THE breastfeeding question…

Hi, I’m Jo, a midwife for UK Birth Centres and I’m thrilled to support and promote National Breastfeeding Celebration Week 2016 through mybirthbox. This year the aim is to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and their infants.

As a midwife, my role is to treat each women as an individual so the breastfeeding journey they each undertake will be unique and to let them know about the best ways to ensure that breast feeding is a wonderful experience. We at UK Birth centres have a 98% initiation of breastfeeding rate at the time of birth (notably above the National average) as each of our mothers has her own dedicated midwife throughout their first few weeks.

As I have the luxury of so much time to dedicate to breastfeeding Mothers, I wanted to share some information with you surrounding THE most frequent question of all…

 

mother breast feeding and hugging her baby

Is my baby getting enough Milk?

Your breasts are not two bottles strapped to your chest that allow you to see how many ounces or millilitres of milk your baby has had. The process of feeding your baby is that of supply and demand. Latch your baby on allow it to suck and this will release milk as well as set the process in motion for more milk to be produced later! Our number obsessed society means some mothers worry about not seeing exactly how much milk the baby receives and causes them all sorts of anxiety.

However, there are ways of knowing that the baby is getting enough. In the long run, weight gain is the best indication whether the baby is getting enough, but rules about weight gain appropriate for bottle fed babies may not be appropriate for breastfed babies.

 

Ways of Knowing…

1. Babies have a typical motion when nutritive sucking!
A baby who is obtaining good amounts of milk at the breast sucks in a very characteristic way. When a baby is getting milk you will see a pause at the point of his chin after he opens to the maximum and before he closes his mouth, so that one suck is (open mouth wide–>pause–>close mouth).

If you wish to demonstrate this to yourself, put your index or other finger in your mouth and suck as if you were sucking on a straw. As you draw in, your chin drops and stays down as long as you are drawing in. When you stop drawing in, your chin comes back up. This pause that is visible at the baby’s chin represents a mouthful of milk when the baby does it at the breast. The longer the pause, the more the baby got. Bingo now you know your baby is getting milk.

2. Babies bowel movements.
At first the baby passes meconium a black sticky substance that is helped out of the system by lots of colostrum the first milk to be produced. There is often a pause after all the meconium is cleared then there is a change to green waterier stools called a changing stool and finally a breast fed stool is Mustard yellow, watery and seedy!

Some breastfed babies, after the first 3-4 weeks of life, may suddenly change their stool pattern from many each day, to one every 3 days or even less. Some babies have gone as long as 15 days or more without a bowel movement. As long as the baby is otherwise well, and the stool is the usual pasty or soft, yellow movement, this is not constipation and is of no concern.

3. Urination or “wet nappies”
During the first 2-3 days of life, some babies pass pink or red urine.  This is not a reason to panic and does not mean the baby is dehydrated. It is due to urates in the urine and add this pigmentation at first which disappears when the Mature milk establishes. During the first few days of life, only if the baby is well latched on can he get his mother’s milk.

We are looking for 4-6 wet nappies in a 24-hour period after day 4. Unfortunately, the new super dry “disposable” nappies i often do indeed feel dry even when full of urine, but when soaked with urine they are heavy. The baby’s urine should be almost colorless after the first few days, though an occasional darker urine is not of concern.

 

The following are NOT good ways of judging your milk supply!

1. My breasts do not feel full.
After the first few days or weeks, it is usual for most mothers not to feel full. Your body adjusts to your baby’s requirements. This change may occur quite suddenly. Some mothers breastfeed perfectly well and their breasts never feel engorged or full.

2. The baby sleeps through the night.
Not necessarily. A baby who is sleeping through the night at 10 days of age, for example, may, in fact, not be getting enough milk. A baby who is too sleepy and has to be awakened for feeds or who is “too good” may not be getting enough milk.  There are many exceptions, but get help quickly.

3. The baby cries after feeding.
Although the baby may cry after feeding because of hunger, there are also many other reasons for crying

4. “I can express only half an ounce of milk”.
This means nothing and should not influence you. Therefore, you should not pump your breasts “just to know”.  Most mothers have plenty of milk.

5. The baby will take a bottle after feeding.
This does not necessarily mean that the baby is still hungry as babies are like little puppies who when offered several saucers of food would just eat the lot and probably be sick!

6. The baby feeds often and/or for a long time. 
For one mother every 3 hours or so feedings may be often; for another, 3 hours or so may be a long period between feeds.  For one, a feeding that lasts for 30 minutes is a long feeding; for another, it is a short one. There are no rules how often or for how long a baby should feed. If the baby falls asleep quickly at the breast, you can compress the breast to continue the flow of milk

By Rebecca Baxter

 

I hope you have found these little facts helpful and remember the more help you can get when establishing breastfeeding the better!

| Jo, UK Birth Centers |

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