Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby, at least for the first six months. Besides being wholesome, it has a host of other advantages too. It helps in the overall growth and development of the baby, builds the baby’s immunity, and significantly lowers the risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases. Here’s how the human breast lactates post-delivery.
How Breastfeeding Works
Each breast has several lobes where the milk is produced. Each lobe has as many as 15 to 25 tubes that carry milk to the nipples. The tubes widen on reaching the areola (the dark area around your nipples) where milk collects before being expressed.
As the baby suckles, oxytocin is released into the bloodstream, causing the muscle cells around the milk gland to contract and squeeze out milk that tastes sweet. The squeezing is also known as ‘the let-down reflex’. Before this reflex takes place, the baby gets some milk. This milk is called ‘fore milk’, which satisfies the baby’s immediate need and is rich in protein. The milk that follows is known as ‘hind milk’ and is more satisfying, as it has more fat and hence more calories. The ‘let-down reflex’ has to be stimulated for milk supply to build up. Let your baby decide how much milk needs to be produced.
Feed him on demand and do not regulate his feeding. If you do this the baby and your breasts will work in coordination and your breasts will produce milk according to your baby’s requirement.
Breast-feeding requires some patience. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed in the first few attempts. Keep trying and don’t give up, as breast-feeding can be extremely beneficial for baby and you. There are many positions you could experiment with. Settle for the most comfortable one – something that would work well for you and the baby.
Most new mothers try this position. The baby is held along the arm with its body facing your body, the head supported in the crook of the arm and hand supporting the baby’s bottom. You could prop your arm with pillow support to make this position more comfortable.
This is also known as cross-over or transitional hold. It is much similar to the cradle hold, except that the arms are held differently. This position is recommended for early breast-feeding, when you and your newborn are getting used to the process. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Hold your baby crosswise in the crook of the arm opposite the breast you’re feeding from – left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support the baby’s trunk and head with your forearm and palm. Place your other hand beneath your breast in a U-shaped hold. This will help you guide the baby’s mouth to your breast and make it easier for the baby to latch on properly.
Clutch or Football Hold
Another option is the football hold. This position involves cradling the baby in an arm with the neck supported by the hand. The baby faces towards the breast with the back resting on the forearm. This position allows babies to take breast milk more easily. This position is often used by mothers who…
- Are recovering from Caesarean births
- Have large breasts or inverted nipples
- Are nursing a premature baby or two babies at once
- Need to encourage a baby to take more of the nipple into his or her mouth
In this position, the mother lies on one side with the baby facing her, close to the breast. The top hand can be used to support the baby and direct the breast into the baby’s. This position is ideal for mothers who are recuperating from a Caesarean birth. It’s also a great alternative when you want to sleep or rest while your baby nurses.