Breastfeeding – The First Month
If you’re expecting a baby, and especially if it is your first little one, you have most likely given some thought to how you will feed your baby. Breastfeeding gives your baby an excellent start in life. Breast milk, in particular colostrum, the milk that you produce in the first few days after your baby’s birth, is full of nutrients and antibodies to build a healthy immune system for your baby. It is a complete food for up to six months of age and lowers the risk of your baby developing allergy and food intolerance.
Today I’m going to talk about my experience breastfeeding my son, who is now 9 months old. I am a proud mama, and also a midwife. I felt that I had a lot of knowledge of breastfeeding from my work in assisting women to establish breastfeeding, but as with birth, every woman’s experience is different. A common phrase that I hear when talking to pregnant women, whether at work or amongst my friends and family is “I’ll breastfeed my baby – if I can”. It often strikes me that lots of women are apprehensive about breastfeeding, but are really wanting to make it work.
In the moments after Angus was born, I brought him up to my chest for skin to skin contact. Not only is this an amazing feeling, meeting your baby for the first time, but in doing this, your baby stays warm and feels comforted by your already familiar smell. It’s a great idea to keep baby close to you for a lengthy period after birth. You might want to think about keeping visitors to a minimum, especially in the first 24 hours after the baby’s birth. This closeness to you and/or your partner will keep your baby warm and feeling secure, and allow you to establish breastfeeding. Your baby already knows your voice and most likely your partner’s, so this is where he or she will feel most comfortable. In the early days, you might find that your baby will want to feed and feed and feed. This is completely normal! You might wonder if you have enough milk. Relax, because you do. Your beautiful baby is just trying to help you establish a good supply of milk. His tummy is small, so he needs to feed often. Having your baby close to you allows you to get to know your little one and learn their cues for feeding.
After your baby is born, your midwife will be there to assist you in establishing breastfeeding. He or she will observe your baby’s attachment and give you pointers and assistance if you need it. Despite knowing what I know about breastfeeding, it was different for me when Angus was born. When our midwives visited us at home, I got them to double check that Angus was attached properly as feeding was a little painful on one side. At first, you can expect breastfeeding to feel unusual, but if you have a lot of pain when your baby is latched on, you may need to check the way you have your baby positioned, or the way that your baby is attached to the nipple. Once I tried a new technique I found it much more comfortable. Ask for help…it will make a huge difference to your breastfeeding experience.
Another thing to look out for in the first month is those hormones. You may have heard of the “baby blues” which tend to present themselves on around day three after your baby is born. These feelings coincide with your milk changing from colostrum to the milk that will feed your baby from here on in. Add on some sleep deprivation and you may find yourself feeling teary and emotional. At this time, it’s normal for your baby to ‘cluster feed’ …that is, feed all the time, and you may feel like you can’t keep up with your baby’s demands! As I mentioned before, you can do it! And here is the most important lesson I learnt during this first month of breastfeeding Angus: you need to look after you. This means lots of love and support from your partner and loved ones. Their job is to reassure you that these feelings are normal and make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Drink lots of water and eat foods which are nourishing and help you maintain your supply.
Once your milk has come in and your baby is a few weeks old, you may find yourself recognising your baby’s pattern of wake, feed, play, sleep. You will probably notice that your baby will want to feed every three to four hours, but may feed more often, or less often, depending on whether they are having a growth spurt, which commonly happens at around four weeks of age. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure to establish a firm routine during this month, as your baby is still getting accustomed to life outside the womb and is, most importantly, putting on weight and growing, not to mention getting to know you, which means depending on you for every need, at all times of the day and night!
My top tips to start you on your breastfeeding journey:
- Enrol in an antenatal breastfeeding class at your local hospital, child and family health clinic or birth centre: having a idea of what to expect with breastfeeding will give you confidence and you may find that when you start breastfeeding you think “aha, this is what I learnt in the class”. It’s a good idea for your partner to attend the classes too!
- Keep your baby close to you in the early days after birth: all your baby wants is to be close to you and this will help establish breastfeeding, and help you as parents to recognise baby’s cues for feeding. If your baby is born by Caesarean section, have a chat to your midwife about making sure your baby has skin to skin contact as early as possible after birth.
- Look after you: drink plenty of water to satisfy your thirst while breastfeeding, and eat lots of nourishing, healthy food to give you energy and keep your supply of breast milk up. Whole grains, vegetables and fruit and lean protein are perfect! You may need an extra 2100 kJ a day while fully breastfeeding your baby. It’s a good idea to continue to take your pregnancy multivitamin too!
- Try and avoid caffeinated food and drinks: coffee, tea, cola and even chocolate can decrease your supply and make baby unsettled. Try a nice cup of herbal tea instead! Tea with fennel, fenugreek and anise is great for breastfeeding!
- The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a fantastic resource and help for breastfeeding Mamas. They have a helpline you can call, 7 days a week, with any questions relating to breastfeeding your baby, and related queries. You might want to consider becoming a member. https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au
Good luck on your breastfeeding journey and enjoy your gorgeous new baby!
(This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. All information is written from the experience and knowledge of the person writing the post).