Tuesday, September 28, 2010

7 Breastfeeding Facts You Should Know

By Danelle Frisbie © 2010

Breastfeeding, while natural and normal to all mammals, can occasionally be a bit of a mystery to those who haven't looked into human lactation and the science behind it, or spend a lifetime growing up among nursing mothers and their babies. Counselors from the Australian Breastfeeding Association recently put together their top seven facts mothers should know to make breastfeeding easier. They stress the following facts for nursing moms:

1) For babies, breastfeeding is an instinct. Provided birth (during and after) is not interrupted or messed with (induction, drugs, surgery, pain) babies are born with the instinct to breastfeed, and they nurse easily when given the opportunity to follow their primal instincts.

2) For mothers, breastfeeding is a learned skill. It is normal to need plenty of help and for it to take a few weeks to feel confident breastfeeding. This is especially true if a mother has not grown up in a culture that values and empowers nursing mothers - one where she grew up witnessing a wide variety of nursing babies and their mothers. This nipple latch technique has helped many moms who need some extra skills to help baby latch properly (so that nursing is comfortable). Visiting with a skilled lactation consultant in person is also extremely valuable in perfecting latch early on in one's breastfeeding career.

3) Skin-to-skin contact helps babies learn to breastfeed more easily and supports the nursing relationship (and milk supply) hormonally. When a baby of any age is held skin-to-skin against his mother's chest he is more able to follow his instincts and attach well to the breast. This skin-to-skin contact influences mother's milk to let down, and for her supply to become hearty.

4) The cues that a baby is hungry include:

Sucking on her fingers
Sucking on his fist
Turning her head from side to side
Wiggling/squirming
Opening and closing her mouth (fishy lips)
Smacking his lips
Poking out her tongue

Crying is the last sign of late (advanced) hunger and babies attach to the breast more easily before they reach this desperate, hungry, crying stage. Imagine you are hungry but cannot do anything to get yourself the food you need... first, you ask for it by the means of communication you have. If your repeated requests are ignored, and you become famished, you eventually cry out in anguish, begging someone to pay attention to your need to be fed. Babies' stomachs are very tiny (especially in the first months of life) and while they fill up quickly, they also empty very quickly and baby will be genuinely hungry again soon. Learning your baby's cues and attending to them right away will increase breastfeeding success (and a happy, content baby).

5) Gently massaging the breast towards the nipple while the baby is feeding can increase how much milk the baby gets and help a sleepy baby get more milk. Running a finger or thumb lightly across the baby's chin or cheek will encourage the baby to take another gulp and consume more without falling asleep.

6) Every mother's breastmilk storage capacity is different and this can affect how often a baby breastfeeds or whether a baby will solely nurse on one side at a time, or take both breasts at each nursing session. A mother with a smaller storage capacity may find her baby breastfeeds more often and this is normal for her and her baby - it is not a sign that she doesn't make enough milk. Another mother may find that she has a large storage capacity and her baby nurses less often and takes in more at one time - this is normal for her and her baby. All mothers can increase milk supply by fully emptying the breasts more often. Adjustments in milk supply are easily made in the first 30 days. After that time, it becomes much more difficult, so during the first month post-birth it is essential to nurse on cue and pump extra if you wish to stock up a frozen supply for down the road (or plan to return to work).

7) Emptying the breast is what sends the message to a mother's body to make more milk, so the more often a baby feeds (or the more often the mother pumps) the more milk will be made. It is a matter of basic supply and demand. The body makes more when it is told that it needs more (through frequent use and being emptied). If supplements are used (formula or other solid foods) then nursing/pumping decreases, telling the body that not as much milk is needed - and supply drops. This is the reason supplementing (when a mother doesn't think she has enough milk) is counterproductive and actually leads to a drop in milk supply - the very thing she may have been worried about to begin with. If a mother is pumping, she should strive to fully empty the breasts (in the early months of breastfeeding or anytime she wishes to increase supply). This means to pump for 3 minutes after the very last drop of milk comes out, or for 25 minutes - whichever comes first.

For additional information on milk supply see resources at the bottom of this article: Lactation Cookies: Increasing Milk Supply

For helpful information on breastfeeding, see books, websites, and articles for nursing moms at Breastfeeding Resources


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12 comments:

  1. Great list...so helpful to anyone breastfeeding for the first time. I wish I had known number 4 during the first night of my baby's life...it seems so obvious now, but in the earliest moments of motherhood when everything was so new I didn't.
    I'm sure being given this list in ante-natal classes would be a great benefit to all new mums.

