Babies, breasts and breastfeeding

By Sola Ogundipe

BREASTFEEDING is one of the most effective and cost effective ways to save and improve the lives of children everywhere. It provides lifelong health benefits for infants and their mother.

Breastfeeding exclusively could be demanding but is an exciting experience of motherhood. But it is not an automatic response because several women are confused about when to start or exactly what to do. One such woman is 31-year-old Funmi who as a new mother is eager to breastfeed her son, but doesn’t really know how to start. Funmi is not alone.


Although breastfeeding is a natural experience, it has to be practiced and learned. Experts say every new mother almost always has to learn positioning and their baby’s cues, and the baby in turn, has to learn how to suck on the nipple properly. The best advice that it is best to begin feeding when you and your baby are relaxed, calm, and alert. Your baby does not always announce he or she is hungry by crying. Crying is usually the last sign of hunger.

The baby initially gives visual cues like licking or smacking the lips or sucking the hands or fingers to tell you he/she is hungry. How to begin Begin by getting into a comfortable position using pillows to avoid back and neck pain and helping to position the baby to be level with your breast. You may also use a pillow on your lap to support your baby.

The goal is for the pillow to support your baby’s weight, keeping his nose in line with your nipple. Hold your baby close to you with the whole body facing you. Scoop up your breast and hold it like a “C”.

Avoid putting your index finger too close to the areola. A common problem with breastfeeding is an improper or shallow latch of the baby to the breast. To get a good, deep latch, support your breast and help your baby get the nipple deep in the mouth. Then tease the baby with your nipple up and down and wait for the baby to open really wide, then lead with his chin and draw the nipple into the mouth.

The nipple should end up near the soft back palate, behind the hard roof of your baby’s mouth. The rule of the thumb is that you bring the baby to the breast, not bring the breast to the baby. The Cradle If your arm is supported and the baby is in nice alignment and completely facing you, this is called cradle position.

Other positions you can try are the football or clutch hold. Your baby is placed on a pillow next to you and this position is good for newborns because it supports the baby’s head. It’s also good for women recovering from a C-section and those with large breasts.

The lying-down position allows babies to attach easily. With your baby on his side facing you, draw him/her close. You can cradle his/her bottom or head with one hand if necessary. This can be a good position to enable you get a bit of rest. See that the lips are flanged out and that he has a nice wide angle here.

Every woman’s anatomy is different. Some women’s nipples are larger, so you have to go by about how much the baby has taken into the mouth. There may be times when you need to help your baby unlatch—such as when you’re uncomfortable or your baby’s done feeding but is still sucking intermittently. You can help your baby release the nipple by breaking the suction with your finger. The way to go is to put your finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth and just break the suction and slide the baby off.

If your baby’s fallen asleep while feeding and you don’t think he’s had enough yet, you can encourage him to start up again. Tap the baby under the chin. Just a couple little taps. The lying-down position helps in moving the chin on the nipple and the baby will feel that in his mouth and usually start up a little bit again.

It’s also normal for babies to go through spurts where they want to feed frequently. If you wish to know if the baby’s getting enough, the best way to tell is by counting your baby’s wet and dirty diapers. About six wet and three dirty diapers in 24 hours means your baby’s getting a good amount to eat. Other signs to show that your baby’s eating well include the softening of your breasts after a feeding and the sounds he makes while feeding. Babies can nurse anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes. Most babies will fall asleep and self-detach when they’re full.

In the first days and weeks, new mothers may experience nipple soreness, which can be eased by applying breast milk or nipple ointment. If soreness persists, your baby may not be positioned or latching well. A lactation consultant can help. You might also experience engorgement.

Normal fullness is to be expected, but engorgement is not normal. Engorgement is a very hard breast. It can be very, very lumpy, and milk has a difficult time passing through the breast when it is engorged. The best thing to ward off engorgement is frequent feedings. For engorgement, use ice in 10-minute intervals on the upper breast after each feeding. If your baby isn’t able to drain your engorged breast, try hand-expressing some milk or use a breast pump to relieve the discomfort.

