Breast-feeding your Baby
In spite of all of the positive aspects of breast-feeding, it is not uncommon for new mothers to feel awkward and anxious while nursing. If you are surrounded by friends or relatives who are not supportive, then breast-feeding may be challenging for you. You may experience pain when you first start nursing, with cracked nipples, engorgement, mastitis, or clogged ducts. Perhaps you have a low milk supply and are worried about your ability to nurse.
In taking on this new and important role, it is helpful to find a supportive community. Seek guidance from those who can offer advice and comfort for first-time nursing mothers to help you work through these issues.
The environment in which you breast-feed your baby may affect the experience for both of you. A chaotic and noisy setting with overly bright lighting could make it difficult for you and your baby to relax. Calmness in the surrounding space helps your milk flow, and your baby can absorb your nourishment more easily.
You may have anxiety about nursing in public, and it may not always be easy to find a private location, such as a department store dressing room or an unoccupied space in a friend’s house. You can be discreet with a blanket over your shoulder or by wearing a loose blouse that can be opened from the waist. If you get tension in your upper back, shoulders, and neck, make time to stretch to help your posture and ease the tension.
A hospital or birthing center usually has resources, such as a lactation consultant, who can assist you with nursing and follow up with you in the first weeks; a lactation consultant can also connect you to other new or experienced mothers for support.
The La Leche League is an excellent resource for breast-feeding support and they can refer you to a chapter in your area. I hosted La Leche League meetings at my house when I was nursing my children, which was a good chance for me to learn about the importance of breast-feeding, any complications, and possible solutions. This was also a way to meet other mothers and connect through your experiences. The International Childbirth Education Association is another good resource.
Breast-feeding operates on the law of supply and demand: the more you nurse, the more milk you produce. Your body and your baby’s body are in sync: when your breasts are full usually coincides with when your baby is hungry, and the cycle starts again for each meal. The biological communication between mother and baby is one of nature’s miraculous intelligence.
Developing a rhythm and structure in feeding your baby allows for complete cycles so that he gets all of the nutrients from both foremilk and hindmilk. Nursing can be an emotional comfort for your baby’s occasional bumps on the head or upsets, but regular snacking can overstimulate his digestive system.
According to Bob Flaws, practitioner of East Asian Medicine and author of A Handbook of TCM Pediatrics, irregular feeding cycles can result in overfeeding and congestion in the spleen, which obstructs the stomach and intestines. Flaws says that overfeeding and food stagnation can cause colic, earaches, coughs, colds, and childhood obesity. He asserts that feeding regulation diminishes these conditions, and can change the trajectory of a child’s health from infancy.
If my babies were significantly upset, I had a hard time resisting a soothing nursing session just to stay on our regular feeding schedule. However, I did develop a routine and rhythm with a flexible schedule to give their digestive system a rest in between nursing cycles. In this way, I found that feeding was much more satisfying for me because my breasts had a chance to replenish. It also seemed better for my children because they were actually hungry when it was time to nurse and could get a full amount of foremilk and hindmilk in one session.
I found that a schedule was better than grazing or snacking, and this helped my babies develop a rhythm that continued into their solid food habits. Establishing routine and rhythm in your life can also help keep structure and order in your baby’s routine.
- Learn about the practicalities of breast-feeding.
- Get support from your local La Leche League, doula center, lactation consultant and other breast-feeding mothers.
- Room in to keep in touch with your baby’s needs.
- Create a calm environment.
- Use pillows and a stool for support and comfort.
- Eat foods that make nutritious milk.
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- Feed on demand to develop your milk supply.