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Struggling to breastfeed? Don’t give up until you try this advice

Breast Feeding Mother


María Eugenia Brun - published on 05/22/17

Breastfeeding can be hard! Technique matters so make sure you've tried these ideas.

Breastfeeding is much more than giving your baby food: it is giving love, security, pleasure, and the mother’s physical presence, which cannot be substituted by anything else.

At the same time, breast milk is a miracle food that can’t be replicated artificially. Not only does it contain special components for cognitive development and brain growth, but it is easily digested and provides the perfect mix of nutrients that a baby’s body needs. It’s also chock full of antibodies against allergens and diseases specific to the environment surrounding both the mother and child. And its benefits – to baby and mother – continue many years after the baby has been weaned.

Yet, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “only 39 percent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed.” There is still much to do to encourage breastfeeding.

We need to give mothers confidence that their milk is the perfect nourishment for their baby. Training in proper breastfeeding technique is also essential.

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Why is technique so important?

The right technique will ensure that you continue producing the correct amount of milk, facilitate effective nursing, keep the mother’s nipples from being hurt, and make sure both mother and baby are satisfied.

How can we know if the baby is breastfeeding well?

  • We should be able to hear the baby swallowing the milk
  • Baby is visibly satisfied
  • Baby sleeps peacefully
  • Baby’s weight gain is normal
  • Diuresis is normal (baby wets about 6 diapers per day)
  • Breast deposits are yellow and fluid
  • The mother does not experience any pain when breastfeeding

What is the correct technique for successful breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is learned, and many women have problems at first. Many hospitals now offer lactation consultants and support to improve care for mothers and newborns in the maternity wing.

 Successful breastfeeding requires:

  • Mother in the correct position
  • Baby in the correct position
  • Good joining of the mouth to the breast
  • Frequency and duration of breastfeeding on demand

The steps are as follows:

  1. Baby should breastfeed facing the mother. Some studies have found that it’s best if the mother reclines on her back and lets the baby nurse face down on top of her, tummy to tummy, with his arms on either side of the breast. Other positions are also listed here.
  2. Head and trunk are on the same axis, so the baby does not have to turn her head or stretch her neck to reach the nipple.
  3. Hold the breast with your hand, with 4 fingers underneath and the thumb above (C-shaped).
  4. Stimulate the baby’s lower lip with the nipple, which leads the baby to open his mouth as a reflex.
  5. Once the baby’s mouth is opened, bring the baby’s mouth to the breast.
  6. Make sure that the nipple and part of the areola is inside the baby’s mouth, so it will remain in the “fish mouth” position, with lips turned outward and the nose and chin touching the breast.

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When and how often should you nurse?

The basic rule is: the more the baby nurses, the more milk the mother produces.

It is important to offer the breast ondemand, letting the baby set the pace both in how long he nurses and for the interval between nursing sessions.

A newborn normally breastfeeds 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. After around one month, the baby will have set his own rhythm, and will probably nurse fewer times a day.

If you skip nursing sessions in order to “accumulate” more milk, you will end up decreasing your milk production. This happens because milk kept in the breast sends a signal to the brain that it is producing too much and that it has to slow production.

The classic “10 minutes per breast” to shorten the duration of the nursing session is not ideal because it can deprive the child of the “hind milk” that comes at the end of the breast. Hind milk is rich in the fats and calories the baby needs to feel full and to gain weight. Don’t deprive him of it.

Let the baby nurse on the first breast as much as he wants, until he comes off or stops sucking.  Only then offer the other, without worrying if he does not want to continue nursing. Offer him the untapped breast the next time he nurses.

In addition, your body produces a lot of its milk during the breastfeeding session itself, so don’t worry if your breasts don’t feel full before you start nursing the baby. The milk will come.

After the initial hurdle of learning the proper technique, many women find that breastfeeding is immensely satisfying – it not only gives a feeling of closeness between mother and child, but it also lifts the mother’s mood because it releases oxytocin. Not to mention the fact that breastfeeding helps women burn more calories and lose their pregnancy weight faster, while also reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

There are so many benefits to both mother and baby – so don’t give up and don’t hesitate to seek out the help of a lactation consultant if you are still struggling.

This article was originally published in the Spanish Edition of Aleteia.

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