As an Ob/Gyn at Kindbody, I’ve had the privilege of guiding countless mothers through the and ups and downs of early motherhood.
As a mom of two, I can certainly say breastfeeding was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things I have ever done. While breastfeeding is an ancient and natural process, it is also a deeply personal experience, with joys and challenges unique to each mother and child. This article aims to shed light on various aspects of breastfeeding – from understanding your baby’s needs to the evolving phases of breast milk. Moreover, as we traverse this journey, it is vital to address the oft-overlooked significance of workplace support for breastfeeding mothers. Let’s embark on this journey together!
How Much Milk Does My Baby Need?
Babies have surprisingly small stomachs (about the size of a quarter), so while it might not take much to make them feel full, they do need to feed frequently. Typically, a newborn will feed 8-12 times in a day- that’s an exhausting every 2-3 hours. This might seem taxing, but remember, it’s a shared journey of bonding and growth for both you and your baby.
Is Nursing Painful?
Ideally, breastfeeding should be a bonding experience free from distress. Some tenderness initially is expected, but sustained pain isn’t the norm. New moms can have swelling, cracked nipples, soreness, blistering and even bleeding- especially as the nipples get used to the constant feeding over the first few weeks. Things like lanolin cream, ice packs, ice-cold cabbage leaves, and nipples shields placed over the nipples can help prevent these issues. As the breasts engorge and become uncomfortable between feeds, things like heating pads and soft nipple pads, and breastfeeding bras and tanktops can help. You can also use a breast pump to pump excess milk and keep it in the freezer to relieve engorgement. If breastfeeding becomes painful or challenging, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant or another healthcare professional. Their expertise can make a world of difference in ensuring a comfortable breastfeeding experience.
How Is Milk Made?
Your body is a marvel. Throughout pregnancy, it prepares diligently for your baby’s arrival, especially in terms of gearing up for breastfeeding. With hormones playing their part post-childbirth and your baby’s suckling acting as a cue, your body meticulously crafts milk tailored for your newborn. The more the nipples are stimulated (via suckling or pumping), and the more the breasts are emptied, the more the brain thinks more milk needs to be made. When the breasts are left full, and the nipples are unstimulated, the brain thinks the baby is satiated and milk production slows down. This is why in the past, wetnurses were able to breastfeed children, who were not their own, for years, even if they were not recently pregnant. The more you breastfeed, the more milk is made. The less you breastfeed the less milk is made.
Understanding the Milk Phases
Breast milk isn’t a one-size-fits-all. It evolves, changing its composition to suit your baby’s growing needs:
Colostrum: This is the superhero of initial nourishment. Produced just after birth, it’s packed with antibodies, offering your baby their first line of defense against the world outside.
Transitional Milk: A mix of colostrum and mature milk, this phase signifies the upsurge in milk supply, adapting to your baby’s increasing demands.
Mature Milk: Although it might seem less dense than colostrum, mature milk is a powerhouse of essential nutrients. As days turn into weeks postpartum, this becomes your baby’s staple, continuing to adapt to their changing needs.
Workplace Support: More Than Just a Facility
While breastfeeding is a personal choice, societal and workplace support can make a significant difference. Simple measures like dedicated lactation rooms, breaks for pumping, and fostering a culture of flexibility and understanding can be transformative. I remember having to pump in the locker room in between surgical cases and being shamed for keeping my breastmilk in the freezer. There were many times when things were too busy in clinic to pump at all and I soaked my clothes before I even noticed. It’s not just about facilities but about respect, understanding, and empathy for colleagues as well.
Breastfeeding is a journey, filled with moments of elation and occasional doubts. It’s essential to remember that while breastfeeding offers numerous benefits, the “fed is best” principle reigns supreme. For various reasons, breastfeeding might not be viable or preferable for every mother, and that is perfectly alright. Early motherhood presents a myriad of decisions, often polarizing, but every mother’s choice is valid. What’s paramount is a happy, nourished baby and a content mother. Here’s to all the mothers out there – may your journey, no matter how you choose to embark on it, be filled with love and support.