Dossier: Our baby

Breastfeeding A-Z

Many people imagine you simply hold your baby to your breast and that’s all there is to it. It may seem like the most natural and simplest thing in the world, but many women experience problems breastfeeding. Tips from a lactation consultant.

Text: Katharina Rilling; photo: Unsplash

When your cracked nipples are aching, your baby is screaming instead of drinking peacefully or you’ve been pumping for 45 minutes for just a thimbleful of milk even though your t-shirts are always soaked through, breastfeeding, dubbed “the most natural thing in the world”, seems anything but easy. First-time mums in particular are often unprepared for the fact that breastfeeding needs a little practice and a lot of patience. “It’s important for women to be aware that breastfeeding isn’t a breeze from the word go. In my experience, it’s the exception rather than the rule that breastfeeding runs like clockwork straight after the birth. It’s just that no one talks about it,” says Doris Keller, a midwife and certified lactation consultant from Altendorf. “It can take two to three weeks, sometimes even longer, for mum and baby to work well together as a team.”

The most important thing to get right is the positioning. Holding the baby wrong can often lead to irritation of the tissue, which can cause sore and inflamed nipples. And the baby quickly gets frustrated. In the beginning the mum may also have too much or too little milk or suffer from painful engorgement of the breasts. Unfortunately, says Keller, many mums then reproach themselves because they feel they’re doing something wrong – a vicious circle, because stress makes it harder to nurse successfully. It is not uncommon for mothers to give up after a few frustrating days or weeks and turn to bottles instead.

Benefits of breastfeeding

It’s worth sticking at it, because mother’s milk is best for a baby. If the infant is healthy, he needs only breast milk for the first six months. It not only supplies him with fluids and important nutrients, but also provides the child with the mother’s immune substances and antibodies, thus protecting him from disease. Breast milk even adapts to the baby’s requirements. For example, the milk composition differs for boys and girls and for newborn and older babies. Breastfeeding is also good for new mums, because the breastfeeding hormones promote the retraction of the uterus, which reduces the risk of bleeding after the birth. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer.

“Most women in Switzerland are familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding. And that’s good. Unfortunately, this also increases the pressure on every mother, who naturally only wants the best for her child,” says Keller. But what if it doesn’t work or the woman doesn’t want to breastfeed? “At the end of the day, it’s up to the mum. She has to feel good. If she says: It’s better for me not to breastfeed, then it’s her right to stop.– Nobody has the right to judge or condemn her for making this decision,” says Keller.

Tips from the lactation consultant

Before the birth: get to know your breastsn

“I advise women to gently massage their breasts once a day from the 37th week of pregnancy. This familiarises them with the sensation, gets rid of any inhibitions and prepares the tissue for breastfeeding.”

For a successful start: get help

“Many women have the child laid on their breast straight after birth – and that’s good. However, during the rest of their time in hospital, they’re usually left to their own devices. But it’s crucial to get off to a good start, so get advice from a nurse or lactation consultant – and let go of any inhibitions you may have. Is the baby positioned correctly? Are you comfortable? Is the baby really hungry? Get an expert to teach you the different positions and techniques you can use so that the nipple tissue doesn’t get sore.

In the first few weeks: Don’t give up

Even though it may not be easy right now, remind yourself that breastfeeding is healthy, practical and cost-effective. Keep going for two to three weeks and keep trying. In most cases, breastfeeding works much better once you get used to it. This “investment” will pay dividends later. Ideally, you should be able to breastfeed exclusively for around six months and then keep going for as long as you and your baby are happy to do so.

The mantra: keep calm

Of course, it’s easier said than done, – but don’t drive yourself crazy with worry. Stress has a negative impact on your milk “coming in” and milk production. Trust in your abilities and those of your baby: You’re just getting to know each other and can do it together! Remember that you’re not the only one to struggle with breastfeeding, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum.

If your baby cries while breastfeeding, don’t force it on the breast. Keep calm and try a change of scene. If possible, hand the baby over to your partner, have a break and try again later.

Are you worried your baby isn’t getting enough to drink? Do you have too much or too little milk? You’ll find answers to frequently asked questions here.

For the partner: you’re up

It’s very important that your partner and friends have a positive attitude to breastfeeding and don’t see the child as a rival. Ensure that the mother is relaxed while breastfeeding, make sure that she gets enough water and snacks. Breastfeeding makes mum hungry and thirsty. It is also crucial that the new mother can concentrate fully on the baby at the beginning without having to have a guilty conscience. Caring for a newborn baby is a 24/7 task that can’t simply be “done” on the side.

Back to work: know your rights

You’re due to return to work soon, but want to keep breastfeeding? Talk to your supervisor. From paid nursing breaks to a quiet room – what can you expect from them? Does the company have a women- and family-friendly climate? Find out what your rights are at your place of work. You’ll find more information here.

And remember to prepare your child and your body for the new situation in good time. Pumping and bottle-feeding should be practised a few times to establish a good routine. This reduces the pressure you may have put on yourself.

And finally: don’t worry about what others think!

It’s up to you what you decide to do. Even if you need to provide extra milk or have to or want to stop breastfeeding: you are the perfect mother for your child. The most important thing is that you provide your child with love and security.

On the other hand, it is also perfectly okay to breastfeed in public. On Mamamap you’ll find places where you’re welcome to breastfeed your child when you’re on the move.

Formula: alternative to breastfeeding

The formula brands available in stores today are strictly controlled and therefore safe for babies. All the different makes of formula are very similar in their composition. The brand you choose depends primarily on your priorities: Do you want formula made in Switzerland? Should it be organic with ecological packaging? It’s also important that the milk doesn’t have too many calories and that it’s readily available in case you suddenly run out and need to buy more at short notice.