Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Breast Feeding 101

On Monday night, Dan and I had the last of our pre natal classes - the breast feeding class.  With all of the recent developments in my pregnancy and the possibility that Baby Geronimina could be here much sooner than anticipated, I've focused my worries (sigh) towards parenting.  I have always been around children, and I'm great with babies.  I grew up nannying and babysitting.  But obviously, I've never had one of my own, so I've been worried that I won't know what to do.  Sure, I've been reading a lot of books, and talking to girlfriends, etc.  The general consensus is that no one really knows what they're doing, you  just do what feels natural to you, and luckily we have an amazing support system with lots of help, love and advice.  But still.  My control freak nature does not like the unknown.  Anyway, so I was really excited about this breast feeding class because the other day all of my worries about parenting made me think to myself, I don't even know how often you're supposed to feed a baby.  Do you start them off on a schedule?  How do you know if they're getting enough food?  Will it hurt?  Luckily for me, between my bestie answering a lot of questions and this class being amazing, I am feeling a lot better about things.  :-)

Our instructor was very nice and very well-informed.  She is a lactation consultant and actually works at Rex, so you never know, we could see her when we deliver.  I don't really have any funny Dan stories to report, sadly.  He did giggle the first few times she said "nipple" and also when she started talking about how the baby should have a "mouth full."  And he was super excited that there's a feeding position called the "football hold." Other than that, he was pretty tame for once.

I do realize that breast feeding is not for everyone, so before I continue this post I should probably preface it with this: I would never judge anyone for their choices, especially for choosing not to breast feed.  I think that it is a very personal choice, and while I realize that it's not for everyone, I am hopeful that it will work for us. 

We spent the first part of the class discussing the benefits of breastfeeding, a few of which are:
  • convenience
  • economical
  • helpful with weight loss (vain, I know, but true)
  • studies show that breastfed babies have less gastrointestinal disturbances, ear infections and allergies
  • breast milk is filled with antibodies that protect against infection
There are many more benefits, but those are the highlights. We then talked about the different types of breastmilk and how it evolves the longer you breastfeed.  One of the fun facts we learned is that a newborn's stomach is the size of a small marble, so you don't produce a ton of milk at first, but it's okay because the baby's stomach can only hold about 5-7cc.  From 7-10 days, her stomach will increase to the size of a golf ball and be able to hold 1.5-2 ounces.  Nifty, yes?

We then talked about positions for breastfeeding.  When I think of breastfeeding, I really only ever think of one way to hold the baby - cradling her in your arms.  I think maybe because it's what you normally see? But there are actually four different ways you can hold the baby to breastfeed.  Who knew? 
Our instructor also told us that when doing any of the above holds, it's important to not put your index behind the baby's head, which is what a lot of people do because it feels natural.  Instead, you should focus on supporting her neck with your hand in  "c" shape.  Her head is sensitive after being born, and the index finger on the back of it can make her uncomfortable should it hit a tender or bruised spot. 

We talked about proper latching, and learned about some signs that the baby has latched on properly:
  • All of the nipple and as much of the areola as possible is in baby's mouth.
  • Lips flanged or turned out.
  • Tongue over lower gum.
  • Baby stays on breast.
  • Absence of pain.
  • Seeing milk transfer or hearing swallowing.
Also, another fun fact: everyone probably knows that you are supposed to burp a baby.  When breastfeeding, you should burp between breasts.  However, especially during the first few days when the baby is just getting colostrum, she might not burp - which is ok.  Glad they said that, because I could totally see myself calling the doctor.  "My baby isn't burping, is there something wrong with her stomach?!"

The final phase of the class touched on how to know if baby is getting enough food and how often to feed.  One thing she said that I didn't know was that once breastfeeding is established, the best way to ensure a good milk supply is by allowing the baby to determine the frequency and duration of breastfeeding sessions - that way, your body knows how much to produce.  Basically, the instructor said that for the first one to two weeks, it's best to feed her whenever she starts making signs of hunger (sucking on tongue or lips during sleep, sucking on fingers, turning head from side to side, etc.).  She also said that in the early days, the baby tends not to request feeds often enough because she will be so tired from the birthing process, so she should be woken at least every 2.5 hours to be fed.  Finally, I'll know she's full by her feedings (she should have no  more than one 4-5 hour stretch at night in the early weeks), diapers, stool changes, and weight gain.

There was so much detail to this class (nipple care among other things), and I won't bore you with it because I'm sure a lot of you are non-pregnant readers, but I am really so glad we went.  We got some excellent tips and advice and it was really a good learning experience.  We will have more help, of course, should we need it, in the form of the lactation consultant on duty when we have the baby.  And then after that, Rex has a lactation hotline we can call at any time.  Additionally, all of the pediatricians that we're interviewing over the next couple of weeks (time to get on that, I guess - ha!) have lactation consultants on staff. 

One thing that she didn't talk about as much which I was hoping she would touch on is pumping, but I can ask about that when the time comes.  Additionally, I found out that Rex offers a class for Moms returning to work and pumping, so I will more than likely sign up for that as well.

Hope your hump day was fab and that you weren't too bored by this post - for me, it was exciting stuff!  Up tomorrow: sweet gift from my sweet Daddy.  :-)

S

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