'No more cracked nipples': All you need to know for successful breastfeeding
Before I understood the world of breastfeeding, I thought
milk is only produced when your baby suckles – not the case. That’s why there
are products such as breast pads and milk collectors – because the ‘drip’ can
During my second night at home after being discharged from hospital, I remember sleeping braless and waking up to find my sleeping shirt wet. Even during the day, I started to notice my bra forming a patch – of breast milk - and that’s when I realized the person who invented breast milk pads was not mad.
I remember initially getting upset about the leaking breast milk, but I quickly realized that a constant flow/ supply of milk is a good thing when my milk supply once went down for a week. I’m still not sure what caused that – whether it was my diet or stress (both of which have an effect on breast milk production).
The World Health Organisation recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of their life. The saying is usually that breast is best.
However, the reality is that not all mothers are able to breastfeed their babies for reasons such as being ill.
While some factors are more difficult to resolve, let’s discuss the ones which can be managed.
Many mothers abandon breastfeeding because of the initial pain that can come along with learning how to properly latch your baby onto your breast. Side effects of the learning process include sore and cracked nipples and sometimes, bleeding nipples.
This discourages some mothers from proceeding with breastfeeding and some opt to go for formula.
Some babies naturally have an excellent latch so mums don’t go through the pain of teaching the baby how to do it and they avoid (or have minimum incidences of) sore and cracked nipples.
First, a baby is supposed to suckle on not just the nipple, but the nipple and the surrounding area – areola (the dark part of the breast). That will eliminate a significant amount of discomfort.
If you still get sore or cracked nipples, which tends to happen at some point for many women, even when they have latched well, you should invest in a good nipple cream. I was gifted a tub of Lansinoh nipple cream during my baby shower and it went a long way in alleviating the soreness. The good thing with the cream is that you don’t have to wipe it off before breastfeeding. It’s made from ingredients which are safe for baby to suckle on. There are also mums who make their own home made concoction of nipple cream, though I haven’t tried it myself. If you’re tight on budget (which is a reality for many of us mums, what with the expenses of raising a little human), breast milk also does a good job of relieving sore nipples – just apply some of your milk on the area.
Another issue mums face is building up milk supply to store and have your baby’s caregiver feed your baby on if you return to the workplace and work away from home.
On this, I first would encourage mums to steer clear of YouTube videos, which can be awash with mums who say they are able to produce litres of milk every day. This can be discouraging if you pump and only get a few milliliters. Just store whatever you produce without getting obsessed with measuring what you have expressed.
I initially had challenges building my milk supply and would pump for an hour and only get a few milliliters of milk (I now know that pumping for an hour is inefficient – each pumping session should be between 10 minutes to a maximum of about 20 minutes in total for both breasts). I would then watch YouTube and see mums who said they were able to produce a litre a day and I got concerned. When I talked to my gynecologist about it, he told me what I just told you – don’t watch the YouTube videos. Do what you can and let the rest flow.
There are also foods and drinks which are said to increase breast milk production (they are referred to as galactagogoues) which you can try and see what works for you because it is an individual thing – what worked for me or the next mum may not work for you.
For me, soaking fenugreek seeds in water, boiling it, sieving and drinking the concoction seemed to aid my supply as did wheat products, like cakes and rock buns, however, I am gluten intolerant and I noticed my baby must be too as she would get fussy after feeding on days I had eaten wheat products. I therefore had to cut wheat out.
Other products which other mums say work for them, but did nothing for me, are oats – porridge, oat cookies and any other oat products; as well as malt drinks such as Ovaltine.
If all else fails, a sure bet is Motilium. This shoots milk supply fast, however, don’t self-prescribe. Talk to your gynecologist first as building milk supply is not supposed to be a quick fix method of swallowing pills to produce milk. Besides, it is better to avoid taking medication as much as possible when breastfeeding. The medicine is usually prescribed for use over a short period of time when milk production is just not happening.
When it comes to pumping, it’s important to find the ‘tools’ which work best for you, otherwise you will get frustrated.
Contrary to what some mums think – electric pumps are not necessarily the best option and the most expensive pumps are not necessarily the most efficient. Different strokes for different folks.
There are mums who say they find manual pumps more efficient, while for others, it’s electric pumps all the way.
Another discovery I made was the haakaa. This tool is a life saver. It’s a silicone milk collector/pump and you simple hook it onto your breast and it collects milk as your baby feeds on your other breast. You can generate a significant amount of milk using it.
If you are returning to work, you want to start pumping and storing milk in your freezer as soon as you can while on maternity leave.
Many breastfeeding mums who store milk are not fans of Kenya Power, because we know that if the company pulls a fast one and there’s no electricity the whole day, there is the fear of milk thawing. And mums who freeze milk know that once breast milk has thawed, it has to be consumed by your baby within 24 hours otherwise it won’t be safe for consumption. You can imagine the pain a mum would feel having to dispose of milk she had stored after weeks of pumping daily. They say you should not cry over spilt milk, but that does not apply to breast milk – it’s painful to have to throw away the precious commodity which takes time and effort to produce.
A tip, though, for the days when electricity goes off the whole day: If you can, invest in a two-door fridge with a separate fridge and freezer door. This is because, many modern freezers can maintain a decent cool temperature for 24 hours, so your milk should not thaw, so long as you do not open the freezer door (so that the cool temperature can be maintained). Another tip is to adjust the temperature of your freezer to at least -17 degrees and try to fill the spaces of your freezer as a full freezer maintains coolness better than an empty (or half full) freezer.
Keep on doing your best as you breastfeed your baby, knowing you are giving them all the good nutrients and immunity you can, and as always, do the Johnnie Walker – keep walking this motherhood journey to the best of your ability.
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