Much has been said about the importance of breastfeeding your baby. Not only does it give the baby many of the antibodies needed for optimal health both now and later, it provides food that is perfect for the baby – and is already sterilised and so doesn’t need to be boiled.
Most first-time mothers are taught how to breastfeed their baby in the hospital. Styles of breastfeeding come and go and what is done today is not how it was done by grandma. It doesn’t really matter how it’s done, so long as both mother and baby are comfortable. Some young mothers are taught right from the first that baby should be held under their arm, while others are made to lie down and have the baby face-down across their stomach.
However, it seems a great deal more natural to simply sit in a comfortable chair with the baby on your lap. In this position you will find that baby’s mouth is quite close to your nipple. With your arm supported by a cushion, the feeding process can and should proceed comfortably with no problems. If the baby is small – or you are long-waisted – the baby can be supported on a pillow on your lap to bring it closer to the nipple.
What can go wrong with breastfeeding? One problem is that of sore and cracked nipples. No mother can comfortably feed her baby if she is in pain. Nipple shields – or even using a breast pump – sometimes provides relief until the cracks have healed over. But the best idea is to prevent it happening in the first place.
The pendulum for childbirth and feeding has swung far to the side where everything should be kept natural. But doing nothing to prepare the nipples for feeding can be a mistake; not everyone is blessed with tough skin. Dairy farmers will tell you that even some cows get sore teats when they have calves and you can’t get anything more natural than animals feeding their offspring. So how can we prevent sore nipples?
For some weeks before the birth the nipples should be ‘exercised’. This is done by gently holding the dark part of the breast between fingers and thumb and drawing or pulling until your fingers slide to the end of the nipple. Done several times a day it will condition that soft skin so that baby’s sucking will not cause pain or cracking. Any mother who has suffered the pain of sore nipples will tell you that avoiding it completely is better than suffering – no matter what the maternity nurse tells you.
Another problem can be that the milk flows too quickly and seems to choke the baby. This can often be fixed simply by using a chair with a back that reclines or by sitting on the bed so that you can adopt a half reclining position, propped up by pillows. As you recline, the baby’s position is changed to be more on its side, so the milk does not flow straight down the throat. And of course, the milk will not flow out quite so quickly if it is not helped by gravity. With a little practice you will find that you can lie down and sit up again without any disturbance to the feeding infant.
By Lisa Pecos