When the nurse handed me my newborn son to feed for the very first time, I felt helpless. Suddenly a tiny, breathing bundle depended on me for survival, and I had to be his feeding station. If he wouldn’t latch on, I panicked. If he would pull away too soon, I worried my milk wasn’t enough. I lacked the information, the preparation, and the control to figure out the dos and don’ts of breastfeeding. I felt like I was in way over my head.
When my daughter arrived four years later, I was more confident. I had knowledge on my side, and that made all the difference.
Breastfeeding is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. Initially, it can feel a bit daunting. But, have faith. With some practice and learning, you’ll pick up the technique in no time.
How your body starts preparing for breastfeeding
A lot of women complain about sore breasts early on in pregnancy. In fact, I complained about them even before I took the pregnancy test. The rapid hormonal changes inside your body trigger a lot of physical and internal developments as your body prepares for the birthing process. Your body also starts getting ready to produce milk to feed your little one .
- During the first trimester, breasts get bigger, and you also develop tender nipples
- Your body may start producing colostrum from second or third trimester; you may leak a bit from your breasts
- By the third trimester, your body produces a cocktail of hormones (estrogen and prolactin) that enable milk production
Note: After delivery, your baby’s suckling triggers the hormone oxytocin, which in turn activates the let-down process.
How to increase your chances for successful breastfeeding
Following tips may help your milk supply.
Preparing for breastfeeding before delivery:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is nutrient-rich which your body needs to prepare itself for adequate lactation
- Take prenatal supplements prescribed by your doctor
- Create a birthing plan to ensure your doctor/hospital places your baby on your breast immediately after birth. This increases your baby’s chances of breastfeeding correctly (it is possible even if you undergo a C-section surgery)
- Attend prenatal/breastfeeding classes to learn about various latching positions and dos-n-donts of breastfeeding
- Invest in maternity bras
Breastfeeding after delivery:
- Insist on breastfeeding your baby within the first two hours of life
- Give as much skin to skin contact to your baby as you can
- Avoid pacifiers as they may cause ‘nipple confusion’
- Keep feeding persistently, breastfeeding takes practise to perfect
- Opt for feeding pillows if your arms hurt, or you have back pain due to constant feeding
- Have a balanced, nutritious diet that contains all the food groups to sustain lactation
- While there is no magic potion, some traditional foods, e.g. methi seeds, garlic, Moringa leaves, etc. are known to boost milk supply
- Speak to your doctor about supplements like Shatavari that aid milk production
- Consult a lactation consultant to correct latching issue if any or know the best feeding position for you and your child, especially if your nipples are sore or your baby is not gaining enough weight
- Stress is known to hamper breastmilk supply; know what is normal and what is not about breastmilk supply
- Be patient, sometimes mother and baby may take more than a month to get comfortable with breastfeeding
It’s one thing to create life in your womb, and bring that baby into the world. It’s another, to be a 24/7, all-you-can-eat buffet service. Some mothers find it easy. But for most mothers, it can be a struggle. But if you do your homework, your body and mind will both be adequately prepared to get the job done.