First Time Mum: Basic Guide to Breastfeeding
I wished I read up more on taking care of a newborn rather than the different stages of pregnancy. One such topic I wished I knew more is breastfeeding. Then again, you learn better while on the ‘job’. Keep in mind that the joys and challenges differ from one mummy to another. In any case, if you are a first time mum or breastfeeding for the first time, I’ve put together a guide to breastfeeding. Hope it will help you to be more prepared for breastfeeding!
In the Beginning
When your newborn first suckle your nipple, he/she is actually drinking colostrum. It is a thick, sticky and yellow (sometimes clear) liquid, labelled as ‘liquid gold’ for its potent formula. Rich with antibodies and white blood cells, colostrum is the ideal food for the first few days of life.
The colostrum is little in quantity but sufficient for your newborn. According to a NUH nurse, there’s no need for baby to drink much in the first few days anyway. The newborn has stored up nutrients taken from the mummy while in the womb.
Interestingly, my friend who breastfeeds her elder child said that her milk turned to colostrum immediately after delivery. Amazing! Also, just so you know, leaking colostrum during pregnancy is normal, usually happens during the third trimester.
When colostrum ends, milk will kick in. This happens in the first postpartum week, usually 3 to 4 days after the baby was born. One mother can have too much milk. Another mother too little. Best is to have adequate supply.
Once the milk is in, most mothers will have engorgement to some degree. Engorgement is painful and uncomfortable, and happens more often with first time mothers. If you have engorgement, your breasts will start to get rock-hard or lumpy. Engorgement is usually temporary if you act upon it. However it might persist because of excessive milk supply, blocked milk ducts, etc.
So what should you do when engorged?
- Book a postpartum massage session.
- Make sure the masseur does breast massage as well. Some of them only focus on your tummy. It’s also better to book before delivery. It can be difficult to get the popular ones last minute.
- Getting a masseur helps because as a first time mother, you wouldn’t know how to massage your breast or have the strength to unblock the milk ducts and lessen engorgement.
- Even though my engorgement was not considered serious, the breast massage was still excruciating! To think the massage lady told me some mothers went through worse. Their breasts felt painful from a light touch. There’s even a mother who called her for home visit in the wee hours and paid a premium to unblock those ducts. I also know of people who didn’t feel much pain from breast massage though. So don’t let my experience scare you.
- Book a session with the lactation consultant.
- This is what my friend did. Apparently, her massage lady didn’t do a good job in reducing her engorgement while still making her scream in pain. On the other hand, the lactation consultant at Mount Alvernia relived her engorgement without much pain.
- There are other lactation consultants around. I went back to NUH for the lactation consultant assigned to me during my hospital stay, while another friend went to Valerie from mumsfairy.
- Self Care
- Even after the sessions, you have to be diligent in unblocking plugged milk ducts. Continue to massage your breast, latch and pump. Use heat to soften and encourage let down before nursing or pumping. More on this in my next post.
- Use ice pad to relieve pain and swelling due to engorgement. A lactation consultant told me that one should use cold cabbage as the last resort, because it will dry up milk supply really fast.
Feeding, Milk Supply and Challenges
I wanted to squeeze all I know in this article, but there’s just too much to write about. Didn’t want to swarm you with information. You should relax and not tense up when it comes to breastfeeding. So shall continue in subsequent posts:
- Feeding – What to expect during a breastfeed. Also, the suggested feed frequency and duration.
- Milk Supply – How to establish and boost milk supply. Along with tips on pumping and storing of milk.
- Challenges – It’s common for mummies to face challenges during breastfeeding. You are not alone and definitely not the first to experience what you are going through. So is it worth it to feed breastmilk – is breastmilk really better than formula?
Personally, the labour and first month was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t fathom why mummies will want to go through the whole process a second time or to breastfeed. Yet as breastfeeding gets easier, I’m glad I didn’t give up and lose the bonding time. Like many others, I felt like giving up then, but surprisingly I’m still breastfeeding my 7+months old baby now.
But there’s also no condemnation if you feel like giving up. You know what’s best for you and the baby. And if you have decided to breastfeed, eat and drink well because the baby is getting nutrients from you!
Other Useful Information for Breastfeeding
List of items to prepare
- Nipple Cream (1 tube should be enough)*
- Milk Storage Bags*
- Breast pads
- Nursing bras or Bralettes
- Nursing clothes and covers or baby swaddles (if you are open to nursing in public)
- Pumping device (electric or hand pump)
- Washcloths to wipe or Haakaa Pump to collect dripping milk from let-down.
- (Optional) Heat and Cooling pad (e.g. Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy)**. Or washcloth to soak up cold or hot water. This is to prevent engorgement and blocked ducts. More on this in my next post.
- (Optional) Old clothes/bras to wear at night, because they might get soaked with dripping milk while you sleep.
*I have an extra tube of lanolin nipple cream ($13) and a set of 25 storage bags ($8) to sell. Lansinoh brand. Drop me a message to deal. 🙂
** You can set up an account with this Pupsik referral link.
The above is only gleaned from my own experience. You can tap into a myriad of experience from other breastfeeding mummies in online support groups. I found it really useful to join these facebook groups:
Certain references above are also taken from:
- kellymom.com/category/bf (really good website for breastfeeding mums)
- What To Expect The 1st Year – Affiliate link (I’m still reading this book!)
Do you have other questions about breastfeeding? Or do you like to share with other mums what I missed out? Please leave your comments below. Love to hear from you!