Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2011
7 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers
Dr Radhakrishna Hegde S.
The birth of a baby is one of the most exciting moments for a woman. But amidst all the excitement, most women also experience moments of anxiety, and especially so if they are first-time mothers.

Some of this anxiety is owed to the responsibility of breastfeeding the baby for the first time. The following are some helpful tips on breastfeeding for new mothers.

Start As Soon As Possible
According to current recommendations, the baby should be put to the mother’s breast immediately after birth, possibly within the first half hour of birth. In fact, in some countries, this is done right after cutting the umbilical cord.

Doctors and nursing staff are accustomed to requests to letting the mother rest, and are even requested to keep the baby in the nursery for a couple of days so that the mother may rest, which is a very wrong attitude to adopt. It is very unfortunate that the baby has to be started on formula feeds during that time. Actually, the first weak milk that comes out from the mother’s breast, called colostrum, is very rich in a lot of nutrients that are required by the baby.

Most mothers are tired and worn out after the process of birthing, their pain at times being much more intense than the baby’s need. But the fact is that their pain decreases with the baby sucking at their breasts. Moreover, lactation occurs as the baby sucks at the breast. The baby’s grandmother or some relative who is in attendance can help the mother breastfeed, in such cases.

Keep Feeding Even If Initially Unsuccessful
Breast feeding can be deceptively simple, but many new mothers have difficulty the first time. They often need help in positioning the baby correctly, more so because they would be too tired after birthing.

In some cases, the baby has some difficulty in latching on to the mother’s nipples. This could be because the mother’s nipples are bigger than the baby’s mouth, and the baby is unable to grasp at them. The mother should continue to try and breastfeed the baby nevertheless, because it is only the first time that it seems difficult. Once the baby starts sucking, the enlarged nipples become softer and smaller, and it becomes easier to feed the baby thereafter.

Sit and Feed
After nine months of pregnancy, the mother’s ligaments would be completely stretched. Sitting up and feeding helps in contracting the ligaments.

It is best to have a good 90 degree chair with adequate back support. If the mother bends forward to offer her breast to the baby, this defeats the purpose of being seated. The mother should keep her back straight and hold the baby up.

The major advantages of sitting up are that the mother does not develop backache, and also, because the baby’s head is held higher than its body, the milk is fed head up, with gravity helping in downward flow of the milk into the body. 

Turn The Baby Completely Towards The Breast
Position the baby in such a way that it is turned completely towards the breast. Take care to see that it’s not just the head that is turned, with the baby’s body on its back, but the entire frame of the baby towards the breast.

Maintain Good Attachment
It is important to maintain a good attachment with the baby’s body. The mother should always look at the baby when it’s feeding. There should be eye-to-eye contact between the mother and the baby.

Support the Breast

The mother should support her breast with her free hand as the baby feeds.

The Baby’s Mouth Should Be Wide Open
The baby’s mouth should cover as much area of the areola as possible and not just the nipple. All new mothers must know that the milk ducts are in the areola and not at the nipple. If a mother offers only the nipple, then the baby would not feed enough, because milk is secreted only when the baby sucks at the milk ducts located in the areola. So the mother must offer the entire breast to the baby and not just the nipple. Moreover, if the baby sucks only at the nipple, the mother could develop sore nipples and be unable to feed the child any more.
Dr Radhakrishna Hegde S. is Senior Paediatric Consultant at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore
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