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  2. Thanks for these lists of information regarding breastfeeding. The clues you gave on when to know that your baby is hungry are great and very informational. Very helpful indeed for nursing mothers especially the first-time ones.:-)

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  3. Very good information. I would clarify (add) that although it is correct to say that it is instinctual for a baby to want to breastfeed (which equals wanting to eat for the baby) and the baby will instinctually present cues for feeding, that is not to say there cannot be a learning curve for the baby as well. Some babies may have developed poor sucking habits in-utero while sucking on hands or fingers, or the baby may have a habit of thrusting out its tongue or pulling in its bottom lip.

    It is also possible that something in the baby's history in-utero or during birth may be adversely impacting breastfeeding. Examples of this would be significant head molding which restricts jaw movement, spinal misalignment, or severe jaundice causing an overly sleepy baby. these are all things that can significantly impact breastfeeding but they can also all be managed with knowledge and gentle loving guidance.

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  4. Great article. I am going to repost it in my blog

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  5. Two Little Monkeys ~

    Thank you for dropping a note that you've enjoyed this post. You are more than welcome to post a paragraph "teaser" of sorts for your readers with a link back to this item URL (http://www.drmomma.org/2010/09/7-breastfeeding-facts-you-should-know.html) but all our guest authors maintain the rights to their work at peaceful parenting and they are copyrighted for use on DrMomma.org only. Authors frequently make updates in links, information, statistics, photos, and add/edit paragraphs. For legal reasons, and in order to maintain the integrity of articles on our site, they cannot be duplicated in full without express written permission of the author. Hope this makes sense. Feel free to write to us at DrMomma.org@gmail.com with any questions. Thank you!

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  6. I love how this article give tips because for a new breast feeding mom, there are lots of questions. I have to return to work, so I plan on pumping, do it is nice to know what to do before hand.

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  7. the hunger signs will help us out greatly, me and my gf had discussed breastfeeding and we are planning on doing it, its great to know where we can go now for so much information. thank you

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  8. I wish I had this information with my first! I want to mention this post on my blog because I think it's great information that many could benefit from. I read your reply to Two Little Monkeys, so I will definitely add a link back here! Here is my blog if you want to take a look, http://natural-beginnings.blogspot.com

    I love your blog! Thanks for sharing such great informaition!

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  9. Another important tip I wish I'd thought of is to AVOID having anyone in your home/around you, even if it's the grandma, if they don't agree with breastfeeding. My baby took to breastfeeding very well until grandma came to stay in our home. 3 weeks of her constant nagging about drooping boobs and hi-jacking my baby with a bottle just as I was about to feed her was disastrous for breastfeeding. I was so angry that my milk flow was affected and my baby could feel the stress and arched away from me. Looking back I wish I had kicked grandma out of my home, but it's too late now and baby's only on the bottle. I didn't want to cause problems between my hubby and I as it was his momma, and he agreed with her. Grandma just kept the negative breastfeeding comments flowing non-stop even while I was breastfeeding her. So hard to ignore and remain calm. She was so ignorant she even told me that that less I breastfeed, the more milk I can store in my boobs for the next feed, so bottle feeding is fine and won't affect milk supply. What rubbish. Listen to the experts and don't assume that older experienced mothers know it all.

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  10. I breast feed my kids (now 12, 9, and 5) even after giving birth via c-sections all 3 times. Please don't feel discurage if you don't have a "normal" birth. I'm glad I did it.

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  11. I would add to the "lactation consultant" that you be sure that person is an IBCLC. If they are not they may still be helpful but an IBCLC has had extensive training and testing while anyone can call themselves a lactation consultant, so I wouldn't give up until you have seen one. You can also talk to a leader at La Leche League.

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  12. I disagree with number 1 regarding induction as I had to be induced due to a very late baby and he successfully nursed for a year. Sometimes I think lists such as these give new mothers "ideas" as to why they cannot nurse. Education is key. Read books, find a mentor, and tell a nursing mother that she is doing an awesome job. I am now ten months into nursing baby boy #2 and would not have it any other way. I had a mentor, read books and surrounded myself with the positive reinforcement I needed.

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