It’s the most natural thing in the world, but that doesn’t mean breastfeeding comes naturally. Getting it right takes a bit of practice…
Breastfeeding is known as the gold standard to feed a baby, but it is about so much more than nutrition. It represents the common language of mothering; it is about intimacy and a relationship with your baby.
Breastmilk is perfectly designed, with all the nutrients your baby requires for growth and physical development (especially his brain), and nourishes both body and soul.
The best thing about breastfeeding is that your body naturally produces milk from before birth and the process is continued as your baby is born to breastfeed. You just need to be available to your baby. Most babies know exactly what they need to do, so be guided by your baby and have confidence in your body’s ability to nourish your baby.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also get clued up on how to go about the dance of breastfeeding. Empower yourself with good knowledge that instils you with confidence, and surround yourself with people who will support you, from your partner and family members to healthcare professionals. Ask for help, if and when you need it. Have a breastfeeding plan, and make a commitment to face the challenges you may face along the way.
THE GOLDEN HOUR
The first hour after the birth of your baby is a once in a lifetime opportunity – a sacred moment when a family is formed and your baby’s first impression of life outside the womb is made.
The best way to start is heart to heart! As soon as your baby is born, place your baby on your chest, in skin-to-skin contact. Your body will naturally increase in temperature to warm your baby – even better than an incubator. Your baby should only be separated from you if there is a good medical reason. Routine procedures and observations can be done either while your baby is on your chest, or at a later time. This moment should be uninterrupted.
Skin-to-skin contact not only promotes bonding, but is also a multi-sensory experience for your baby. Besides the powerful sense of touch and human contact, which confirms your baby’s out of womb habitat on your breast area, the sense of smell is well developed and very strong. Each mother and baby has a unique scent, and once your baby recognises yours, it provides security and comfort.
Your baby’s sense of sight is also very important, although underdeveloped. You will have a natural desire to look at your baby. As he makes eye contact with you, and stares back, the love hormone oxytocin floods your brain, starting the dance of breastfeeding. Your baby’s suck reflex is at its most intense during the first hour after birth. Allow your baby his own time and be guided by him.
Research has now identified nine observable newborn stages that are instinctive for a baby who is placed in skin-to-skin contact with his mother, after birth:
Awakening Around three minutes after birth, small wave-like movements in the baby’s head and shoulders are noticed. Baby’s eyes are usually open.
Activity The newborn baby starts to make sucking movements as the rooting becomes more obvious. Baby looks at the breast and at mom. He will also make “cooing” sounds to capture the mother’s full attention.
Rest He may rest at intervals and continue to make sucking movements in his own time.
Crawling About 35 minutes after birth, the baby starts to leap, crawl, slide and push himself towards the breast to reach the nipple.
Get on the dance floor straight away
Encourage your baby to breastfeed within an hour of the birth.
Stay on the dance floor Have lots of skinto-skin contact with your baby.
Learn the dance steps Master the latch to avoid nipple pain and ensure good feeding.
Follow the lead Demand feed your baby by nursing him when he shows hunger cues.
Enjoy the dance! Encourage your baby to feed often and treasure those special moments of closeness with him.