How to Healthily Cope With the Stress of Breastfeeding
Every expecting mother who decides to breastfeed has two main questions on her mind: “Will my milk come? and “Will it be enough?” This is normal. What’s not so typical is that almost every woman who gives birth is pushed to believe that she does not have enough milk and should start giving formula (powdered milk) soon after birth. Physiologically only, less than 3% of all women are genuinely unable to have (enough) milk for their babies. The rest, 97%, are meant to be great breastfeeding mothers!
The first myth that breastmilk might “not come” disappears with the knowledge that lactation starts way before birth! Production of colostrum, early milk, begins in the 5th-7th month of pregnancy and stays there till birth and a few days after it! So if you noticed your breasts changing and increasing in size during pregnancy, then you can be sure – your milk WILL come because it is already there by the time your baby is ready to be born!
The second myth that a mother’s milk is often not enough for her baby (especially in the early days after birth) can be dismissed with the simple explanation below of how small a newborn baby’s stomach is. It is true colostrum, early milk during the first 3-5 days after birth, comes in small quantities, but it comes in the exact amount of what a baby is ready to digest! So, in brief, colostrum is the only food that a healthy, full-term baby ever needs!
Stomach capacity of the newborn A 1-day old baby’s stomach capacity is about 5-7 ml only, or about the size of a small pebble. Interestingly, researchers have found that a one-day-old newborn’s stomach does not stretch to hold more. Your colostrum is just the right portion for your baby’s first feedings!
By day 3, the newborn’s stomach capacity grows to about 22-30 ml, or about the size of a “shooter” marble. Small, frequent feedings (every 2 hours or oftener) assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs and stimulates milk production for the following days.
Around day 7, the newborn’s tummy capacity is about 45-60 ml, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Continued frequent feedings (about every 2-3 hours) will guarantee that your milk production meets the baby’s demands.
Why is colostrum better for my baby than formula?
Colostrum is special milk transparent to golden in color, thick and sticky. It could be called “magical” – so rich in unique qualities.
1. Best nutrition in the right amount: low in fat, high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to keep your baby healthy. Very easy to digest. Low in volume (measurable in teaspoons instead of ml) but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn.
2. Prevention of jaundice (yellowness of the newborn): has a laxative effect on the newborn, assisting him pass his early stools, which aids in the removal of bilirubin responsible for jaundice.
3. Natural vaccine: provides large amounts of living cells which will defend your baby against many harmful agents. The concentration of immune factors in colostrum is much higher than in mature milk! It also contains antibodies (IgA & IgG) and leukocytes, protective white cells that destroy bacteria and viruses.
4. Substance that creates a healthy digestive tract: seals the newborn’s intestines with a barrier that will protect the baby from foreign substances and reduce the risk of allergies to foods that the mother has eaten.
5. Guarantee that your white milk will “come” in a large amount: emptying the breasts from colostrum stimulates the production of mature white milk, which will gradually increase in volume around the 3rd or 4th day after birth.
In those first few days of colostrum, it is essential to breastfeed your newborn at least 8-12 times each 24 hours, which is often even better. This allows your new born to get all the colostrum benefits and stimulates the production of a plentiful supply of mature milk. Frequent breastfeeding also helps prevent engorgement (when your breasts become swollen and painful).
Early days are stressful but short.
You might be a lucky mother whose relatives, friends, and doctors all support breastfeeding and know a lot about it. However, you will most likely receive plenty of pressure instead of giving up breastfeeding and supplementing. By all means, ladies, stay strong! Keep your baby with you (request “rooming-in” in the hospital), often breastfeed and on-demand, stay away from bottles and pacifiers, and as a reward, your white milk will come in no time within 3-5 days. After birth and in large quantity! The first week after delivery is the most challenging, but breastfeeding will be easy and simply unique after it (if you did not start giving formula)!
And please, don’t try to check or measure how much colostrum you have after giving birth! J Squeezing with hands and pumping is useless in determining anything! Often only a baby will be able to efficiently remove this special thick milk from the breasts!
And remember, the more you learn about breastfeeding, the more equipped you will be for the days after birth and the pressure around.