Whilst the topic is broad and opinions are endless, as a new mother with a four month old first-born, I’d like to highlight some aspects that have stood out for me with regard to feeding.
Breast milk is best and we all wish that it was easy for everyone. The reality however is that it requires discipline, commitment and hard work but, once mastered, can be wonderful, easy and obviously cost-free. With a large percentage of women delivering via Caesarean Section, a lot of mothers presume that they won’t produce enough milk for their baby at the onset. Yes one’s milk does come in more slowly with a C/S compared to a normal birth but is still usually sufficient for the baby as long as one continues to work on the latch at every feed. One comes to learn that the most helpful people in hospital following the birth are the lactation consultants, (qualified midwives with extra training in breastfeeding), as the key to getting breast feeding right from the beginning is getting the latch right. Too many moms don’t manage to get the latch right before they leave hospital and then don’t end up producing enough milk and eventually are forced to change over to formula. Having said that, a lot of women despite their best efforts, unfortunately do not produce enough milk for their growing babies. If you are one of these women, allow yourself to be at peace with it and try to have a fresh and relaxed attitude towards the next baby, as you might be pleasantly surprised that it all suddenly works.
In those first few weeks, everything seems chaotic and my feeling is that its better to feed your baby on demand rather than being to regimented in insisting on it being 3 or 4 hourly. There are many articles out there debating this but demand feeding results in a happier baby, a better milk supply and enables you to figure out your baby’s needs. After about 3 months babies like to settle into a routine.
With women’s milk supply being so different, some suffer from engorgement and mastitis, while others are constantly trying to increase their milk supply. There are herbal supplements (fenugreek) and medication (eglonyl and domperidone) that can increase your supply and both work well. Lactation consultants and nurses at the baby clinics are very helpful but if it comes to mastitis they’ll direct you to your GP or gynaecologist as this needs to be managed swiftly with antibiotics to prevent abscess formation.
In terms of foremilk and hind milk, the some authors will tell you that a baby only reaches your hind milk (the fatty and protein rich part), 25min into a feed on one side. This is completely unfounded and a baby in fact accesses your hind milk within 3 to 5 minutes. So if your baby is feeding 5 to 10 minutes on each side or even just 10 minutes on one side, they are getting enough. Other ways to gauge how much they are getting in is the regularity of their wet nappies, and obviously weigh-ins at the pharmacy or baby clinic. Remember that in terms of bowel movements, 7 bowel movements in 1 day to 1 bowel movement in 7 days is the spectrum of normal, unbelievable as it may sound!
Regarding formula, all the brands are entirely suitable and have been so refined over the years, that they provide excellent nutrition for a baby second to breast milk. The preferred formula at present is Similac Total Comfort as it contains partially digested protein, which is easier on the gastro-intestinal tract, easing colic and the like.
Starting solids is a stand-alone topic. In brief, the WHO states that solids may be introduced at 6 months but anytime from 4 months is absolutely acceptable. The introduction thereof is a personal preference and taking cues from one’s baby helps.
Your baby clinic sister will help you starting solids, but the general rule of thumb would be mixing a tablespoon of rice cereal (organic brand preferred) in their milk once a day, slowly increasing that to twice a day, then two to three table spoons and then slowly letting them taste pureed fruit and vegetables, one at a time. Egg and meat follow that.
There also seems to be a movement towards baby-led weaning. This is feeding your child milk exclusively until 6 months and then offering them different food groups that they can hold and play with and taste on their own, in their own time. In essence, skipping rice cereal or pureed food. The majority still prefers slowly introducing a baby to solids (rice cereal and pureed food) as it’s quite an adjustment for the digestive tract to be suddenly faced with solids, without them being in a simpler form first.
While being an informed mother may be beneficial, there is no right and wrong way when it comes to breast and infant feeding and the bottom line is that a mother’s instinct is generally right. Above all else, I am choosing to enjoy this time as everyone tells me it slips by in a heartbeat.