Breastfeeding is a highly rewarding and fulfilling adventure. The benefits for the mother and child can never be overemphasized. However, many women still have challenges when initiating and continuing breastfeeding. WHO recommends exclusive, on-demand breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and this is to be continued (in addition to solid foods) until the baby clocks 2 years. This article is aimed at encouraging women to breastfeed for as long as they can.
*Prepare your mind.
Breastfeeding is supposed to come naturally after childbirth, but you have to be prepared for possible difficulties somewhere along the line. The baby will bite your nipples. The milk will stain your blouse. Family and friends will discourage you. If you’re a working mother, you may have to express milk, buy some gadgets and deal with your babysitter/nanny… You need to make up your mind and stick to your plan; long before the baby arrives.
*Keep your eyes on the prize.
Most religions and cultures encourage breastfeeding. Whenever you feel tired or frustrated, just remember that you’re observing an act of worship, and you will get the rewards in manifold; both here and hereafter.
*Take care of yourself
A burnt-out mother cannot breastfeed successfully. Take it easy on yourself. Eat well. Take lots of fluids. Take as many naps as you can. The dishes and laundry can wait. Stop forming “superwoman” when people offer to help, let them help so that you can rest. Don’t be afraid to leave the baby with dad or grandma and go take some fresh air (alone) at the park or beach.
*Let the baby latch-on properly.
Whether you’re sitting or lying down, pay attention to your posture. Make yourself comfortable. Keep your back upright. Hold the baby close to your trunk with your hand under his buttocks and his head resting on your elbow. Let the entire nipple and areola (the brown area surrounding the nipple) be inside the baby’s mouth. This will enhance milk letdown and let the baby suck rather than bite.
*Alternate between the breasts.
That’s one of the reasons why the breasts were created in twos! If you concentrate on one breast alone, the other one will assume that you don’t need it and it will stop producing milk. After suckling from one side, put your baby on your shoulders, let him burp then put him on the other breast. If he’s satisfied with one breast (babies tend to prefer one breast to the other, lol!), let him feed on the other at the next feeding.
*Engorged breast? Keep feeding!
You’re not supposed to stop feeding your baby from an engorged breast, otherwise, it will get worse. It will hurt, yes, but you have to continue unless it becomes infected. Take analgesics, massage with any natural oil, have a warm bath and then, continue breastfeeding. If you think the engorged breast might be infected, see a doctor asap.
*Away for three days? The milk won’t go stale!
If you have to go without your baby for a few days, it’s OK to express/pump the breast milk and keep in the refrigerator (for 24 hours) or freezer (for 3-6 months). When you come back, all you need to do is put the baby to the breast and the feeding can continue. Milk doesn’t go sour in the breasts!
Weaning can be physically and emotionally traumatic for the baby and you. It’s better to do it gradually rather than abruptly. This will reduce the pain you’d feel after stopping, and give your baby enough time to adjust to adult foods. The absolute exception to this rule is when the mother has HIV or Hepatitis, in which she’s advised to stop abruptly.