The breast approach -national breastfeeding week
With National Breastfeeding Week currently in progress ( 1– 8 October), the campaign to encourage more mums to breastfeed is stronger than ever
How to breastfeed successfully BREAST is best, according to the healthcare professionals, who have been encouraging women to breastfeed for quite some time now. Indeed it is a global public health recommendation that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. For any new mother, the decision to breastfeed is a big one, particularly as childbirth in itself can be such an overwhelming experience. So, being armed with some knowledge about the process and its advantages can be a big help during those early stages.
Contrary to some traditional beliefs, almost all mothers can breastfeed successfully and for as long as they wish. Breastfeeding is based on demand and supply, so the more the baby nurses, the more milk the mother produces. During pregnancy, the breasts start producing colostrum – the thick and creamy early milk – which is the ideal food for the newborn's first days. Mothers who nurse regularly will then produce a mature milk supply from three to seven days after giving birth.
Breastfeeding is mutually benefi cial for mother and baby. " It is a normal physiological event," says Sue Jameson, breastfeeding counsellor and tutor with Cuidiú, the Irish Childbirth Trust. " Some of the reasons why women choose to breastfeed are because it's convenient – there's no paraphernalia required and it can be done any time, anywhere. The milk is full of the perfect ingredients in the right amounts too. Every mother's milk is different as it's tailor-made for her baby, so it's always right for whatever stage the baby is at. Breastfeeding is also great for bonding and for nurturing the baby, and it's completely free!"
Breast milk contains antibodies and living cells that act against bacteria so breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from a variety of illnesses, including stomach upsets, coughs and colds, ear infections, asthma and eczema, allergies, diabetes and obesity in later life.
And women who breastfeed find it easier to lose any weight gained in pregnancy; more than 500 extra calories are burned daily while breastfeeding, which is the same as swimming 30 lengths in a pool. Breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.
Anyone who is preparing to breastfeed should know that one of the most important things to do is relax and take it easy. There is a lot of feeding in the first days of the baby's life, so there are plenty of opportunities to discover what works and what doesn't.
" We would tells mums to feed the baby as soon as is practically possible after delivery and as much as possible in the first 48 hours," says Jameson. "And if they run into trouble they should ask for help. There's no need to struggle on."
Breastfeeding on demand is recommended in the initial weeks because by responding to the newborn's hunger signals, the body will learn to make the right amount of breast milk that is needed. Babies tend to feed little and often; however, as they grow their feeds will become faster and more spaced out.
Successful breastfeeding is very much dependent on correct positioning and attachment. Getting these right from the beginning will prevent pain, frustration and physical problems, and will ensure that the baby gets plenty of milk.
It's worth remembering that most problems experienced by breastfeeding mothers in the first weeks occur either because the baby is not attached to the breast in the right way, or is not being put to the breast often enough. Babies who are well attached will stop feeding when they have had enough. " Most women admit that there's a learning period in the first few weeks, but that phase passes usually with a bit of support," assures Jameson.
Many new mums say that receiving support and meeting women in a similar situation to them is a key factor in encouraging them to continue breastfeeding. Cuidiú has breastfeeding support groups that exist for this purpose. Co-ordinated by trained counsellors, they provide an environment where questions can be answered in an informal and positive setting.
" We find that the greatest way we can help breastfeeding mothers is to encourage them look for support before the baby is born," Jameson says. "And in fact the focus for this year's National Breastfeeding Week is very much around support networks for mums. A lot of women are not aware of how much help is out there. There are public health nurses, voluntary support groups and lactation consultants. I suggest that new mothers come to the support groups mainly because they will meet other mums in the exact same situation."
The new-look Babe Me store in Newry, Co Down also has a breastfeeding resource centre with information, a library, practical talks and demonstrations
Mother & Babies