I didn't expect it to be such a rocket science for a new mummy! I was thrown with this phase "demand = supply" over and over again. Truly, Mummy's body works in an amazing way, it produces milk when needed. I looked back and realised how little I know about breastfeeding. I wasn't well prepared and only started learning more about it upon delivery. I mainly read up online and learn from friends around. I always wonder how I have survived these 11+ months of breastfeeding even though deep down I know where I draw my strength from.
I will first share about my maiden nursing experience in this post and leave milk pumping to another post!
1. It is important to nurse your baby as soon as possible after delivery
The suckling of baby signalled to the mummy's body to be prepared for breastfeeding and start building up the milk supply. I went through a natural delivery and managed to nurse Emma shortly after she was delivered. It took some time for milk to kick in and Emma fed on colostrum for the first few days.
2. Nursing position
There are several nursing positions. I started off with football hold and eventually found cradle hold more manageable. I used a nursing pillow for better support and I strongly encourage new mummy to get one. I'm so glad that there were nurses to teach and guide me with the nursing.
3. Good latch
Newborn has natural instinct to suckle and I am thankful that Emma latched fine even though she has a pretty small mouth. However, it took me a while for Emma to get a good latch. It also get some time for mummy to latch on baby well. So, don't give up if baby isn't latching well :) Practice makes perfect. There are also some helpful pictorial guides online. Nonetheless, it can be a little sore or painful for mummy due to the suckling. Emma is not spared too, check out her chapped lip from the frequent nursing.
4. Set the "stage"
Get a cushion/pillow/nursing pillow, a cup of water, small muslin cloth for spill and nurse at a comfortable location. Mummy gets thirsty easily during nursing. You could read some books, surf the net (I googled alot) or just be mesmerised by the little one while nursing. Relax and enjoy the bonding time! But remember not to doze off with baby in your arms.
I learnt the hard way! It is helpful to nurse your baby in dim light at night. This enables baby to differentiate the day and night. Emma could stay awake and fussy for hours at night as I nursed her in the room with the lights on during the first month. Thankfully she quickly adjusted her body clock after nursing in the dark at night and playing music in the day. She is such a good girl to spare us!
5. Follow the baby demand and keeps nursing
Newborn nurses every 1.5-2hours and that adds up to at least 12 times of nursing. With the continuous nursing, milk supply gets built up easily as supply = demand. The more frequent the breast is emptied, the faster the body produces milk. For the first month, I followed Emma's cues and nursed her as much as she wanted to. But I quickly moved on to feeding on rountine after she turned 1 month.
It works for me to nurse through the nights. Even though it is tiring, it helps to build up supply. Another scientific term, the prolactin is of its highest level at night and that's when the body could produce more milk. Emma started to sleep through the night after 2nd month, and my supply decreased slightly as she reduced her feeds. I needed my sleep and slept through as well, so I didn't nursed or pump at night. But thankfully, I managed to build it back slowly.
Nursing through growth spurt is the best way to increase supply! Emma went through several growth spurts and the first spurt was quite a challenge. I was tired, had cracked nipples and she just had to keep nursing every other hour. She didn't get her fill after nursing as I wasn't producing enough for her. We didn't want to give her formula milk and I just continued to nurse even though she wasn't drinking enough. I was worried but was assured that she has her reserve and will be fine. After the few days, milk supply went up and was enough for her.
6. Pain and pain relieve
Standby some lanolin nipple cream or apply expressed milk over the sores. It should take a few days to recover. Other than physical pain, there are also blocks due to engorgement or "un-emptied" breast. It is very important to clear the blocks as they could lead to reduced supply or mastitis. I had a few incidents of block ducts and was feeling feverish, achy and sick. However, thankful they didn't lead to mastitis. I went to a really good massage lady and she has taught me how to clear the ducts.
7. Get help and support around
I wasn't too confident about breastfeeding and was rather stressed up over milk supply at times. I just kept praying. With the help from God and lots of support from my mummies friend, FB group, Hubby and family, I am thankful to come this far. Hence, I am more than happy to support new mummies in the breastfeeding journey.
8. Nursing accessories
Don't forget to buy breastpads! Other nursing accessories include nursing bra, nursing wear and nursing cover. I didn't buy many nursing wear as I find that button down clothes or elastic shirt with a neckline that could be pulled down works for me.
9. Plan ahead
I mean check out if there is any nursing facilities in the malls or the places that you are going. You can easily search for the review of the nursing rooms online. Eg. Mums-babies. Jem has one of the best rooms - it has spacious room enough for a pram and big mirror. Otherwise, I would just hide in the car and nurse with a nursing cover. I feed on routine, hence, I also plan my activities around her feeding time.
10. Eat, drink and rest well
Lastly and most importantly - eat, drink and rest well! Not to worry, breastfeeding burns a great amount of calories. I eat alot and get hungry really fast. I find eating food like fish, milo and oats helps boost the milk supply. I drank lots of fluid - only red dates water, milo and soups as I got to abstain from plain water (other than taking medicine for the first few weeks) during confinement. Due to the frequent nursing, I could only take short naps and that was rather crazy for the first month. But it did get better after the first month when the nursing interval lengthened along the way.