No sooner do babies arrive ‘earth side’ than they seek out food. Fascinatingly, newborn babies are capable of doing the ‘breast crawl’, whereby they instinctively move towards their mother’s nipple, mere minutes after being born.
The general consensus is that breast milk is a baby’s best first food, due to its unique nutritional and immune-boosting properties. As such, the World Health Organisation recommend mothers exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, babies should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond. The International WHO code, to which New Zealand is a signatory, exists to protect and promote breastfeeding, and also to monitor and restrict the marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. For some women it is very challenging and, for a few, all but impossible. We understand this, and to all mothers, however you feed your babies - we salute you.
Five tips for feeding:
1. Feed in a calm environment with a drink within arm’s reach. You can never overestimate a breastfeeding mother’s thirst.
2. If you’re finding breastfeeding difficult, don’t delay in asking for help. Your midwife is a good first port of call, and they may also recommend a lactation consultant. A good latch is very important - it will save your nipples, ensure good milk flow and minimise baby’s wind.
3. Experiment with different holds to find what suits you.
4. If baby keeps falling asleep mid-feed, changing their nappy will help wake them up.
5. Burping is a five minute job that is worth every single second. Learn the techniques to burp your baby efficiently, and you’ll both reap the satisfaction.
Thoughts on expressing from Paediatrician and lactation consultant Dr Abby Baskett:
Unless your midwife or lactation consultant tells you otherwise, don’t start regular expressing until feeding is well established, usually around four weeks. If you have a normal supply and you express from an early stage, you may develop problems such as oversupply or mastitis. However, if you have a low supply, it may be suggested that you start expressing earlier in an effort to increase your milk supply.
Make sure the pump you are using is comfortable and fits your nipple size and shape. There are several different types of pump available, from double electric pumps (used in hospitals and available for hire from baby stores) to wearable silicone pumps. You can also express by hand.
Reasons to express:
To increase supply – extra breast stimulation and consistent emptying will promote milk supply.
To provide milk for baby in preparation for separation, eg mum’s return to work. In this case, expressing in the morning (when most women have more milk) may work best.
In order to top a baby up who has faltering growth.
To feed a baby who can’t latch. In this case, if you want to provide all your baby’s milk, you will need to pump at all of baby’s feed times, and give baby the milk in a bottle.
Returning to work and expressing milk for older babies
Returning to work can be a difficult time. Remember, your employer is bound under employment law to provide breaks for breastfeeding and expressing. “Employers have to give breastfeeding breaks and appropriate facilities for women who want to breastfeed or express milk for their babies at work or during the working day”.
Some women find it increasingly difficult to express milk after the first three to six months. This does not reflect supply. It may be due to difficulties with letting down to the pump or differences in the way milk is produced and stored in the breast for older babies.
Handy products to help you on your breastfeeding journey include:
Check out breastmates.co.nz for a vast selection of maternity products.