If you develop a fever or a hot red spot on your breast, call your doctor. These can be signs of an infection.

A newborn should be nursed 8-12 times per day for about the first month. Breast milk digests easier than formula, which means it moves through  baby’s digestive system faster and, therefore,  baby is hungry more often. Frequent feedings also help stimulate milk production during the first few weeks. By 1 to 2 months of age, a breastfed baby will probably nurse 7-9 times a day.

Before your milk supply is established, breastfeeding should be “on demand” (when your baby is hungry), which is generally every 1½ to 3 hours. As newborns get older, they’ll nurse less often, and may develop a more reliable schedule. Some might feed every 90 minutes, whereas others might go 2 or 3 hours between feedings. Newborns should not go more than about 4 hours without feeding, even overnight.

It’s usually recommended that mothers feed a newborn whenever the baby seems hungry. But crying is a late sign of hunger. So try to feed before your baby gets so hungry that he or she gets really upset and becomes difficult to calm down.

How long babies nurse also depends on their age. As babies get older, they become more efficient, so they may take about 5-10 minutes on each side, whereas newborns may feed for up to 20 minutes on each breast.

Make sure your baby is latched on correctly from the beginning to ensure the most productive feeding possible. It’s important that your baby nurses with a wide-open mouth and takes as much as possible of your areola in his or her mouth (not just the tip of the nipple).

To keep up your milk supply in both breasts—and prevent painful engorgement in one—it’s important to alternate breasts and try to give each one the same amount of nursing time throughout the day. Again, that amount of time differs for every baby and every woman—some babies may be satisfied after 5 minutes on each breast, others may need 10 or 15 minutes on each side.

Some experts recommend switching breasts in the middle of each feeding and alternating which breast you offer first for each feeding. Can’t remember on which breast your baby last nursed? Some women find it helpful to attach a subtle reminder—a safety pin or small ribbo—to their bra straps indicating which breast they last nursed on so they’ll know to start with that breast at the next feeding. Or, keep a notebook handy to keep track of how your baby feeds.

Your baby may seem to prefer both breasts with each feeding and may be doing well. Or, your little one may like to nurse on just one breast with each feeding. Whichever way you choose, it’s important for you to do whatever works and is the most comfortable for you and your baby.

Having sore nipples can make breastfeeding a trial but simple changes can make all the difference. When your breasts are engorged, they are very full of milk, and may feel big, hard, heavy and tender.  The swelling usually affects both breasts at the same time, and can stretch your nipples so that they’re flat. You may look flushed, and even feel a little feverish, although this usually only affects a few women. Many mums find that it’s worth the effort to express milk. It will help to keep your milk supply up, and your baby will continue to get the benefits  even when you’re apart. Expressing milk can also help you to feel close to your baby while you’re away from her. So even though you’re probably going to be busy at work, and it will take some planning, it will be worth it.

Breastfeeding is a thing to be proud of.  But today, the reverse is the case. The common trend nowadays among Nigerian women is the penchant not to breastfeed. Previously, breastfeeding was culturally acceptable as the ideal mode of feeding babies within the first two years of life in Nigeria. Breastfeeding is encouraged at any point in the open or in isolation. Common belief is that breastfeeding is an ingredient of promotion of closeness to mothers and a concept of bringing the mother and child closer to one another. It is actually taboo for a mother not to breastfeed her child. However, introduction of formula and other Westernized practices, have negatively impinged upon what is culturally the right of the  child.

Over the years breast milk has been known to be uniquely superior for infant feeding. Breast-feeding helps in infant growth, health development and all other short and long term outcomes. According to experts, medically, breast feeding, should serve as the only food for babies under six months. Unfortunately, getting mothers to do it the right way is the problem.

Babies, breasts and breastfeeding on Vanguard News.


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