Before baby is born is a great time to learn about breastfeeding. There are a few things considered essential in antenatal education to dispel some myths on breastfeeding. Not everyone intends to chest/ breastfeed but it's important to know that our bodies get ready to feed regardless of our preference. It's common to notice breast changes during pregnancy. Colostrum and early milk is present in small amounts due to the hormones of late pregnancy and birth. After the first few days/ week post-birth the milk production continues on a demand supply basis.
There are many facts that you may find interesting. Did you know that mother's milk changes flavour, colour and composition depending on the what we eat, what age our babies are, how long we feed for? A typical feed time is 16 mins but this an average as feeds can be as short as two minutes or as long as 1 hour depending on individual variabilities. Did you know that women tend to produce more milk in the right breast? These things can be interesting to learn about whether we decide to feed baby directly, express or choose an alternative feeding method with formula.
For those intending to breastfeed it can be a relief to know research has found there is no difference between the amount of time breastfed or bottle-fed babies spend asleep in 24 hours. Phew! There will be natural variation between babies' sleep time due to many individual factors and some infants need more support than others regardless of feeding method. According to one study there is an added bonus of 40-45min extra sleep per night during the first 3 months for parents when compared to bottle feeding/ supplementation at night.
It's helpful for pregnant parents to learn that common breastfeeding problems are frequently due latching or positioning of the baby during a feed. During antenatal class we practice holds/ positions and ways partners can support and stay included. Postnatal wards in hospitals are busy places so its always a good idea to learn about the basics of feeding while still pregnant. Babies will feed often so it's good to be aware that is normal. Also conflicting advice can be a problem so having a trusted point of contact will be super helpful. For any special concerns or for simple support visit look into groups such as Cuidiu, La Leche League, Friends of Breastfeeding and IBCLC professionals.
The health benefits of breastfeeding for both the birth parent and for the baby is impressive. It’s good to know it reduces a women’s overall risk of breast and ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes. How great is it that babies also benefit from the immune boosting properties of mothers milk that contains a special growth factor to ‘seal’ the lining of GI tract or gut. ggBreastfeeding is not all about the milk either and is a wonderful tool for parenting and it promoted bonding and closeness.
The main message to relay to a pregnant person is every breastfeed is a positive act. As an educator I encourage parents to meet their own feeding goals whatever that looks like, and with whatever supports or tools available to them.