So there’s a lot of talk about the joys of breastfeeding and why it is always encouraged. You’ve been told all the pros. We’re also sure everyone around would have given you advice as to how you get that milk moving, how to increase breastmilk and so on and so forth.
The thing is ─ breastfeeding is not as simple giving your baby your nipple. There are a ton of things that will happen to you physiologically and emotionally such as disappointments, strange feelings, biological peculiarities and some other weird and unexpected stuff that leave new mothers quite confounded.
You can google the internet or read all the books you want, there will always be things you will never find out until they happen. Knowing some of these things beforehand can help you prepare.
Here are 10 things you need to know
1. Breastfeeding is an Effective Contraception ─ No Menstruation
When you are breastfeeding, did you know you will not ovulate? And therefore, no menstruation and no baby making?
That is why it is often used as a birth control method. However, there’s a catch.
Breastfeeding can be used as a birth control called Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) if and only if, three conditions are met:
- You breastfeed around the clock and your baby is fed “on demand” exclusively from your breast and no other food, water, or liquids are given to the baby.
- Your baby must be six month of age or less.
- Your periods (including spotting) haven’t returned since childbirth
LAM is 98-99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy as long as all of the above conditions are met.
This means exclusive breastfeeding renders you infertile for a while.
When Will You Begin Menstruating Again?
If you bottle feed your baby, or combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, then LAM will not work. Your first period could start as soon as five to six weeks after you give birth, after you’re done with post partum bleeding (or lochia). (That is not menstruation) Heavy bleeding can continue up to 10 days or more immediately after delivery and continue to up to four to six weeks after delivery.
There are variables of course, it depends from woman to woman.
If you are breastfeeding, you may ovulate as early as nine or 10 weeks after giving birth. Your period would then start two weeks later, at 11 weeks or 12 weeks after giving birth. Or it may be over a year before you start ovulating again, and your periods return.
So remember, only if you are exclusively breastfeeding and giving nothing else to your baby and you have not seen the return of your menses can you rely on LAM as a form of contraception.
2. How Often and How Long to Breastfeed each Session?
Because breastmilk is thin and watery, you need to offer your breasts every two hours round the clock. There is no “fixed time”, but generally for a newborn to two months of age, you should feed “on demand” meaning whenever he needs. That would work out to be every 1 ½ hours to 3 hours round the clock ─ the median being two.
As newborns get older, they’ll nurse less often, and may develop a more reliable schedule.
Each breastfeeding session should last 20 to 45 minutes. Feed on the first side until your baby stops suckling, hands are no longer fisted, and your baby appears sleepy and relaxed.
Yes, you need to get up at off hours to feed your baby. That’s why they call parenting the Sleep Deprivation Club.
3. Breastfeeding can make mothers go Milk Drunk
The going can be tough in the beginning especially for new moms establishing their flow. However, once that gets going, many women report a relaxed, calm state during breastfeeding. Some others even say they experience euphoria ─ a breastfeeding high brought on by the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin that accompanies baby’s sucking. Some people call it being “milk drunk.” USA Today reported that actress Penelope Cruz said breastfeeding is “addictive. It’s hard when the day comes when you have to stop.”
4. Breastfeeding can be Frustrating for Baby and You
On the flipside, breastfeeding can be harder than it’s cracked up to be. It takes skill and maneuvering, practice and angling of the body to get him to latch on correctly. Generally, the whole areola should be as deep in as possible. Some babies don’t quite manage; after all, they too have never done this before. They may get frustrated, latch on, latch off, suck in a lot of air in between and stop feeding. They then start to cry and clench their fists and legs because they are hungry and unable to feed. You on the other hand, have engorged breasts waiting for baby to release the milk to. This takes a whole lot of adjustment and correction. Also you need to see that baby can breathe easily particularly at the newborn stage as his face is small and his nose and mouth are also small. Your swollen breasts are huge in comparison. Meanwhile, baby is screaming. It can get very frustrating when you and baby can’t get the hang of it.
5. Breastfeeding may be Painful
While some women report a high from the enjoyable experience and never want to stop, breastfeeding can be quite an ordeal for some other women. If you’re a first-time mother waiting for a pleasurable, titillating sensation, you’re in for a shock. A baby does not suck as if from a straw. He clamps his whole mouth around the areola, closes his jaw and pushes his tongue against the breast to squeeze, making airtight suction which can be very strong. That sensation may or may not be enjoyable for some women. After 10 to 12 sessions a day feeding 45 minutes per time, it can leave a woman’s nipples raw and sore. The discomfort can range from slight tenderness to cracked and bleeding skin. Sometimes the pain can come from inside the breasts as the baby sucks, not just on the exterior of the nipples. Combine that with the tedium and exhaustion of feeding on demand round-the-clock and you can imagine the tough job a nursing mum has, not to mention why exclusive breastfeeding makes an effective contraception in more ways than one. You just don’t have the mood or energy left for sex.
6. The Bigger the Breast the More the Milk?
Sometimes un-thoughtful friends and relatives can say the most hurtful things.
“Your breasts are so big, why you don’t have enough milk?”
Milk supply is not dependent on the size of your breasts. Breast size is due to fatty tissue while milk production is due to milk glands. A woman with an A-cup can make the same amount of milk as a woman with a D. The A cupper just has less fatty tissue compared to glandular tissue.
Somebody needs to get those friends and relatives educated.
7. Breastfeeding Might Cause Uterine Cramps
Breastfeeding is not confined just to the breast, it’s a whole body experience that involves all your reproductive organs. A baby’s sucking triggers the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, and oxytocin creates uterine contractions. Although uncomfortable, these cramps (also called “afterpains”) are necessary to squeeze the uterus back to its pre-birth size.
8. Breastfeeding Burns Calories
Breastfeeding makes you slim down. Experts estimate that it takes about 500 calories to make the 24 to 28 ounces of breast milk. That is the amount the average mum makes each day. However, breastfeeding alone usually isn’t enough to burn off pregnancy weight, especially if you have put on well beyond the recommended weight, but along with exercise and a healthy diet, the extra calories burned do add up.
9. Your Breasts will leak just when you Least Expect it
We’re not talking about leaking when your breasts are full or when you are past feeding time. We are talking about other stimuli that makes you leak.
The release of breast milk, called the let-down reflex usually happens after a baby has been sucking for about two minutes. The sucking triggers release of the hormone oxytocin which stimulates milk production. That is why, many times when you are feeding from one side of the breast, the other side will leak as well. By the time you put baby to the other side, there will be no more milk left. Luckily, there are cups or devices that you can buy to collect the leaking milk so that none is wasted.
Apart from leaking at “expected” times, you could also let down through other triggers, such as looking at a picture of your baby, thinking of him, or even hearing a recording of your baby. Sometimes even hearing any baby cry or smelling a scent that reminds you of a baby, not just your own, can trigger the let-down reflex.
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