10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Breastfeeding
Here are some things you should know about breastfeeding before you actually get started, including expert tips from Singaporean lactation nurse Jophia Bok.
So you’re pregnant and you can’t wait to meet your cute little bundle of joy… You’ve read every parenting book there is and you’re well-armed with information regarding everything that’s related to babies.
But there are some things related to parenting that perhaps require a bit more information-gathering and preparation than other topics.
Breastfeeding is one such topic.
Jophia Bok, who is a qualified lactation nurse here in Singapore, shares her tips on achieving a positive and successful breastfeeding experience. According to Jophia, when preparing for breastfeeding, you could:
- Gather information from trusted sources.
- Talk to and meet up with other breastfeeding mums.
- Gather basic breastfeeding accessories.
- Put up a list of contacts, including those you’ll need for lactation help and breast pump rentals.
- Do a final recap of breastfeeding after delivery and clarify your doubts about breastfeeding with a lactation consultant.
Here are 10 more things you need to know before you start breastfeeding.
1. Breastmilk is incredibly healthy for your baby
Human breastmilk is perfect for human babies — there’s no doubt about it.
According to the Health Promotion Board of Singapore (HPB), breastmilk has been clinically proven to be a complete diet for your baby.
Your first milk, known as colostrum, is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby.
Even though your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can hold.
What’s even more amazing about breastmilk is that colostrum changes into what is called mature milk by the 3rd to 5th day after birth.
This milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help your baby thrive.
Jophia elaborates that your body will adjust the nutritional composition of your milk as your baby grows, coming up with the right amount as needed.
The health benefits of breastfeeding don’t stop here.
According to a report by the HPB, breastfeeding may also result in a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, childhood obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for your child.
2. Breastfeeding is good for your health too
It’s not just your baby who benefits from your breastmilk — you do too!
Breastfeeding, according to the HPB, has benefits for mothers, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer.
What’s more, breastfeeding releases “mothering hormones” such as prolactin and oxytocin.
Jophia points out that while oxytocin helps create an emotional bond between the mother and child, another benefit is that it helps in uterine contractions after delivery.
3. It may be difficult at the beginning
If you are pregnant for the first time or thinking of breastfeeding for the first time, it’s good to know that while breastfeeding will soon be like second nature to you, it may be difficult at the beginning.
The reason we point this out is so that if you do encounter difficulties when you start breastfeeding, you’ll know it’s normal and you’ll know not to give up.
With persistence, patience and professional support, you will soon get the knack of successfully nursing your baby.
4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help
I personally found breastfeeding my older son difficult at the beginning and wondered if I was doing something wrong.
But with the assistance of a skilled lactation consultant, I learned the correct way of holding my baby, how to help him latch on, etc. and soon, breastfeeding was a breeze. I was even able to continue breastfeeding him for well over 2 years.
However, I know that if I hadn’t had help and encouragement, I may have given up.
So if you have just given birth to your baby and are struggling with breastfeeding, do not hesitate to ask for the help of a lactation nurse.
Even if you find breastfeeding hard after you take your baby home, you can still call a lactation consultant for advice and support.
If you have friends who are breastfeeding or have breastfed, ask for their help and advice too.
You could also join an online breastfeeding support group or a mothers group.
5. You can eat the occasional burger and your breastmilk will still be perfect for your baby!
According to Jophia, your baby will continue to receive the right amount of nutrients through your breastmilk, even if you eat unhealthy food.
But this doesn’t mean that you should have burgers for all 3 meals.
Jophia elaborates that having a good, balanced diet and not starving the body is crucial for a lactating mother.
This is to ensure that her body does not deplete its own resources/nutrients to make up for what is lacking in her diet, just so she can provide quality breastmilk for her baby.
So do continue to eat a variety of nutritious foods (the HPB recommends that lactating mums should eat a balanced diet, with an increase of about 500 calories), much like you did throughout your pregnancy.
Also, take an appropriate vitamin (your doctor can help you with this), get ample calcium, and drink plenty of water while nursing.
If you need medication (for anything from a cold to a chronic condition), check with your doctor. Most — but not all — medicines are considered ‘safe’ for breastfeeding mums.
6. Breast pads are a great invention!
Once your milk comes in, you may find that the slightest stimulation — from a warm shower to hearing your baby cry — may trigger the let-down of your breastmilk!
You definitely don’t want this to happen while you are out and about and risk your top getting soaked (yes, this has happened to me!).
And let’s not even talk about the amount of extra washing you will have to do! So do stock up on those breast pads — most Singapore supermarkets will have a good range of them.
Do remember to change your breast pads often… if they get overly moist, they can promote the growth of bacteria.
7. Breastfeeding can be super convenient
No frantic runs to the store because you’ve run out of the formula. No stumbling about at 2am to prepare a bottle of milk.
No cleanup. One less thing to stuff into that diaper bag, because you don’t need any bottles!
Breastmilk is instantly available and delivered warm.
Travelling is easy if you’re breastfeeding, especially if you’re in a plane. Your baby will never run out of food and can be instantly comforted with breastfeeding.
8. It provides the perfect bonding opportunity with your baby
Being a parent can be (extremely) tiring, especially if you are a new mum and still getting the hang of many baby-related things.
But once you’ve mastered the art of breastfeeding, there is nothing as beautiful or relaxing as seeing your little one content, warm and safe at your breast.
Breastfeeding forces you to sit down and take a breather. It requires you to cuddle your baby, to look at that perfect face and marvel that she is thriving because of the nourishment you are giving her.
9. Your newborn will need to ‘latch on’ to feed properly
It’s probably the most important thing both you and your baby will need to learn about breastfeeding — how to get your baby to ‘latch on’ properly.
Getting your baby to latch on to your breast can take practice. But with support, patience and time, it should gradually become easier.
Once your baby is latching on well, she will be able to feed happily and easily.
According to breastfeeding experts, your baby needs to get a good mouthful of the breast when she starts to feed.
You can encourage this by checking that the following is happening:
- Her mouth is as wide open as possible before she attaches to your breast.
- Her tongue, bottom lip and chin touch your breast first.
- Once attached, most of the areola should be in the baby’s mouth and her nose should be free.
You’ll know she hasn’t latched on properly if you feel pain. If this does happen, gently use your little finger to break suction and try to latch her on properly.
Remember, if you find it difficult to help your baby to latch on correctly, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation nurse to show you how it is done.
10. You will need to take good care of your nipples
Your nipples will take a beating because of breastfeeding, and you may experience cracked and painful nipples if you don’t care for them properly.
Here are some tips on how to look after your nipples while breastfeeding:
- Check both nipples after each feeding — if your nipples are sore or cracking, you should treat them early so that they don’t get worse.
- Jophia recommends smearing a few drops of breastmilk on your nipples and air-drying them. This will protect and help in healing sore/cracked/bleeding nipples.
We hope you found this article useful. Do share your own breastfeeding tips with us by leaving a comment.