Monday, November 14, 2011

All About the Boobs... what I've learned about feeding my baby

This past month Chris and I have been taking a great antenatal class in our local neighborhood. (Antenatal is apparently a very British term, I'm thinking the American term equivalent would be birth class?) The classes are run by a national charity called the National Childbirth Trust, and though the classes were not free, or cheap, they were pretty informative, helpful, and most importantly, we met some great other new parents. There were eight other couples, all of us have due dates within 15 days of each other, and we all live within 1/2 hour of each other. (One of the couples lives literally right around the corner!) Class was also like a mini UN - Greek, Australian, Portuguese, New Zealander, Iranian, American, and only half British. And although I felt the coverage of labour and delivery was scanty and repetitive (there was no discussion of the third stage of delivery or perineal massage, much to my dismay), the information on breast-feeding was VERY helpful. This makes sense because our instructor - a middle-aged bourgeoise hippie who lay on the floor moaning in fake-labour pain at least once a class - is a lactation consultant.

Useful facts about breast-feeding:

 - Newborn babies need to feed at least once every three hours. You shouldn't try to schedule the baby's feedings, except you should set an alarm to go off every three hours in the night so that if your baby doesn't wake on his or her own to feed you can wake them.

- After baby is done feeding on one breast you should always offer the other. Then start with that breast the next feeding.

- A baby doesn't need to feed for a certain amount of time. But if your baby is at your breast for 45- 1 hour, he probably isn't latched properly. When babies don't latch properly they don't get as much milk, and your boobs get unnecessarily sore.

- Your nipples shouldn't hurt when baby is breast-feeding. If they do, he isn't latched on properly.

- Baby's head should always be tilted BACK when feeding. (Do this now. Put your chin to your chest and try to open your mouth and swallow. Go ahead, do it! How does that feel?)

- Don't support baby's head when feeding either, just hold them very snug and firm against your body.

- It is really important that baby's first experience with feeding be positive. Right after birth, let them lay against your chest and find your nipple on their own - don't force them on or let a midwife/nurse force them on. We watched a video of a newborn lying on his mom's chest immediately after birth and he just instinctively crawled his little head towards her nipple - it is amazing!

- If feeding your newborn every two hours (or more) seems excessive, think of it this way.... When was the last time you put anything in your mouth today? Even a sip of water? Because breast-milk is baby's everything... and with a stomach the size of a walnut in the first weeks, it makes sense they get hungry and thirsty at least every two hours!

- Crying is a last resort for hunger. Look for rooting with the mouth, putting hands in mouth, general restlessness - and try to feed before he cries.

- The WHO and all other major health groups recommend exclusive breast-feeding (no formula!) for 6 months. Only 1-2% of British women do this.

- Frequent feeding through the night is really important for establishing a good milk supply so that you can successfully feed for those six months (and beyond.)

- At six months, solids can start to be introduced but you should still be breast-feeding too.

I feel very lucky to be able to be unemployed through the first year of little boy's life. I don't know how I would cope with leaving him after 3 months' (or even 6 months!) maternity leave. I also don't know how I could possibly exclusively breast-feed if I had to go back to work after 3 months! I don't think it's possible, unless you pump and store your milk every couple of hours while at work. My mom swears she exclusively breast feed me when she started going back to work when I was 3 months old, but then I asked her, well didn't you supplement with formula? and she said she couldn't really remember. She didn't pump at work, but would run home during her lunch break to feed me, and then would race home every evening early. Sounds too hard! I'm so lucky, this I know.

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