Breastfeeding - Helpful Tips
By Daphne Nancholas
Breastfeeding has many benefits for your baby. If your baby can be breast-fed for at least 6 months then the risk of allergies, such as eczema, are reduced, ear infections and stomach upsets are also reduced. Mother's milk seems to boost your baby's immune system generally.
How does breast milk do this?
Well breast-milk, unlike formula milk, contains antibodies designed to prevent an immature immune system from becoming overwhelmed with the foreign proteins that challenge it. Research has shown that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is associated with a reduced incidence of allergy and reduced risk of gastro-intestinal illness, respiratory illness, ear infections, diabetes, obesity and respiratory wheeze. So there are lots of benefits for your baby if you breast-feed.
According to the NCT nine out of ten mothers did not know that breastfeeding for just one month has a lasting impact on health during the first 14 years of a baby's life. All the authoritative expert bodies that advise on parenting are still right behind the message they've always endorsed: breastfeeding is definitely still the best. The longer the breastfeeding continues, the greater the health gains for both mother and baby.
Benefits for mums too?
Mothers are encouraged to breast-feed, though some women find that it can be embarrassing to do so in public places. Embarrassment aside there are benefits to mothers as well. Breastfeeding can lead to a more rapid return to your pre-pregnancy weight and also reduces the risk to mothers of pre-menopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
For some people breastfeeding can be a painful and upsetting experience.
Breastfeeding is a skill that both mothers and babies have to learn and it's not always easy to pick up. In fact, many women stop breastfeeding before they intended because it proves too difficult or because they are worried that their baby is not getting enough milk. New mums, in particular, can struggle with breastfeeding if they are not given the help and support they need.
The following are some of the common problems in breastfeeding and suggestions of how to help:
There are three main causes of painful breasts.
1. A blocked milk tube can cause swelling and acute pain of the breast. It usually feels like a bruised lump and a red streak may radiate out from it.
2. Mastitis, an infection in the breast which causes pain and is usually accompanied by a fever and acute tenderness and redness of the breast. The infected breast may become hard, lumpy and swollen.
3. An oversupply of milk engorges the breast and usually causes some pain.
What can help these problems?
1. Blocked tube - If you have a blocked tube continue nursing as stopping can increase the discomfort and endanger the milk supply. Go carefully though and nurse or pump every hour - just enough to empty the breast. Get plenty of rest and the blockage will usually clear within a few hours or overnight.
2. Mastitis - Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest. It is important to nurse often, keeping the breasts empty to promote prompt healing. The infection itself will not make your baby sick. Take Echinacea to clear the infection.
3. Oversupply of milk - Drink sage tea. Sage is an anti-galactagogue which means that it decreases the supply of milk.
The most common cause of sore nipples is of course from your baby tugging at the nipple.
If however your nipples are persistently or suddenly sore you might have a thrush infection. Other symptoms of thrush are pink, flaky skin and itchy nipples. Stopping breast-feeding will not help the infection or sore nipples, in fact they are more likely to be helped by frequent nursing.
Try not to wear a bra day and night. Wear your nursing bra with flaps down whenever possible - expose your breasts to the air, this helps.
Rub sweet almond oil or lanolin into the nipples during the latter part of the pregnancy and the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
Also rubbing calendula cream on the nipple will soothe and heal, just be sure to wipe off before breastfeeding. Pure vitamin E oil applied after nursing is very helpful - use pure Vitamin E. Avoid washing your nipples in soap as soap removes natural oils and can cause cracking.
Eat healthily. Remember whatever you are eating and drinking will have an immediate effect on your milk and therefore your baby.
Feed often so your baby doesn't get hungry and tear at the breast.
Relax! Soothing music played while you are breastfeeding will relax both yourself and your baby. By relaxing the flow of milk is better and obviously if your baby is calm rather than stressed the whole process is going to be gentler.
The right position
When your baby is feeding make sure that the entire areola (dark area) is in your baby's mouth and that the nipple is centred. Hold your baby in such a position that his or her nose is roughly opposite your nipple, before the feed begins. If you support your baby across the shoulders with your forearm or the heel of your hand, so that his/her head is free to extend backwards slightly then your baby can approach the underside of the breast, rather than coming straight at it.
You want your baby to open as wide as possible - try not to push the breast into your baby's mouth, it needs to be the other way around. Your baby's mouth will widen as it brushes the breast, just make sure that the lower lip is latched around the aerola. You might need to support your breast slightly, so that the position remains the same.
How will you know when it's right?
Your baby's sucking changes to a longer, slower, more rhythmic pattern with lots of long pauses. He or she may even doze off sometimes. Your baby will be relaxed throughout the feed and remain so for some minutes afterwards. You can be lying down as well as sitting for this process. A feed should not last more than 40 minutes at a time.
Daphne Nancholas is a registered homeopath and for the past 10 years has specialised in the female cycle, including pregnancy, birth and babies. Her book, Taking Off, a handbook for newly qualified homeopathic practitioners was published in 2003. Her website is: http://www.daphnehomeopath.co.uk. Daphne and her partner Graham Smith have written a relaxation CD especially for mother and baby - the website is: http://www.calmtime.co.uk. Calmtime helps during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and anytime your baby is restless, irritable and/or has sleep problems. Helps all the family relax.
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See also La Leche League GB for friendly mother to mother breastfeeding support.