Breastfeeding?! Help, how does that work? Here are some brief instructions from our TUJU midwife Kerstin Lüking.
Honestly: breastfeeding is a strenuous task. Usually, the first few days or weeks can be bumpy and not only painful, but also tearful. Those who have experienced breast engorgement or suffered from an infected nipple know precisely what I’m talking about here. Out of my seven nursing periods, only one didn’t cause any problems. From infections to cyst development – I had the whole nine yards and can only say: I feel with you! But I also say: hang in there. It usually gets better. When? Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question. It really normally takes a few weeks. But then everything is good, and you will finally be able to enjoy it.
Breastfeeding: this is what’s important for a good start
Important for a good start to breastfeeding is positioning your baby on your breast directly after birth and frequently nursing in the first days, without any big breaks between meals. Should your baby signal hunger every one and half to two hours, that is okay and does not mean you have too little milk per se. The more frequently you start to nurse and the more bodily contact you have to your child, the more positive this experience will have on your milk production so that you can give more prolactin receptors, a process which has been proven. Prolactin? What’s that? Breastfeeding is based on hormones and there’s no nursing tea in the world that can promise to help you produce more milk. But there is an exception to this, namely fenugreek. But I’ll tell you more about this later. Prolactin is a hormone which is THE hormone for milk production.
Imagine: your baby sucks on 18 straws to drink your milk
The sucking on your breast causes another hormone to be set free, namely oxytocin. Maybe you’ve heard about this already as the love hormone. Oxytocin ensures that milk is released from the mammary glands into the mammary ducts. Your breasts have up to 18 of these ducts each. So imagine, it’s like your baby drinking your milk from 18 straws. Wow! And it’s no wonder when sometimes your baby makes a loud and intensive sucking noise when drinking. If you disrupt your baby when nursing, you’ll see how the milk comes shooting out of your breast more or less. It’s like a fountain of happiness nurturing your child. Prolactin and oxytocin are two hormones that are a bit diva-like. Both like harmony and cosiness. Stress, alcohol, drugs, nicotine and many kinds of medications are nothing for them. Especially stress is something that prevents oxytocin from actually giving out the milk. Which usually ends up in a blockage.
Mum’s milk is the best!
Even during your pregnancy, you’ll notice that your breasts give off a secretion. This is colostrum, looks like cream and is extremely rich in immunoglobulins. It’s therefore an important protein for the immune system, which is why it’s extremely important that our babies get this.
By the way: your milk adapts to the needs of your baby. In the beginning, it mainly has proteins. After about 10 days, fats and carbohydrates take over. Your baby’s small tummy has a capacity of 10 ml when born and gets bigger every day by 10 ml – meaning your baby can take into 60 ml of milk after just six days.
Please pay attention to your own breastfeeding position first
Before nursing, perhaps because your baby is making loud smacking noises, you are the “queen” of the breastfeeding positions. You should not start nursing until you have set yourself up and gotten cosy with cushions for yourself and for supporting your baby. This is usually where the “snag” is. A position that is too low or at the wrong angle at the very beginning can strain your nipple so much that it becomes sore. And this is an unpleasant start, as you have to deal with your own problems so much. Take a look at our breastfeeding video – I explain a few things about the breastfeeding positions and correct holding. To relieve your nipple, you should change positions. As a rule of thumb: the lower jaw of your baby is where the most force is acting on your nipple.
From my experience, I can tell you that many mothers are so exhausted and tired that they neglect their own nutrition and drinking. Be sure to eat and drink enough, and let your partner care for you and treat you to culinary delights. Why? To make sure you have energy!
My 9 quick tips for the time after birth and the nursing period:
1) Avoid stress and treat yourself to small breaks time and again.
2) Good for milk production are bitter foods. Fenugreek in a capsule form can be supplemented by radicchio, chicory and endive lettuce. Do you have more milk than you can nurse? Then you can ignore this advice.
3) Avoid sage and peppermint tea, as these can prevent milk production. In turn, if you produce lots of milk, drinking a cup or two a day can help.
4) Strong blood loss during birth can limit your production of milk. The pituitary gland does not get enough blood in this case, which can lead to a lower production of oxytocin and prolactin.
This can cause your nipples to become infected:
5) Thyroid diseases could also influence the hormones for breastfeeding and lead to less milk being produced. It any case, it makes sense to have your thyroid gland checked after giving birth if you have had a pre-existing condition. What’s more, you should not simply stop taking thyroid gland hormones on your own accord after giving birth.
6) Not only the wrong position, but also a shortened frenulum of the tongue on your baby can lead to infected breasts. So please ask your midwife or paediatrician to check this if you can’t seem to get a handle on the problem. Clicking noises when your baby is drinking could also be a hint that the frenulum is indeed too short.
7) There are small helpful tips you can use to help with sore nipples. In addition to silk nursing pads and air baths (see the chapter on caring for your bottom), you can use a donut to maintain a distance to your clothing. To make them yourself, simply take three nursing pads and cut a hole in the middle. Cut off the shaft of a sock and put it through the hole. Now fold over the sock and you have your own nursing donut that you can insert in your bra.
This is why you should pay attention to good hand hygiene!
8) You can take up to 1,600 mg of ibuprofen a day to help relieve pain without any worries. This small amount of medicine does not enter the mother’s milk.
9) Please pay particularly close attention to hand hygiene if you have sore breasts, as bacteria can enter when you touch your breasts.
My top tip centred on nursing:
For sore nipples, we have developed our SOS Nipple Balm. I’m a big fan of aloe vera and camomile blossoms, which we’ve used for this product. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and slightly anti-bacterial features, it will certainly provide quick help. The light cooling effect will also be comfortable for you. After applying the balm, let your nipples dry a bit in the air so that the nursing pad does not stick to your skin.
By the way: I’ll explain what you can do to prevent a milk blockage and breast infections in an upcoming video.
My personal tip
Nursing is sometimes a big challenge. Tears frequently drop, as sore nipples are extremely painful, causing you to perhaps bite hard on your lips just to handle the pain. I recommend our Nipple Balm, which you can apply after every feeding. It will help you quickly to feel better and heal the affected area fast.