3 Essential Tips That Every New Breastfeeding Mother Should Know 

Breastfeeding benefits mothers and babies, but it takes time to get used to the process. Learn essential tips every breastfeeding mother should know.

Asian mother breastfeeding her newborn in the bedroom while sitting on the bed

It is well-known that breastmilk is the ideal food for infants, especially during their first week after birth. Breast milk is rich in colostrum that contains high levels of antibodies to fight off infections. In addition, it promotes healthier body and brain development in babies as they grow older. However, the advantages of breastfeeding also extend to the mother. 

Read on to learn the health benefits of breastfeeding and the 3 essential tips to ensure a smooth breastfeeding experience. 

Breastfeeding for a Healthy Mother 

Breastfeeding provides short-term and long-term health benefits to mothers. Apart from aiding in postpartum recovery, breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of several illnesses, such as ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancer, later in life. 

Postpartum recovery  

At the onset of suckling, other types of breast stimulation or skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, oxytocin levels in mothers will increase. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes the release of prolactin, another hormone that triggers milk production. Oxytocin is known to have anti-stress effects that can help to prevent postpartum depression. In addition, it can hasten the contraction of the mother’s uterus to reduce post-delivery blood loss. 

On top of the benefits of oxytocin, nursing can burn up to 500 calories a day, enabling mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. Exclusive breastfeeding also delays menstruation, which prevents the loss of iron during the menstrual period and has birth control effects. 

Health benefits later in life  

Nursing is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of invasive ovarian cancer, including the most lethal type of ovarian cancer. In Malaysia, ever breastfed and longer breastfeeding duration was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of osteoporotic hip fractures. Studies in women aged 45 years and above have collectively shown that the incidence of osteoporotic hip fracture decreased with increased breastfeeding time. 

If you would like to reap these health benefits, you will have to go through the process of breastfeeding your child, which may not be as straightforward as it seems. For new mums, fret not, as we will next share some tips on how you can cope with nursing woes.

Chicken soup with American ginseng, longan and goji berries served in a white bowl
Nourishing soups with traditional Chinese herbs can help to increase the quantity and quality of breast milk.

Breastfeeding Mother and Traditional Chinese Medicine 

According to physician Lin Jia Yi, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and Associate Senior Physician at Eu Yan Sang, “TCM believes that a mother’s breast milk is the most natural and the best food for the newborn child.” She explains that new mothers lose a lot of qi and blood during labour. Their spleen and kidney are also weakened after delivery. Therefore, it is important for new mothers to rest and eat well during confinement to regain their strength and health. 

In addition, TCM believes that a mothers’ qi and blood produce breast milk. To produce a good supply of breast milk for their newborn, mothers will need sufficient nourishment to replenish their qi and blood.

The following are the 3 essential tips that physician Lin would like to share with new breastfeeding mums. 

Nutrition is key 

To increase breast milk supply, physician Lin recommends mothers to drink clear and nourishing soups cooked with meats such as crucian carp, pork rib, pork trotter and chicken. Mothers should consume both the meat and the soup to get better nourishment. 

For mums who want to increase their breast milk quality and quantity using herbs, physician Lin shares that American ginseng, codonopsis, astragalus, longan, red dates, Chinese angelica and goji berries are commonly used to replenish qi and blood. You can boil these herbs into tea or soups. If the milk supply is low due to blocked milk ducts, mums can seek treatment from a registered TCM practitioner. 

When consuming these herbs, avoid cold, raw, spicy and fried foods. They “may cause stomach discomfort and change their babies’ bowel movements. It is recommended to keep a two-hour interval between the consumption of TCM and Western medication or supplements,” she suggests. 

Physician Lin adds, “Every mother’s constitution and the condition is different. Taking TCM remedies can help resolve the problem, but a proper assessment of the body constitution needs to be made before a TCM practitioner can prescribe the correct herbs.” 

Be patient

Hungry Asian baby sucking fingers while looking up to the camera
Fist on the mouth and thumb sucking are signs that your baby is hungry. Be patient and look out for these signs.

For new mothers, physician Lin shares that “It’s normal that newborn babies don’t drink much milk in the first few days of life. Babies aren’t born hungry (though they will want to suck), and they almost always lose some weight during the first three to four days of life. A small amount of colostrum will satisfy a healthy full-term baby’s need for liquid for the first two days. True hunger usually arrives on day three or four, around the time when milk production kicks in.” 

She recommends new mothers let their baby’s natural responses unfold in their time and pay attention to the baby’s signals and their sensations to latch on for milk and practices. “A lactation consultant and the nurses in the hospital will also show you how to nurse your baby and provide assistance. Ask questions and seek clarifications when in doubt,” she advises. 

“Emotionally, you may feel less than confident when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s perfectly normal. It takes time for you and your baby to figure out how to do it right. Learn to enjoy the process while bonding with your baby,” she reassures.

Selfcare is important 

Physician Lin emphasizes the importance of self-care. New mothers require lots of rest and will need the help and support of family members. “Sleep when your baby sleeps (both day and night), to get as much rest as possible,” she advises. 

Mothers may face common issues during the breastfeeding journey such as engorgement, milk blebs (due to improper latch), sore and cracked nipples, plugged milk duct, and mastitis (breast tissue inflammation). Physician Lin reminds mums, “Don’t panic. Seek help from the professionals.” 

Breastfeeding benefits both the baby and the mother. However, it takes time for every new breastfeeding mum and her child to get used to the process. To ensure that the baby receives ample nutrients, mothers should eat well, be patient and most importantly, practice self-care. If you are currently facing any issues while breastfeeding, don’t worry, you are not alone. You can consult with your lactation consultant or TCM practitioner for professional advice, or you can opt for other infant feeding choices, such as formula. Try not to beat yourself up, and remember, good parenting is more than breastfeeding.

References

  1. Eu Yan Sang.Milking the benefits. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  2. PLOS ONE. Maternal plasma levels of oxytocin during breastfeeding—A systematic review. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  3. American Journal of Food Science and Health. Making the decision to breastfeed the baby and its advantages for the women’s health. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  4. JAMA Oncology. Association between breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  5. PLOS ONE. A case-control study of breast cancer risk factors in 7,663 women in Malaysia. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  6. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. Association between breastfeeding and osteoporotic hip fracture in women: a dose-response meta-analysis. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  7. Eu Yan Sang.TCM views on breastfeeding. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  8. Eu Yan Sang.Breastfeeding wellness. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 
  9. Family Doctor.Breastfeeding: Hints to Help You Get Off to a Good Start. [Accessed on 1 September 2021] 

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