hope that you enjoy, and snuggle your new baby! The time flies faster that you can imagine and soon enough they will be strong, confident children.
Mandie Medford, HBCE, LE