By Pam Noonan, RNC-OB, C-EFM, BSN, MS, Perinatal Nurse ClinicianChoosing to breastfeed means you are choosing the best food possible food for your baby. Human milk provides virtually all the protein, and other nutrients your baby needs to be healthy. It also contains substances that protect your baby against a wide variety of diseases and infections (formula does not have these properties). If that’s not enough, your milk is always ready, custom made for your baby, at the right temperature, and comes in cute packages.
Taking care of a baby is a 24 hour a day job. You have a lot to do, so when it comes time to feed your baby, take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy this time. While it’s important to make breastfeeding a time for you and your baby, there are things that you can do while breastfeeding and still be engaged with your baby. Here are some examples:
1. Talk or sing to your baby Your baby has been listening to your voice for the past few months inside the womb. So, to a baby, mommy’s voice is the most beautiful sound in the world, no matter what wrong notes you hit. Go ahead and sing any song or rap a few bars to your baby (you can even make it up as you go along). Or talk about your day, read out loud from a book, or share your hopes and dreams for the future. (Your partner or other children can do this, too.) Even when your baby is just a newborn, you’re teaching him or her important language skills every time you speak or sing. If your baby is eating, why shouldn’t Mom grab a bite too? While some new moms may get extra hungry, other moms may not. You are unique and your needs are different from anyone else. Be sure to eat a variety of healthy foods. Most women have varied caloric needs (between 300 to 500 extra calories a day) based on size, activity level and age. Special diets or foods are not needed. If you are eating a meal with the family while breastfeeding, have another family member help prepare your plate since you will have one hand free to feed yourself and the other hand occupied supporting the baby. If you have a snack while breastfeeding, make choices that you can eat with one hand! It is important to stay hydrated. Keep a glass or bottle of water right next to your snack plate. Other beverages are okay, but use water as the main beverage. Don’t wait to feel thirsty before taking a drink. Try sipping on water with lemon or orange slices to stave off thirst. Dehydration may affect milk production. What better way to keep your family involved and supportive of your breastfeeding efforts than to have them around during baby’s feeding time? It’s perfectly fine to interact with others while you breastfeed; it’s actually a good time to get the baby involved with family time. For example, younger children can catch some equal snuggle time. This is a good time to allow younger children hold the book while you read aloud, or let school age children read to you and the baby. Breastfeeding during family time allows your baby to hear everyone’s voice, and start to get to know others in the family. Just be sure to give the baby plenty of attention with eye contact, warm and tender touch, and soft talking. 5. Catch up with your girlfriends This works just the same as family time. Your friends might be trying to give you some space, knowing that your spare time is essentially nonexistent. But good friends want to see you and your baby, just as much as you want to see them! You can let them know when you’re ready for company. Breastfeeding while a friend visits is really no different than breastfeeding with the family around, as long as you’re comfortable. Having a friend over for a visit to see you and the baby is a great way to do something for yourself. Be sure to give the baby plenty of attention with eye contact, warm and tender touch, and soft talking. Save text messaging, emailing, and Facebook status updates for another time. Remember, this is mealtime for the baby, so harsh or loud voices, excessive movement such as rocking or bouncing, or any other type of over stimulation may be disruptive to baby’s mealtime. Whether you have an e-reader, read online, or read in print, breastfeeding can be a time for catching up on what’s going on in the world or just reading for pleasure. If you read during breastfeeding, be sure to give the baby plenty of attention with eye contact, warm and tender touch, and soft talking. Reading aloud allows your baby to hear your voice and begin to learn the intricacies of language. Save catching up on email and Facebook for another time. 7. & 8. Listen to an audio book or watch TV Not the book reading type? Check out your local library or search online for a large selection of audio books. Your hands can remain free, and it’s a great way for your baby to be exposed to a larger vocabulary. This goes for watching television too. Try to keep the sound at a reasonable level that is not too intrusive to the baby. For instance, a musical might be better than a war movie! Be sure to give the baby plenty of attention with eye contact, warm and tender touch, and soft talking. Remember, this is mealtime for the baby, so harsh or loud voices, excessive movement such as rocking or bouncing, or any other type of over stimulation may be disruptive to baby’s mealtime. Great news for music fans: It’s always good to expose your baby to all sorts of music, from Stevie Wonder to 9th Wonder. You may be surprised what songs your baby responds to. Music has been known to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and lift your spirits. Since it is mealtime, try to keep from over stimulating your baby with motion and loud or discordant noise. 10. Give yourself a pat on the back When breastfeeding, you are your baby’s unique, one of a kind food source. You can do it sitting, lying or standing. It can be just the two of you, the whole family, or visiting with a friend. You can read, watch TV, listen to music, and take your meal at the same time. No one can do for your baby, what you can. Whatever else you do while breastfeeding, be sure to enjoy the physical closeness, as you look in to your baby’s eyes, and your baby responds to the warmth of your touch and the sound of your voice. Be proud of yourself, you are indeed awesome. At Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion we provide support, information and all the assistance you need to breastfeed your baby. In addition to having international board-certified lactation consultants on staff, each of our maternal/infant nurses is trained to help new moms get started. Plus we offer classes in breastfeeding basics. Read the answers to frequently asked questions, and browse our breastfeeding resources at gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/lactation.