You may have decided well before your baby was born that you are going to breastfeed, you may be looking for some feeding advice as your due date approaches or perhaps you are already breastfeeding your new born and you’re looking for further information and advice. I breastfed for 14 months and at times it was a real struggle but, I am so proud of myself for sticking with it and giving my little girl the best possible start to life. There are probably over one hundred questions you have about breastfeeding, here are the ones I had, the things I wondered about and the things that I found out:
How long should I breastfeed?
There is no hard and fast rule as to how long you should breastfeed. The world health organisation recommends that you breastfeed for up to two years and beyond, the department of health recommend that you exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. Once you have decided to breastfeed, you do not need to set yourself a target for how long you are going to breastfeed or set a deadline for finishing. Every day that you breastfeed makes a difference, it reduces the chance of food intolerances and continues to protect him from infections regardless of whether he is 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years. If you are thinking of stopping breastfeeding because you are having problems, it may help to speak to someone first as problems can often be overcome with the right advice.
How often will my baby need to feed?
Your baby may need 8 feeds per 24 hours or could need 12 feeds per 24 hours. She may want to feed every 3 hours or may want some of her feeds close together and the others spaced out. You should feed your baby when she is hungry. During the early weeks your newborn may appear to be hungrier than usual. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t producing enough milk; it is her way of “asking” for more milk to be supplied in preparation for a growth spurt (hang in there!). You should try to avoid comparing your breastfed baby’s feeding pattern to that of a bottle fed or mix-fed, they have a totally different feeding pattern. Avoid letting your breastfed baby sleep for long stretches, you may need to wake her up for her feeds if she is a particularly sleepy baby.
How do I know how if my baby is getting enough milk?
The obvious signs that he is getting enough milk is that he is:
- Gaining weight steadily
- Has plenty of wet nappies
- Has several poos a day(in the first 6 weeks)
- And seems content and happy.
- There is absolutely no harm in breastfeeding frequently, he will always enjoy the closeness of the occasion.
How do I know if my baby has latched on properly?
There are 4 things that you can check whilst feeding to ensure your little one has latched on properly:
- You can visibly see the working of her jaw muscle
- Her mouth is wide open and her chin is against your breast
- She suckles and swallows rhythmically whilst the pauses your baby takes whilst feeding increase as the feed progresses
- You don’t experience any pain after the first few seconds of attachment
- You should also see plenty of wet and dirty nappies as appropriate for her age.
How important is colostrum?
Colostrum is often referred to as ‘booster milk,’ it is an amazing mixture of proteins, vitamins, enzymes and anti-infective agents that help your baby through her first 3-4 days of life and can’t be found anywhere else. It boosts her resistance to infections and also has a laxative effect which helps your baby with her first poo (meconium).
What medicines should I avoid?
When buying or being prescribed any medicines you should always inform your pharmacist or gp that you are breastfeeding. Any drug that you take will be passed on to your little one in small amounts. There are plenty of medicines that are safe to take whilst breastfeeding such as anti-biotics, paracetamol, hay fever tablets (such as Clarityn), asthma pumps and vitamins and some that should definitely be avoided. You should always see an alternative medication if the drugs you are being prescribed or are thinking of purchasing contain any of the following ingredients:
If unsure, you should always be check with a healthcare professional.
Is it safe to drink alcohol?
The Royal College of Midwives recommends total abstinence during both pregnancy and breastfeeding, on the other hand, the American academy of paediatrics support the view that it is safe for breastfeeding mothers to drink within reason. Breast milk from a mother who has an occasional alcoholic drink is still far better than a formula feed, therefore, you should not stop breastfeeding for want of a glass of wine. You of course need to know your boundaries; If you overdo it and still feel drunk or you have vomited then you should really avoid breastfeeding for at least 12 hours. It has been suggested that nursing mothers who want to be able to have a drink, should try having a small glass of wine with a meal, shortly after your baby has fed. This way there is time for your body to process the alcohol before your baby wants to feed again. Levels of alcohol in your bloodstream are at their highest between 30-90 minutes after drinking and it takes 2-3 hours for one small glass of wine to leave your breast milk. In short, the occasional glass of wine is fine, perhaps save it for special occasions. Anything over the recommended daily limit of 2-3 units is harmful to the both of you.
What foods should I avoid?
There is no reason to avoid any particular food during breastfeeding. If you feel that a certain food is upsetting your little one, you should always discuss this with your GP or health care provider before you consciously omit it from your diet. If you or your partner have inherited allergies such as hay fever asthma or eczema then you may want to avoid any obvious source of peanuts during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
Do I need to be on a special diet?
You do not need to eat any differently whilst breastfeeding as long as your usual diet is relatively healthy. You should always aim to have at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day as well as a healthy mixture of dairy, meat, poultry and eggs, wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and cereals. You should also try and have at least 2 portions of fish per week and drink plenty of fluids.
Can I give my breastfed baby a dummy?
It is not recommended to give dummy during the establishment period of breastfeeding. This is usually the first four weeks of your newborns life but for some may be a bit longer. Some do’s and don’t and problems that may arise are:
- Giving a dummy could interfere with your newborns ability to feed effectively. This is because the technique used to suck a dummy is different from the technique used to breastfeed.
- It could affect your milk supply. If you are breastfeeding, you need to be feeding on demand. If the feeding cues your baby is giving you are misinterpreted and a dummy is used to help settle your him instead then this will result in you producing less milk.
- It is very important that your baby is fed on demand as it helps your body to establish and maintain a good milk supply for your baby.
- If your newborn is over 4 weeks old and is breastfeeding well (gaining weight steadily, plenty of wet and dirty nappies) and you want to introduce a dummy to her, it is recommended that you only give your baby a dummy to help her to sleep.
- It is still vital that you recognise your baby’s feeding cues and don’t use the dummy as a replacement for her feeds.
Should I avoid breastfeeding if I am a smoker?
If you smoke while breastfeeding, your baby will also be exposed to nicotine. Your breast milk will still protect him from infection and provide him with various nutrients that aren’t available from any formula milk. Instead of looking to not breastfeed, you should look at your other options such as nicotine replacement therapy. You should speak to your GP or health visitor/midwife about this. You should never smoke in your house or the car and always ensure friends and family are aware of this when your baby is present.
What is the law regarding breastfeeding in public?
The law states that you are perfectly entitled to breastfeed your baby (of any age) in any public place or place of business that provides a service. This includes but is not limited to parks, leisure centres, public buildings, buses, trains, planes, shops, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, theatres, cinemas, petrol stations and in public. Any service provider working in such an environment must not discriminate, harass or victimise anyone who is breastfeeding. If you feel you are being treated differently, have been asked not to breastfeed, have been asked to leave, are receiving a lower standard of service or are being treated unfavourably in any way then the equality act states that this is sexual discrimination. The only place that is permitted to request that you do not breastfeed is a place that is designed solely and justifiably for men’s use only or if there is a certain health risk associated with in the area such as chemicals or radiation. If you feel you have been discriminated against you should first raise a complaint with the organisation. If you feel that the matter has not been resolved you may wish to seek advice on county court action.
I hope you have found this post helpful and that some of your questions about breastfeeding have been answered.
I would love to hear from you about anything else you feel is worth passing on to other new parents or any challenges you had whilst breastfeeding.