Breastfeeding 101: A Cheat Sheet for New Mothers

Breastfeeding 101: A Cheat Sheet for New Mothers

The breastfeeding journey is one of the most fascinating, rewarding yet most challenging and self-sacrificial things a mother can go through. Even after breastfeeding three boys in a span of 5 years, there's still so much to learn! If it is something that you want to experience with your new baby, prepare yourself for what's ahead and know what to expect so you can enjoy the process! Here's a quick cheat sheet with some things that might not be so commonly known, as shared by Ms Yvonne Lim, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) from Madam Partum. 


1. What to do at birth: Skin-to-skin contact for the first hour

With more research readily available, we know that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at birth is crucial as it helps to kickstart milk production, amongst other amazing health benefits. It also primes baby to feed better at the breast as hormones are released to stimulate the infant's feeding instincts. In the first few moments of resting on mummy's chest, you would see baby naturally moving his or her head in search of the breast! It's the most amazing moment that marks the beginning of the breastfeeding journey. 

What if mummy can't do skin-to-skin contact?

If for some reason, perhaps because a difficult birth or C-section, where mummy is not available for skin-to-skin contact, daddy can also do the same with the newborn baby. This helps regulate baby's heart rate, body temperature and blood sugar and feel less stress being away from his or her mother.

2. Treasure your colostrum, but don't stress about it

Before breastmilk, the mother's body produces the most nutritious substance called colostrum, known also as liquid gold, for 2 to 5 days after birth. This has been highly raved about by mummy communities and many of us can feel pressured to collect as much as possible to build a stash in freezers to feed baby when supply drops or when he or she is unwell. In reality, many new mothers might not get a chance to see it because we only produce something like half a teaspoon at every feed in the first day! So don't fret. As long as you are latching every 1.5 hours to 3 hours, the baby should be well nourished! The hospital should be able to guide you to check how well baby is feeding by tracking the frequency of baby's pee and poo during your stay. 

What if I am already leaking colostrum in my third trimester? 

Amazing! But before you start using a syringe to start hand-expressing the colostrum, please seek medical advice or speak to your gynaecologist. Expressing colostrum is known to bring on contractions, so you probably don't want to encourage labour to come prematurely!  

3. Going back home: Don't skip your feeding or pumping sessions

For most of us giving birth in hospitals, the first few days are much more manageable, with more help from the nurses and access to a baby nursery. When it's time to transition back home, many of our real challenges begin as we adjust ourselves to a new environment and dynamic in a familiar space. At this point, it is common for many mothers to experience a supply drop in breastmilk if they are slightly stressed or missing feeds at regular intervals to catch up on some rest. This is completely normal! If you'd like to increase your milk supply, be sure to feed baby or pump more regularly. Taking milk-boosting supplements like fenugreek tablets or Milk Saver Boost will help too!

How do I know if I'm breastfeeding correctly? 

A good latch should be pain-free. Initial tenderness is expected, especially if you are a first-time mummy. However, if you are noticing that there is pain throughout the session, even after 30 minutes, stop and try to find the right latch.

How? First, make sure baby isn't swaddled to lessen the opportunity for baby to fall asleep at the breast before drinking enough. Then, use your finger to tickle the baby's cheek till his or her mouth is wide-open, like a Pac-Man before your offer the nipple. If latched correctly where the nipple is touching baby's soft palette, you shouldn't feel any pain. If baby if crying, try your best to calm or soothe baby first before offering the breast so you can get a better latch. If you find that your baby regurgitates easily or has a sensitive stomach, try to feed baby with the stomach resting upright. 

To take care of your shoulders and neck in the long run, avoid bending down to offer the breast to baby. Instead, use a breastfeeding pillow or cushions to bring the baby up; baby's tummy to your tummy and assist baby to put the chin to the breast. Make sure to ask the nurses and get all the practice you need while you have help in the hospital! 

4. Balance self-care and know your limits

According to WHO, infants should be exclusive breastfed for the first 6 months of life. Yes, the dedication and sacrifice can be pose a great challenge even to the best of us, especially with the lack of sleep. Ms Lim tell us that, "The golden hours are truly in the first month. You will have the work the hardest here, but it gets better!"

Technology has also advanced in such a way that you can have others feed breastmilk to your baby with so many options available for pumping and storing breastmilk. It’s your choice, so don’t let other voices tell you that it's not.

From 6 months onwards, breastmilk still plays an important role in your child's nutrition but you can already embark on a new journey to introduce solids! Breastmilk can gradually become a supplement. 

What do I do when I'm engorged? 

With changing factors or stressors along the way, perhaps falling ill or making the transition back to work, some of us can encounter breast engorgement or blocked milk ducts, where inflammation can happen because breastmilk is not cleared regularly. When this happens, try the following: 

1) Use nipple shields to protect the nipples when not nursing. Many of these are made of 925 silver, which is antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial. It heals and prevents cuts, wounds, cracks, soreness, and infections.

2) Stop wearing tight clothing as it encourages engorgement, try something like Olive Basics' Esther Easy Latch Tank, where you can get the support you need without wearing a bra!

3) Take a warm shower and massage the breast from the engorged point to the centre of the breast. Repeat till you feel a letdown of milk but try not to massage too hard or you could cause bruising. You could also try the reverse pressure softening method!

4) Sometimes, even after the clogged duct is cleared, you may feel the pain for 1-2 days. You can continue to put a warm compress on the area. 

5) If the pain becomes too unbearable, you could switch to doing cold compression or placing a piece of cold cabbage onto the breast. Do this for a maximum of 20 minutes each time, 3 times per day. According to Ms Lim, do note that this is a natural milk killer so try not to do this for too long. Some mums actually use this method to wean off their baby! 

With each mother and each child, the journey is different. In light of everything we need to learn and to prepare for, breastfeeding should be never been a thing to achieve or perform at, instead, it should be an experience that connects mother to child and deepen the experience of motherhood, through every hurdle, challenge and joy.

For some of us that may experience difficulty breastfeeding, don't let it define you, you are more than enough! Many of us have also went down the route of feeding formula milk to our babies with no regrets! At the end of the day, as long as mother and baby are healthy, that is what is most important. 

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