Breastfeeding Basics: What Every New Mom Needs to Know
Your breast milk is the optimal nourishment for your baby with the best nutrients and immune properties. However, as many new mothers discover, breastfeeding can be challenging. It can be hard to know what you need, what your baby needs, and how to care for both of you. There are many things to consider when preparing to breastfeed your newborn baby.
Here are some of the basics that every new mother (and experienced mothers) should know before they start breastfeeding their baby. As a new mother, when you embark on a wonderful and exciting journey, one of the most important things you can do for your baby is to nourish them.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your little one, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging, especially for first-time mothers. That's why we're here to help! In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about breastfeeding basics, from the benefits of breast milk to the different breastfeeding positions and techniques.
Whether you plan to breastfeed exclusively or supplement with formula, this guide will give you the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your baby's nutrition. So, sit back, relax, and dive into this helpful breastfeeding guide.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Nutritional benefits for the baby: The most obvious benefit of breastfeeding is that it provides your baby with optimal nutrition. Breast milk contains vitamins, minerals, and proteins for optimal growth and development. In the first breastfeed, your colostrum (liquid gold) is crucial in relation to preparing your baby’s gut microbiomes. As your milk volume increases over the first few days, gradually transitioning into breast milk, it contains everything your newborn needs to thrive in their first year. Continued breastfeeding helps babies develop healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives, which can impact their health later in life.
- Protection against infections and diseases: Besides providing excellent nutrition, breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect your baby against infections and diseases. These antibodies are passed from mother to baby through breast milk and help boost their immune system. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing infections, such as ear infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal infections.
They also have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
- Bonding between mother and baby: Breastfeeding also promotes bonding between mother and baby. Physical closeness and skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding can create a strong emotional bond, which is crucial for your baby's social and emotional development. Please be reassured that this does not suggest that a baby who is not breastfed will not bond with the mother. However, research shows that pain-free breastfeeding stimulates hormones that release oxytocin into the bloodstream, helping the mother feel more relaxed and connected with her baby.
- Reduced risk of health conditions for the breastfeeding mother: Breastfeeding also benefits the mother's health. It can reduce the risk of certain health conditions, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Breastfeeding can also help the mother lose weight gained during pregnancy and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Breastfeeding can be challenging for some new mothers. Despite being natural, it does not always come naturally or easy for many women. Here are some of the common breastfeeding challenges that new mothers may encounter:
- Breast Engorgement: Breast engorgement occurs when breasts become swollen and uncomfortable due to increasing milk supply that is not being transferred frequently in both breasts, particularly over the first 3 - 5 days. It often occurs in the early days of breastfeeding, due to interruption or delay to the first and early breastfeeds, often as a result of hospital routine procedures including the unnecessary introduction of formula. Breast engorgement can become very uncomfortable for the mother, and can make it very difficult for a baby to feed, leading to painful breastfeeding, inflammation and if not addressed, mastitis.
- Mastitis: Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can cause pain, swelling, and redness. Symptoms may include fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. A blocked milk duct or a bacterial infection is closely associated with mastitis.
- Painful Nipples: Grazed, cracked, or bleeding nipples are a common problem for breastfeeding mothers. Forceful techniques where the baby is being held by the back of the head, neck or shoulders and then forced to the breast (known as the cross-cradle technique) is one of the main contributing factors to painful nipple trauma.
- Low milk supply: Some mothers may struggle to produce enough milk to meet their baby's needs. Low milk supply is most likely due to a lack of hormone stimulation from the baby feeding at the breast. Contributing factors include an interruption or delay to the first and early breastfeeds, painful nipple trauma, the introduction of formula (whether necessary or unnecessary) and or a lack of hydration for the mother. This is often very stressful for a mother who wants to breastfeed, which increases her cortisol levels in her bloodstream, which in turn may suppress the release of the breastfeeding hormones, oxytocin and prolactin.
- Breast refusal: Some mothers may experience times when their baby appears to be particularly fussy at the breast, sometimes even refusing the breast. There are many possibilities as to contributing factors, which include hormonal changes. In addition, it is suggested for the mother to consider what she may be ingesting on a regular basis to find a common denominator, such as prenatal vitamins, fish oils and other adult dose supplements. These have a tendency to alter the smell and taste of the breast milk. Important; Please speak with your chosen health professional in relation to any prescribed medications or supplements.
New mothers are encouraged to seek support from a trusted Midwife or certified Breastfeeding Practitioner, if they are experiencing any breastfeeding challenges.
Breastfeeding is an important aspect of newborn care as it provides vital nutrients to the baby, enhances its immune system, and creates a special bond between the mother and child. However, it’s not uncommon for many mothers to face challenges while breastfeeding, which can result in early discontinuation of breastfeeding. This is where breastfeeding support plays a crucial role in helping mothers overcome challenges so that they can continue to breastfeed for as long as they choose.
Breastfeeding support is important for both the mother and the baby, both physically and emotionally. Quality support is so important to help alleviate stress and anxiety, provide accurate information on the principles of hormone stimulation to create breast milk production, and to offer guidance with gentle positioning to relieve painful nipples.
Good support also reduces the risk of jaundice, dehydration, and low weight gain for the baby.
There are several options available for breastfeeding support. However, mothers are encouraged to be aware of the potential of conflicting and confusing advice. Many breastfeeding support people, groups and some breastfeeding consultants have ‘their own’ way of doing things. Mothers often share of their frustration in being told to one thing by one person, then another thing by another person.
Do your own research and look for someone who you can trust, who shares information that is evidence based and someone you instinctively feel is right for you. Women are encouraged to avoid healthcare providers who promote forceful breastfeeding techniques and seek those who encourage a gentle, hands-off approach. Be guided by your maternal instincts on who you turn to for advice.
The Bottom Line!
Human breast milk is a natural and essential way of nourishing newborns, offering numerous benefits to both the baby and the mother. It’s so important that every new mother understands the basic principles of breast milk production, including an understanding of how to prevent common breastfeeding complications, mentioned above. While breastfeeding can be challenging at first, with knowledge, patience, and support, it can become a comfortable and rewarding experience for both mother and baby.
By preparing for breastfeeding before the baby is born, women are more likely to have the knowledge and confidence to provide their babies with the best possible start in life and enjoy the special bond of pain-free breastfeeding. The Thompson Method is a valuable resource for new mothers who would to breastfeed their babies with confidence and ease.
By offering evidence-based education, gentle guidance, and round-the-clock support, The Thompson Method encourages women to gain knowledge during pregnancy so that they can breastfeed for as long as they choose, without pain or discomfort. Focusing on gentle positioning, and regular, rhythmical hormone stimulation, The Thompson Method teaches new mothers the skills on how to prepare for breastfeeding and how to avoid common complications such as painful nipples, low milk supply and mastitis.