The Breastfeeding Experience
After sharing the basics, here’s the breastfeeding experience. 🙂 There comes a point soon when you’ll be latching the baby alone for the first time. In that moment, it’s just you and the baby in the hospital room. You might feel lost and helpless. Be assured, most mothers take some time to get “it”. We don’t suddenly become skillful in breastfeeding just because we gave birth to a small being. We all learn. 🙂
When You Breastfeed
Your nipples will be sore initially, unless they are real tough. They are still getting used to being sucked so hard. A bad latch will make your nipples even more sore. If the latch is left uncorrected, the soreness will persist or worse, milk blister and blocked duct will occur. More on these in my next post.
Attend prenatal class or google to find out what’s a good latch. Or while you are at the hospital, have the nurse or lactation consultant (“LC”) check your latch to make sure you are doing it correctly. All nurses at NUH are trained in giving breastfeeding advice. Sadly, even though my LC said my latch is good and baby is born with latching talent, I still had recurrent milk blister.
There are many advice surrounding latching, but here are two that stuck with me:
- During breastfeeding, move the baby towards you and not lean your body towards the baby. This is to ensure good posture and not give you backaches in the long run.
- When you want to unlatch because of various reasons such as to break a bad latch, use your pinky. Break the latch/baby’s suction with your little finger first. Don’t pull the baby away while he/she is sucking, your nipple will thank you for it.
Let-down is the release of milk from the breast, triggered by your baby’s sucking. The process can take a few seconds to a few minutes. In the first week or so, you may also experience uterine cramping during a let-down.
There can be slow or fast let-down. If you have an impatient baby, a slow let-down may cause him/her to be frustrated and thus unlatch and cry. Or if you have a fast let-down, the baby might self-regulate and let some milk drip out while drinking.
Leaking of Milk
You will know your milk has let down if milk leaks from the other breast during breastfeeding. But if you don’t leak, it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough milk supply. It just means your “nipple muscles” are strong enough to keep the milk in. Leak happens most often during the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
Leaking of Milk – Nursing Pads
If you do leak, nursing pads will be useful to prevent your clothes from soaking puddles at prominent areas. Personally I prefer reusable over disposable nursing pads. The disposable ones don’t stick well for me and come off easily when I open and fold my nursing bra cup to feed. There were moments when the sticky side irritated my sore nipples. 🙁 Although when travelling overseas, disposable ones win hands down.
I started off with Moo Moo Kow bamboo nursing pads and love them! The material is soft, breathable and absorbent. However, they are quite thick and large and so peek out of the bra. Also, if your leakage is major, you might feel uncomfortable with very soaked up thick pads. I didn’t really know how to care for the pads and hence after a while there were black mouldy spots on them. Otherwise, these bamboo nursing pads are good for comfort wear at home, feel like a good cushion for the nipples. 😛
Moo Moo Kow usually has better deals during baby fairs. There was a 1-for-1 promotion and so I got 2 sets for only S$30 (1 set comprised of 2 Pairs of Bamboo Nursing Pads, 1 Pair of Nursing Case for night use and Reusable Bag). If you can’t make it for any baby fair, you might still get good discount at Pupsik. You can set up an account with this Pupsik referral link.
“Rules” of Milk Feeding
Feed your newborn at least 8-12 times a day, which works out to be about every 2-3 hours. For e.g., for a 3-hourly schedule, if your feed starts at 3pm and ends at 4pm, your next feed will be at 6pm, NOT 7pm. Timer for next feed starts from the start and not the end of your previous feeding.
Newborns feed frequently because their stomachs are still small. During the day, a newborn should not go more than four hours without feeding. There are times when you need to initiate feeding, like when your baby has jaundice. Jaundice babies tend to sleep more than usual. I had to set a timer and wake Evangeline every three hours to feed when she had jaundice.
Some babies feed more often than others. Like adults, there are big eaters and there are snackers. Moreover, breast milk is more digestible than formula milk and thus breastfed babies naturally feed more often. You can either keep to a strict (3-hourly) schedule or feed on demand. In any case, a baby will have cluster feeding, i.e. demanding to feed every hour, during growth spurt periods at 3 weeks, 5 weeks and so on.
I latch on demand, and my baby is a snacker who drinks every 2 hour. If you also want to feed on demand, you have to spot feeding cues before it’s too late. Signs such as mouthing the hands, sticking out the tongue or moving the head side to side. Crying is a late sign of hunger, but it doesn’t mean every cry is hunger. If crying has started, rock and soothe to calm the baby down before you nurse. It can be difficult for an inexperienced baby to find the nipple when worked up.
As first time mothers, cut yourself some slack. It’s sometimes hard to spot the cues. You are new to motherhood and still getting to know your baby. Often in the early days, Evangeline had to cry to let me know that she’s hungry.
It really depends on your baby. A newborn can feed up to 45mins to an hour, averaging at 20-30 minutes. They will release the nipple when done. You can offer them the other breast to see if they want more. If they drift to sleep, try waking them up by tickling the cheeks, ears, or giving them a burp before the switch. Giving two breasts per feed reduces blocked duct probability and balances milk production.
But it is hard to gauge when to switch sides. Moreover, it’s better for baby to empty your breast rather than cut short the drinking session. You’ll know the breast is empty by squeezing it. An empty breast will feel drained and soft. That being said, a lactating breast is never truly empty, it’s always producing milk.
Why empty? So that baby will get to drink the hindmilk that comes later to satisfy hunger. It is the fatty and nutritious part. The foremilk at the start of a feed is more to quench thirst and for hydration.
However in the beginning, Evangeline usually finish her feed in one breast, so what did I do? I fed her on one breast and at the same time drained the other with a haakaa-like pump. I got mine as a free gift from Taobao and cheap on Lazada. Otherwise, you can be hardworking and pump with Medela, spectra, etc, to empty the breasts after you nurse.
“Is baby drinking enough?”
It’s like a million dollar question. You might find yourself asking, or well concerned family and friends adding on to your doubt.
I heard of dehydrated babies and the horror stories that came with them. But surprisingly, I wasn’t too concerned if Evangeline was drinking enough. Or rather I was assured because she was passing enough stools per day and gaining enough weight. I simply kept latching and monitored her stools based on the hospital chart. To be honest, I don’t know if I have good supply till this day because I don’t pump out. 😂
According to this parents.com article, here are a few signs of dehydration to watch out for: Sleepiness, irritability, thirst, less elasticity in the skin, eyes and fontanel (or soft spot on head) appear sunken, decrease or absence of tears, dry mouth, and decrease number of wet diapers.
So be vigilant to these signs. Also, follow your mother’s instinct and go to the paediatrician (“PD”) if you feel something is not right. I always feel more assured after a visit to the PD.
“Feed Breastmilk Exclusively for 6 months.”
The Singapore Government is actively sending out this message by promoting the benefits of breastmilk. Government also culls advertisement and discounts of newborn milk formula (0-6months), and restricts imports of baby food if the packaging indicates suitable for 4 months. The “brainwashing” worked for me. I believe in the oh so wonderful benefits of breastfeeding. Hence, I gave nothing (including water) but breastmilk to Evangeline for her first 6 months. It’s easier than preparing baby food anyway.
If you have good milk supply, good for you. But just so you know, this supply will also dwindle and stabilise to match the baby’s demand over time. And if you have low supply, refer to my post about boosting and establishing milk supply.
p.s. This is part of JoogoStyle’s breastfeeding series.
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!