When my first baby was handed to me I wasn’t sure what to do. Of course I was thrilled, overwhelmed, ecstatic and emotional but I had told everyone I was going to breastfeed. Now she was here and I was expected to get on with it, put her to my breast and nourish her… Well to be quite honest I was a little bit afraid. I was lying in a room full of medical equipment and strangers and my husband had just witnessed me in a state of distress and undress such as never before. All I really wanted to do was get washed, dressed and go for a sleep. But, there was a little tiny girl in my arms looking a bit hungry and everyone was watching and waiting.
Tentatively I showed her my breast and waited. She waited. I poked at her mouth, then at her nose with my nipple. She opened her tiny mouth wide and dived forward. Amazed at this tiny wonder of nature I gazed at her as she began to suckle. I marvelled as she guzzled and swallowed… I was breastfeeding!
As the days went by it wasn’t all that I expected. It was painful and burned every time she latched on. But I persevered and we made it. Sixteen months later she decided she had had enough of mummy’s milk and with tears in my eyes I concluded that breastfeeding had been a wonderful experience and one which I hoped to repeat.
So how do you breastfeed? Here are some tips…
Try to have skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth, preferably before the baby has been cleaned up.
Get comfortable and hold the baby in a way that suits you both.
Gently place your nipple under baby’s nose, and above her top lip. The baby should instinctively begin to root about for it.
Wait until baby opens her mouth really wide. Then put her on the breast ensuring she has as much of the areola(the area around your nipple)as possible in her mouth. In other words she should have a good mouthful of breast.
Baby will begin to suckle very quickly at first. As colostrum (pre-milk rich with antibodies) begins to flow the sucking will become much slower and you may even notice baby gulping as she swallows this pre-milk.
When baby has had enough she will let go of the breast and may even fall asleep.
Within about three days the colostrum will be replaced by mature milk.
The first feeds may last a long time or they may occur very frequently for short periods of time. Just as mum is learning how to breastfeed so too is baby. Within a few weeks a routine of sorts will have become established!
Breastfeeding is by no means easy but it does get easier after the first four weeks or so. At times it is painful but always satisfying. It’s always convenient and requires no advance preparation or sterilising of bottles! Most problems occur as a result of incorrect positioning of baby at the breast. Don’t let the baby suck at your nipple – she must have lots of the areola as well, otherwise you will get sore and this is when many new mums give up.
By breastfeeding your baby she will benefit tremendously and there are numerous health benefits for mum too. Persevere – it’s worth every minute of it.