Breastfeeding – Breast Milk, Let Down, and Early Feedings

Posted by on Nov 22, 2009 in Breast Feeding - Before Delivery | 0 comments

Breastfeeding – Breast Milk, Let Down, and Early Feedings

The first substance your baby will ingest during breastfeeding is colostrum. This thick substance is full of nutrition and antibodies, and will give baby all he or she needs in the first days. However, after day three or four, colostrum will turn into breast milk. When that happens, you will experience what is called let down. This is when the breast become full of milk or engorged. This is when baby will get more from mom’s breast and will start eating more each day and gaining weight. Let down is critical, but can also be a bit painful for Mom and can come with a few common breastfeeding worries.

Let Down and Feeding Frequency

When you experience let down, you may wonder when you should be feeding. Up until that point, baby should be getting colostrum every two hours (12 short feedings a day). However, at this point, baby has a bigger stomach and can take in more milk. According the the La Leche League, feeding frequency should be kept up when let down of milk occurs. Babies will eat more and will get more from the breast. However, it is also noted that babies are all different and feeding schedules may vary. If your baby is gaining properly, you are doing just fine even if your feeding schedule ends up being a bit different than suggested.

Feeding should change a bit after let down in one key way. When baby is getting colostrum, Tracy Hogg the Baby Whisperer suggests five minutes on each breast for each feeding. That changes somewhat after the breast milk has come in and the mom experiences let down. “Once your milk comes in, do single side feedings,” she suggests. She disagrees with other experts that say to switch breasts every ten minutes. In emptying one breast before going to the other, baby gets the full range of the breast milk. The first part of the breast is what she calls a quencher and the rest is fuller and has more nutritional value. If you switch too soon, baby is not getting the good stuff as needed.

It can be hard to keep some babies on a schedule as some babies have their own ideas. There are some that thrive through on-demand feedings. This means you feed them when they want to eat, and you don’t worry too much about time as long as they are healthy and gaining weight. While eating and nutrition are the main reasons for breastfeeding your baby, suckling is also very calming to them. If they are upset or feeling stressed, feeding will soothe them. It also makes baby feel closer to Mom.

Breastfeeding Concerns

Some women worry, as they go through the months of breastfeeding, that they are holding their babies too much. This is not possible and your baby will not be spoiled. Babies that are held and have constant contact with Mom (and Dad) are going to thrive and feel more secure. They crave the feeling of being held and form a great bond with parents this way. It is impossible to spoil a child of this age. In fact, the closeness, constant attention and bonding that comes with breastfeeding will actually help a child be more independent and secure in the future. This is just another benefit of breastfeeding.

Keeping up with any breastfeeding schedule can be difficult for any new Mom. Dads that assist can be worn out as well. This is why many parents consider using a bassinet or co-sleeper (this attaches to the side of parents bed) to keep baby very close at hand. That means less time getting up and walking to and from the nursery. One great benefit of nursing is that you do not have to heat or mix bottles of formula, so a baby close at hand can start feeding right away when they wake in the night. This affords parents some peace in knowing baby is right there and that feedings can be done without getting out of bed.

If you are one of the women out there that struggles with breastfeeding for any reason (rest assured you are not alone), Heidi Murkoff author of the What To Expect series has this to say, “Breastfeeding — whether you nurse exclusively or supplement with formula, whether you quit by the third month or keep going strong well into your baby’s toddlerhood — will become second nature. And since breast milk is nature’s first and most perfect food, you’ll be giving your baby a head start on a healthy future.”

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