It’s not uncommon to hear pregnant mothers say they plan to breastfeed “If I can”. However, it is worthwhile for every one of them to assume that they will be able to. Having a positive attitude where breastfeeding is normalised goes a long way towards dealing with any problems if they come up. Most breastfeeding problems are best viewed as temporary interruptions, rather than a reason to stop breastfeeding.
Although breastfeeding is a normal process, it still involves a learned set of skills for both the mother and her baby. In the course of developing confidence it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused. But it is worth remembering that breastfeeding is so beneficial to both mothers and their babies that it is worth persevering.
Most women are able to breastfeed without experiencing any significant problems. After a few days of getting used to attaching the baby correctly, and for lactation to become established, it becomes an easy and straightforward process.
Time, patience, confidence and support and importantly, an “I can do this” attitude, all combine to make breastfeeding a pleasurable experience.
Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mother’s breasts and this is replaced by more mature milk within the first few days after birth. Colostrum is high in antibodies and immune properties and is ideally suited for digestion in a newborn baby’s gut. Early breastfeeds, as soon after birth as possible, even within the first half hour, help to initiate breastfeeding and lead to success. They also assist with early bonding and emotional attachment.
Most newborns have a very strong urge to suck and are hard-wired to seek out the nipple and attach themselves. The majority of midwives and obstetricians place the newborn up onto its mother’s chest or abdomen immediately after birth. This skin to skin contact helps the baby to activate inbuilt crawling and seeking responses.
Don’t expect your breastmilk to look like cow’s milk, because the two are completely different. Breast milk can appear watery with a pale blue tint but this is not a sign of it being too weak. The concentrations of nutrients, water, fat and antibodies in breast milk are always perfect. Breasts can differ in size and how much milk they produce and it is not uncommon for babies? to prefer sucking on one breast than the other.
Early breastfeeding problems are not a sign that breastfeeding will always be difficult. Most minor problems can be addressed with short term strategies and often don’t recur. However, it’s important to get professional help if you feel you need it. Early, specifically targeted solutions can often prevent complications from occurring.
Mothers often have the solutions themselves, but just need someone else to clarify them. Support can range from a telephone conversation to a comprehensive consultation with a lactation consultant. Often the greatest support comes from those who have had similar experiences and although they may not have professional expertise, their empathy is an important factor.