Breast Milk. Breast milk is easily processed by the infant’s
digestive system and helps to prevent allergies. Unlike cow’s milk,
breast milk leaves an acid residue in the bowel and prevents the growth
of harmful bacteria. Breastfed babies usually do not suffer from
constipation, provided there is an adequate supply of milk. For the
first few weeks, bowel movements may be frequent, but these may
decrease to two dirty diapers a day.
Although initially some women may experience discomfort, most
women find breast-feeding a pleasure once it is established.
Emotionally, it ensures a closer bond with the baby; physically, it
helps the womb to return more quickly to its normal size. Successful
breast-feeding depends on the mother’s attitude; prenatal preparation
of the breasts and nipples and their postnatal care; a good, balanced
diet, with plenty of fluids; rest; and patience.
Prenatal Breast Care. A well-fitting bra should be worn both day
and night from the seventh month of pregnancy onward. Starting at that
time the nipples should be washed well each day and gently rubbed with
a towel after a bath. Some physicians advice applying a bland ointment.
Flat nipples should be drawn out and rolled between thumb and
forefinger. At about the eighth month, the breasts should be gently
massaged, and a little colostrum should be pressed from each nipple.
This helps to open the milk ducts.
Women with inverted nipples can wear devices popularly known as
“shells” inside their bras during the last three months of pregnancy.
If no improvement takes place, a natural nursing nipple shield is
helpful when nursing.
Breast-feeding. Before putting the baby to the breast, clean the
breast with a cotton swab dipped in warm water to remove any ointment.
Start each feeding on the side opposite the last.
After the feeding, wipe the nipples with cotton dipped in warm
water and apply an ointment or spray. Try to avoid using
plastic-backed, milk-retaining pads inside the bra because they can
make the nipples sore.
The First Week. Patience and perseverance are needed during the
first week of breast-feeding when difficulties may arise. Nursing
mothers should be aware that it may require a few weeks to establish a
steady milk supply.
In the first two to three days the baby sucks colostrum. At this
stage the mother does not experience much change in her breasts.
Usually between the third and fifth day milk comes in and, as the
breasts enlarge, there may be some discomfort or even pain. Should the
milk come in with a rush, the baby should be allowed to nurse
frequently; this will prevent engorged breasts. Different babies have
different needs, and you will have to work out the best schedule for
your baby by trial and error.