Breastfeeding: Practical tips and nutrition advice
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful way to bond with your child and a great way to provide them with the nutrition they need. There are also tips to make it easier.
As a new or expectant mother, although you've probably heard about the benefits of breastfeeding, it's also completely normal to have questions. At Hiccups & Buttercups, we're here to guide you through all you need to know and answer some of your burning questions.
According to experts, breastfeeding is enormously beneficial for both baby and mother. Colostrum, which is the "pre-milk" that you start producing days after your child's birth, is basically their superfood. It's loaded with proteins and antibodies, giving your baby just what they need in those first few days. That's why it's a good idea to try and get your baby to feed within the first hour after birth.
Breastmilk continues to protect your child too. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop viruses, ear infections, respiratory infections, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukaemia and lymphoma. There are even some studies that say breastfed babies go on to become more intelligent children.
There are also numerous benefits for mums. Some studies show that mothers who breastfeed their babies have less of a chance of developing postpartum depression. It can also strengthen the bond that you have with your child. There are many health benefits too! Breastfeeding can help you lose pregnancy weight more quickly and decrease your chances of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Keep reading to get our rundown of the best breastfeeding tips and nutrition advice.
Preparing for breastfeeding
To ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible, it's a great idea to ensure that you're sufficiently prepared for breastfeeding before your child is born.
Letting your doctor know about your intentions to breastfeed will mean that there'll be more help available to you. Your doctor can recommend a lactation expert and breastfeeding classes so that you're in the know ahead of time and less anxious about the process.
Equally, by telling your doctor about your breastfeeding plans in advance, you can make sure that there's staff and a setup to support breastfeeding after childbirth.
Speaking about the importance of proximity for breastfeeding, Laurie Jones, MD, a paediatrician and founder of DrMilk.org, told Parents.com: "Ask whether you can keep your baby in the room with you at all times if possible. Rooming in will help you bond with your baby, learn feeding cues, and better establish breastfeeding."
It's also essential that when you return home, you have the equipment you need to make breastfeeding as comfortable and as easy as possible. Investing in the following can be a big help:
- Nursing bra
- Nursing pillow
- Nursing cushion
- Nursing pads
- Nursing cream
- Nursing stool
Of course, reaching out to other expectant mothers can be a huge help too. Breastfeeding support groups can provide a safe space to learn and share through the stages of breastfeeding.
Top tips for breastfeeding
Many mothers can understandably feel anxious about the breastfeeding process, but there are some really helpful tips that can help you relax and breastfeed successfully.
The key thing to keep in mind from the very beginning is don't be afraid to ask for help. If you can't get your baby to latch, or if latching hurts, tell your nurse or practitioner. That said, a method you can use to help your baby latch involves inserting a clean finger into your baby's mouth to break their suction and then try again.
Remember to give breastfeeding time, too. Be patient, and try not to rush it. Breastfeeding can take anywhere from a few minutes to thirty minutes. So, let your baby determine when they feed and how long the feed takes.
A method that can help you achieve a deep latch involves making sure that your baby's stomach is resting on your own and that their nose is at the level of your nipple. This method will encourage your baby to lift their head and latch more deeply.
While it might be tempting to give your baby a pacifier straight away, it's also recommended that you hold off for at least a month. The AAP says that pacifiers before this period can negatively impact breastfeeding and potentially suppress hunger.
Often, breastfeeding can be a little tough on the skin, making feeding uncomfortable. So, it's important to make sure that you take care of your skin too. Be sure not to wash too vigorously, and use natural cleansing products. Equally, patting your breasts dry after feeding and then applying a moisturiser or cream can help heal your breasts if you find they get sore.
Of course, you and your baby want to feel as comfortable as possible when feeding, so for feeding on the go, we have a wonderful collection of handmade nursing covers and baby slings. We also offer some gorgeous bibs made from 100% linen for when feeding gets messy.
The importance of a balanced diet
Having a balanced diet during breastfeeding is crucial. On average, breastfeeding mothers need between 400 and 500 extra calories. Those extra calories should be made up of nutritious foods too.
Specifically, breastfeeding mothers should try and eat lots of so-called "milk-making" foods. This includes:
- Dark green vegetables, and
- Protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish and eggs. For vegans, great sources of protein include tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. These are all good sources of zinc too
Other good foods to eat during pregnancy include:
- Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Whole-grain foods like brown rice and quinoa
It's massively important to drink plenty of water as well. Ideally, you should aim for between 2.3 to 3 litres a day. That said, drinking water each time you feed is a good rule to follow. After all, breast milk is made up of 90% water.
Taking supplements can also be an easy way to ensure you're getting all the vitamins you need. Both B-12 and Vitamin D can be very beneficial.
Making lactation cookies can be a great way to introduce the different foods you need to encourage lactation. While these cookies may sound a little strange at first, they're just a combination of coconut oil, flaxseed, whole grain rolled oats and brewer's yeast. Head over here for a great recipe for lactation cookies.
Of course, there are also some foods and drinks that you should avoid when breastfeeding. These include:
- Alcohol, because no amount of alcohol is safe for your baby.
- Seafood that is high in mercury, such as swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish
- Caffeine. While you don't have to cut this out completely, its best to limit your intake to one to two cups a day
When it comes to breastfeeding, positivity goes a long way. It can be easy to doubt your abilities and feel defeated, but remember what an amazing job you are doing as a mother. When you feel stressed out, take a deep breath and trust yourself.