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Breastfeeding fears laid to rest
Shilpa Shet
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August 06, 2007

When Shweta Punjar gave birth to a healthy baby boy some time ago, her joy at interacting with her firstborn soon turned into frustration and despair. The reason? She could not nurse him because she was having trouble with her breastmilk.

"I remember those horrendous times," she recollects, "The first two days the baby was crying inconsolably since the milk production hadn't picked up. And I was trying so hard."

It was then that Shweta's gynaecologist counselled her and told her not to fret. "She said that me getting worried was also affecting the milk formation. I was getting very little sleep and my body had undergone so many changes. She also told me to relax and eat well."

Shweta took her doctor's advise and her lactating troubles ended practically overnight. "I realised it was my fears that were inhibiting the formation of milk," she says.

It is not uncommon for new mothers to harbour fears regarding breastfeeding. Here, Dr Arun Gupta of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India addresses misgivings and common complaints:

I have pain in my nipples while feeding the baby. What should I do?

The cause of pain probably is that your baby is suckling in an incorrect position. If the baby is suckling only at the nipple, it leads to soreness and pain. Applying cream or lotion is not recommended. You can put a few drops of your own breastmilk over the damaged area and allow it to dry. And start feeding your baby in the correct position; once you do that, the pain will disappear.

What is the correct nursing position?

The correct position to hold the baby in while nursing is as follows:
~ The baby's head and neck are straight, or bent slightly back.
~ The baby's body is turned towards the mother, up close to her, facing the breast.
~ The baby's whole body is supported.
~ There should be eye-contact between mother and baby while feeding.

I have been breastfeeding but my baby is passing frequent loose stools. Do I need to worry?

An exclusively breastfed baby sometimes passes frequent loose stools. It is perfectly normal.

Can I continue to breastfeed my baby while on medication?

Yes. Most commonly used drugs don't cause any harm to babies. However, it is always advisable to consult your doctor.

Does smoking affect my milk and my baby?

Yes. Smoking can reduce your milk supply. It may also make your child more prone to respiratory infections and asthma.

I have small breasts. Will I be able to produce enough milk?

Production of breastmilk is not dependent on the size of the breast. Milk is produced inside the mammary glands under the influence of prolactin (a hormone released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain). The milk then flows into the breast's ducts, to be stored in the lactiferous sinuses. Under the influence of oxytocin, a hormone is then released from the posterior pituitary gland, which makes the muscles around the alveoli contract and cause an ejection of the milk.

I could not breastfeed my first child. Will I be able to breastfeed successfully the second time around?

You can successfully breastfeed your baby even if you were not able to do the same for your earlier child. Be confident.

Do I have to stop eating certain foods to maintain a good milk supply?

No. You can continue eating most of your favorite foods during breastfeeding. If you are worried about a particular food, eat a small amount each time and see if it causes any problem to your baby. If it bothers your baby every time you eat it, you may consider avoiding that food.

I am always worried that my baby is not having his/ her fill. How do I know that he/ she has had enough milk?

Your baby should be fed on demand, with a minimum of more than eight feeds every 24 hours. Initially the demands are very frequent, but in a week or two, the frequency decreases. The baby should be fed as frequently and for as long as he/ she wants, even at night. Breastfeeding at night helps maintain the milk supply, as more prolactin is secreted at night. A satisfied child releases the nipple spontaneously -- the mother does not have to stop breastfeeding.

Will my breasts sag if I breastfeed?

The breast size increases during and post pregnancy. This is because the milk ducts become active. Since they become heavier, there is a possibility of sagging. It is therefore necessary to wear a supportive maternity brassiere throughout your pregnancy. For nursing, wear a nursing brassiere that offers support and some protection against leakage. It is also beneficial to perform exercises that strengthen the breasts muscles.

How do I know that the position I am feeding my baby in is the correct position?

The signs of good attachment from the baby are:
~ The baby's chin touching the breast
~ The mouth wide open, with the lower lip turned outward
~ More of the areola visible above than below the baby's mouth
~ No pain in the breast

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