Breast-feeding the Baby. In the first two to three days after birth the mother’s breasts produce a substance called colostrum. Colostrum resembles melted butter, is high in protein, and contains antibodies that protect the baby. It helps to clear the bowels easily of meconium, a substance in the bowels of all newborn babies. There is no artificial substitute for colostrum.
Breast Milk. Breast milk is easily processed by the infant’s digestive system and helps to prevent allergies. Unlike cow’s milk, breast milk leaves an acid residue in the bowel and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Breastfed babies usually do not suffer from constipation, provided there is an adequate supply of milk. For the first few weeks, bowel movements may be frequent, but these may decrease to two dirty diapers a day.
Although initially some women may experience discomfort, most women find breast-feeding a pleasure once it is established. Emotionally, it ensures a closer bond with the baby; physically, it helps the womb to return more quickly to its normal size. Successful breast-feeding depends on the mother’s attitude; prenatal preparation of the breasts and nipples and their postnatal care; a good, balanced diet, with plenty of fluids; rest; and patience.
Prenatal Breast Care. A well-fitting bra should be worn both day and night from the seventh month of pregnancy onward. Starting at that time the nipples should be washed well each day and gently rubbed with a towel after a bath. Some physicians advice applying a bland ointment.
Flat nipples should be drawn out and rolled between thumb and forefinger. At about the eighth month, the breasts should be gently massaged, and a little colostrum should be pressed from each nipple. This helps to open the milk ducts.
Women with inverted nipples can wear devices popularly known as “shells” inside their bras during the last three months of pregnancy. If no improvement takes place, a natural nursing nipple shield is helpful when nursing.
Breast-feeding. Before putting the baby to the breast, clean the breast with a cotton swab dipped in warm water to remove any ointment. Start each feeding on the side opposite the last.
After the feeding, wipe the nipples with cotton dipped in warm water and apply an ointment or spray. Try to avoid using plastic-backed, milk-retaining pads inside the bra because they can make the nipples sore.
The First Week. Patience and perseverance are needed during the first week of breast-feeding when difficulties may arise. Nursing mothers should be aware that it may require a few weeks to establish a steady milk supply.
In the first two to three days the baby sucks colostrum. At this stage the mother does not experience much change in her breasts. Usually between the third and fifth day milk comes in and, as the breasts enlarge, there may be some discomfort or even pain. Should the milk come in with a rush, the baby should be allowed to nurse frequently; this will prevent engorged breasts. Different babies have different needs, and you will have to work out the best schedule for your baby by trial and error.