Becoming a parent comes with a lot of responsibility. You now have to make the decisions for not only you, but now a new little life. One of the biggest decisions you will make is how to feed your baby. For some, breastfeeding may be the most natural choice while for others formula feeding may be the most practical choice for them. No matter the decision you make, it is important to be armed with as much information as possible before you begin your parenting journey.
While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a newborn, it can be an extremely hard job for a new mother and can pose its own problems that make formula feeding an easier option. However, if you are set on breastfeeding your child there can be many ways to help rectify the issues you may be facing. The following are common challenges you may face as a first-time mum (or even experienced mums).
Low milk supply
As a food-producing mammal it is important to remember that the quality and quantity of food and water we put in will affect the milk that we produce for our child. As such it is important that you stay hydrated and eat adequate meals throughout the day so that the milk produced is the best it can be for your baby. An indication that your milk supply may be low or lacking is if the baby has poor weight gain. It is normal for a baby to lose ten percent of their birth weight in the first few days of life, however they should return to it relatively quickly and ideally should gain 150 grams per week. If you have any concerns regarding your supply you can do things like increasing iron rich foods in your diet, drinking more water, increasing your rest and seeing your GP for medication that can help to boost it.
Another issue that you may have whilst breastfeeding is the baby having a poor latch that either makes breastfeeding extremely painful or altogether impossible. If a baby is correctly latched you should not experience pain and the baby feeding should not be too noisy. For the latch to be correct the baby should take in not just your nipple but also some of the areola into their mouths. You can help them to do this by waiting until their mouths are nice and wide before putting your breast in and check it by inspecting the shape of your nipple when they are finished. If it is still the same as usual then the baby’s latch is good, if it is not it means the baby may be cutting off the milk ducts and not getting as much milk as they need before they either fall asleep or get too tired to keep eating.
Your baby may also be having trouble latching if they are suffering from lip or tongue ties or even the position you are in while feeding. A health care professional can help you to assess the baby and the way you are feeding so that you can continue to breastfeed.
Frequency of feeds
A newborn that is breastfed will typically feed very frequently as their stomachs are still quite small. This is completely normal and will lessen as the baby’s stomach expands. Frequent feeds help to establish your milk supply so you should feed on demand but also aim to feed your baby at least every 2-3 hours in the beginning.
As your baby gets older you can start to establish a feeding routine, however babies go through periods of greater demand as they develop, this is known as cluster feeding. While your baby is growing they may sometimes need extra feeds to help support this. It can also be that they are feeding for comfort as their expanding worlds can be very overwhelming for them.
Reliance on your support network
As mentioned previously, breastfeeding is an extremely demanding task. That is why it is important you build a support network to help you through this time. Before your baby is born you should discuss your breastfeeding goals with your partner as well as friends and family. Some ways that they may be able to support you are helping to adjust the baby or pillows being used for feeds, learning what positions are good for breastfeeding, offering food and water and burping, changing and putting the baby to sleep when the feeding is done so that you can get as much rest before the next feed as possible.
Isolation and nerves about feeding in public
You may feel that to breastfeed you need to stay home, especially if feeding on demand however it is important that you don’t isolate yourself from people. This can make your breastfeeding journey very lonely for you. Once you feel comfortable leaving home with baby you should try to get out and spend time with other adults as much as you can. You don’t always need to sneak off to a parent’s room to feed either, if you feel comfortable with it, you can feed baby wherever you are. Australian legislation protects your rights to feed your baby in any public place so there’s no need to hide away.