Breastfeeding basics

You can prepare for your breastfeeding journey before the baby arrives. In some cases, breastfeeding can be easy, but it can also be complicated and overwhelming initially. We are often made to believe that when the time comes, we will know what to do, nature will take its course.

I have heard from many new mothers that they had a difficult start and after a lot of pain, some even gave up. Breastfeeding should not hurt. If it is painful, something needs to be adjusted. 

In Germany, you can attend a birthing class but no one prepares you with information on breastfeeding. That is why I have put together some of the things you need to know about breastfeeding in this blog post. 

Mother holding her baby's hands
Couple holding newborn baby

Set your breastfeeding goals

Ease into it. You can set small short term goals so that you don’t get overwhelmed by everything. This can include finding the right breastfeeding positions, learning to read your baby’s cues or finding the best place for breastfeeding in your home.

How long do you want to breastfeed for? Every mother has a different idea about how long is should last, some women stop after six months, others after a year and some even wait for their child to stop on their own. Every mother is different, so you can decide the best option for you. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and up to two years of breastfeeding, but this is not a rule, just a recommendation.

Involve your partner: even before the baby is born, talk about your doubts, worries and questions with your partner. Keeping them involved and learning together, will make the journey easier for you, as you will definitely need help for pumping, bottle feeding, weaning and more. 

Learning about breastfeeding

Here are some basics you should know about breastfeeding:

Latch: one of the most important things you will hear when it comes to breastfeeding. If you get the baby’s latch right, you can avoid a lot of pain in the initial days. For more information, follow the link at the end of this article.

Duration and frequency: newborn baby’s need to be fed every couple of hours. When you get started and are unsure about how long you should breastfeed, you can try 15 minutes on each side just to get the milk production started and regular. After a while, you can breastfeed as you wish, one side at a time or a short time on both sides. 

Understanding baby’s cues: Babies will show you when they want to breastfeed by putting their fist to their mouth, turning their heads toward the breast or opening and closing their mouths. Babies often breastfeed for comfort, not just when they are hungry. You might find that when they have growth spurts or are teething, they want to feed more frequently.

Consult your midwife or a lactation consultant if you have trouble with any of these. In Germany, costs for a midwife are covered by your health insurance but lactation consultants have to be paid privately.

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Breastfeeding mother

False myths about breastfeeding

There are many myths related to breastfeeding. Most of them have no scientific evidence to support them, so it is important to make sure they are not coming in the way of your breastfeeding goals. In this section, I want to debunk some of these myths.

1. Medication and illness: some people believe that you should not breastfeed when you are ill. This is not true. You can continue to breastfeed, because you pass on important antibodies to your baby through your milk. Most medications are not a problem when you are breastfeeding. However, please don’t self medicate. Speak to your doctor before taking any medicine.

2. Breast is best: This saying has been popularised, pressuring mothers into believing that they have to breastfeed their baby, else it will not have healthy growth. This is not true. There are definitely a lot of benefits to breastfeeding, but you should not feel guilty if you cannot or don’t want to. These benefits include, lower risk of infection and increased immunity.

3. You can’t eat spicy food or have cold drinks while breastfeeding: There is no evidence to support this. You can eat your regular food and drink cold drinks. It won’t affect your baby’s digestion or health. It is true, however, that food can affect the taste of your breast milk. 

4. Exercise will affect your milk supply: This is not true. You can do moderate exercise or break out a sweat and it won’t make a difference. One of the reasons some people might say you should not exercise is, because of fluid loss. You need to drink a lot of water while breastfeeding , so if you are exercising, make sure to stay hydrated.

5. Soft breasts means you’re not producing enough milk: Pumping or hand expressing are not an indicator of how much milk you’re producing. Neither are soft breasts. Once your body starts to understand how much milk your baby needs, the feeling of fullness might reduce or go away. The only clear indicator of milk supply is your baby’s diapers. 

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any specific questions about breastfeeding, you can consult your midwife or a lactation consultant. In my podcast, I have done interviews with an English speaking midwife and a lactation consultant. Do give it a listen.

More information on latch and breastfeeding positions.

Podcast

The Confused Mother Podcast

Do you want even more content on motherhood? Here is The Confused Mother podcast, where I talk to mothers and experts about everything related to motherhood and work. Click below to tune in on Spotify or Apple podcasts:

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