Mother’s Own – Ensure that your baby gets it!

By Louise Goosen – Internationally Certified Lactation Consultant

So much has been written about breastfeeding but do we really appreciate what this wonder food does for our babies? Did you know for instance, that the unique first milk (colostrum) is referred to as a baby’s first immunization? It is most effective when your baby gets no other milk or water – only his mother’s colostrum.

Most healthy newborns are awake for the first 2 hours after birth. Should your baby be very sleepy, some of your colostrum can still give him the best start possible. You can achieve this by expressing a few drops of colostrum on a teaspoon and giving it to your baby. Continue doing this every hour or two until he is ready to breastfeed.

Some suggestions

  • Practice expressing once you are over 37 weeks pregnant. You may see nothing, a drop or two or more – it is all normal.
  • Pack a clean teaspoon into your hospital bag – it need not be sterile for a healthy full term baby.

Should your newborn be too sick, premature or of low birth weight there is even more reason to provide him with the best nutrition possible. Your baby might not be ready to take anything for a day or two but don’t delay expressing. To ensure a good milk supply express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours.

More suggestions

  • Express by hand for the first day or two even if you own a breast pump. The first few precious drops or teaspoons-full of colostrum will otherwise be lost in your pump. By hand expressing you could collect this colostrum in a sterile teaspoon or small syringe, ready to feed to you baby.
  • Once your milk supply has increased, you could purchase a pump. The type may depend on how long it will be before your baby is able to breastfeed.
  • For short term expressing a hand pump may be all you need. It is however essential that you purchase your own new pump and not borrow or buy a second hand one. Plenty are available priced at less than the cost of 6 weeks supply of formula.
  • For longer term use you may want to consider a portable electric breast pump. As these pump motors are not sealed, it is possible for milk to enter the motor. These pumps are also strictly for individual use and should not be shared, hired or bought second-hand.

Many hospitals have multi-user electric pumps (Medela Lactina and Symphony). It is essential however that you purchase your own kit (consisting of connections, tubing and containers) to use with it. This kit can also be used on it’s own as a hand pump. It is worth buying your own even if you are offered the option of a kit that has been autoclaved.

(In the ‘Breastmilk Protocol for Premature and Sick Babies in Hospitals and Clinics of April 2002’ Prof G. Kirsten Head of Neonatology, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Tygerberg Hospital and Prof M. Cotton, Paediatric Infection Specialist Tygerberg Hospital, insist, that individual user breast pumps or their attachments cannot be shared under any circumstances.)

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