I have been offered two antenatal classes by the NHS and the first one was on breastfeeding. The second one in just over a week is on the labour itself and they both run for two and a half hours.
Apart from being told that breastfeeding is a good thing I wasn’t sure with what they could fill up two and a half hours but I was definitely going. There were over 20 of us expectant mothers with different shaped and sized bellies. I ended up sitting next to a woman with the exact same due date as mine, February 2nd.
The first thing we did was go around the room and say what we would like our baby to inherit. Some people said patience, love of life, love of socialising, sense of humour, I said my love of running with the thought that it encompassed perseverance, dedication, a healthy lifestyle (perhaps) and being ok with solitude. We’ll see, of course.
We were then told about the inner workings of the breast and about how the milk is produced with the beginnings set off by the chemicals prolactin and oxytocin.
We were encouraged to feed the baby when he/she wants, for as long as they want or whenever we want to feed him/her. Crying is the last clue a baby will give when it wants to eat so some of the cues are as follows:
- Smacking their lips
- Sucking on fingers or fists
- Rooting (head bobbing)
- Stirring and appearing restless
- Moving lips in a sucking motion
- Rapid eye movement before waking up
When you see these cues offer your baby a feed. Frequent feeding during the first few days is normal and helps with the establishment of feeding.
Benefits of breastfeeding
When you breastfeed the baby has:
- Less risk of gastroenteritis
- Less risk of chest infections
- Less risk of urine infections
- Less risk of being obese
- Higher IQ
- Better eyesight
- Better dental health
If you give artificial milk (infant formula) your baby has increased risk of:
- Allergies e.g. eczema and asthma
- Childhood diabetes
There are also benefits for the mother
- Reduced risk of ovarian cancer
- Reduced risk of breast cancer
- Reduced risk of hip fractures in later life
- Less risk of excessive blood loss after birth
- The hormones help you get mothering off to a good start
- Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a family history of diabetes or if you have diabetes in pregnancy
Skills for breastfeeding were introduced as tips on how to hold the baby, how to help the baby feed and how the mother’s position could be made as comfortable as possible.
Baby should not be given milk from a bottle for the first few weeks because giving bottles leads to less needing to be sucked at the breast and it gives the message to your body not to make much milk. No one should offer bottles of formula, water or glucose to a breastfeeding mum and baby, except for a clear medical reason.
There is a lot of information out there so please check out the NHS pages as well.
One of the last parts was a little test where we answered true or false to questions about the session. One of them was that fathers can’t help with breastfeeding but of course this was false as they can support mum in the process. Then the midwife looked at me and changed the wording to birth partners or anyone that is helping out, ‘it need not be the father’ she added. Very true.