The Facts on Breastfeeding

Are you one of the increasing numbers of women experiencing unbearable nipple pain because of breastfeeding?

Did you know that 83% of new mothers experience varying degrees of nipple pain and trauma as well as other lactation problems?

So, don’t worry, you are not alone. These problems are thought to be due to the teaching of incorrect breastfeeding methods.

Basically, current teaching involves the mother or others thrusting the baby onto her breast and this is completely unnatural, resulting in the baby being rammed to the breast by the base of the head, neck or shoulder, preventing the baby from vacuuming correctly and causing the nipple to be crushed between baby’s tongue and the hard palate.

This is not the mother’s fault. It seems that, for all its good intentions, our modern approach has overcomplicated the breastfeeding process and unnecessarily interfered with what should be for most mothers and babies a relatively simple and completely instinctual process. To ‘unlearn’ this unnatural method, especially with the first and early breastfeeds after birthing, it is suggested that mothers need to first understand a few key points about their newborn. Remember, healthy babies are not as helpless as you may think – they are programmed to survive. They are already skilled at drinking the surrounding water before birth

Within minutes of birth the healthy newborn instinctively seeks, attaches and vacuums to the mother’s nipple and breast in a natural, harmonious way which allows it to leisurely draw colostrum – the first, super-concentrated form of milk that mothers produce. The act of breastfeeding, when done correctly, is also critical in stimulating maternal hormones and milk volume over those vital first 72 hours.

It never ceases to amaze me as I watch a newborn’s survival instincts in action – minutes after birth, if gently placed skin-to-skin with the mother, facing the breast, the baby’s ‘rooting reflex’ will kick in. This is where they use their senses – smell, taste, sight and touch – in order to locate the nipple. The baby will eventually draw the breast and nipple comfortably into their mouth, perfectly and gently molding the nipple and breast tissue inside the oral cavity.

When a mother is focused on her baby, the “love” hormones present just after birth are primed, and without interruption the mother gently guides her baby so that nose, cheeks and chin touch her breast symmetrically.

Once the baby is swallowing symmetry can be fine tuned by slight, gentle movements, improving extension of the tongue, preventing gums pinching and painful ridging of the nipple.

Given that it sounds so simple, you might wonder why you weren’t told this beforehand. This has to do with our modern tendency to overcomplicate many natural life events.

Western expertise assumes that newborns do not know how to feed, whereas in fact they have a pre-programmed instinct for it. Your baby already understands what it has to do to feed and the mother’s role is simply to gently guide the baby into the right comfortable position for easy access.

Natural breastfeeding allows evolved behaviors to have their play. The baby draws intermittently, swallowing in harmony with the pulsating ejections, taking in breast milk until they reach satisfaction. The baby will then generally stay nurtured in its mother’s arms for a while until the important emotional and psychological part of the feed is completed.

The baby always knows how long to feed for satisfaction and emotion. Therefore, timing feeds interrupts this cycle. As a guide it is suggested that the young baby takes approximately one hour, including a rest in between each breast for digestion and a nappy/diaper change.

The very first feed may take up to three hours changing from breast to breast until satisfaction with small amounts of colostrum is achieved.

Basically a baby feeds from the first breast until relaxed and sleepy, and then continues nurturing until slipping off. Afterwards the baby rests and digests, lying stretched out, slightly inclined, in order to help with self burping and the transfer of pre-digested milk into the intestine.

When ready for the second breast, the baby communicates with its arms and legs, and rooting begins again until the baby increasingly vocalizes. The feed continues from the second breast until the baby is relaxed and comes off again.

It’s wise to hold the baby upright for a while until the stomach has time to settle. By this stage pre-digested milk from the first breast has transferred to the intestine, allowing milk from the second breast to refill the stomach.

Time and patience minimize gastro-intestinal problems like reflux and colic, which encourages relaxed and healthy sleeping.

Healthy mothers and infants should be able to breastfeed in an essentially painless and low fuss way. Nipple damage, she says, should not be the norm, but a rarity. So relax all you frustrated mothers – there is an alternative to the pain and anguish of incorrect breastfeeding methods.