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"You'll feel more thirsty than you've ever felt before." 6 things no one tells you about breastfeeding.

Although it's World Breastfeeding Week, there are still a lot of unknowns about the art of breastfeeding. And it is an art that takes time, patience and significant support to get right.

Breastfeeding (or chestfeeding) may be the next natural step after birth but that doesn't mean it's easy nor is there a step-by-step failsafe guide.

It takes weeks, or months, to establish a good breastfeeding rhythm with your baby and to feel like you really know what you're doing. 

Watch: Sometimes the simplest things in life are the hardest to explain, like nipples. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

If you're currently pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding, here's six interesting insights that you might not know.

1. Your baby's saliva is a silent messenger service.

It's one of the most magical things I've ever heard about breastfeeding and it never fails to amaze me. 

Your baby - for the entire time they feed, whether it's two months or two years - communicates with your body via their saliva. 

When your baby latches, their saliva enters your body through the nipple and tells your body exactly what it needs.

Subsequently, the composition of breastmilk changes in response to your baby's saliva. If pathogens are detected, your body creates antibodies to fight the infection and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into your baby. 

The same goes for nutritional composition. Breastmilk changes every day, according to the specific, individual needs of your baby. 

Your breastmilk is an ever changing, bespoke recipe that's guided by your baby's nutritional and immunological needs and isn't that astounding? It's a living substance that contains live cells, including stem cells!

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2. You can antenatally express colostrum aka liquid gold.

Colostrum is the first milk your body produces - your body makes it from 16 weeks pregnant - and it's a yellowish, thick milk often referred to as "liquid gold". Why? It contains one to five million white blood cells per millilitre. That's roughly 100 times more than what your blood carries! Its immune-fighting potency cannot be underestimated.

What many pregnant women don't know is that you can safely express colostrum before you birth your baby. You should always check with your care provider as it's not recommended for some women with specific health or pregnancy concerns but generally speaking, it's safe to do it from 37 weeks. 

Storing colostrum in a small syringe and then freezing it is recommended. And then? Take it to the hospital or birth centre with you (with your name and date on each syringe) and you can use it after your baby is born. 

It's especially helpful if you’ve had a caesarean birth, if your baby is exhausted and won't latch, or if for any reason you're finding it difficult to feed. 

You or your birth partner can easily feed your baby colostrum straight from the syringe; it's full of antibodies, it's easy to digest and it helps your baby pass their first poo (the sticky, tar-like substance known as meconium). 

And if you've got some leftovers? Freeze it for when your baby is sick and needs a bit of a boost to their immune system. 

3. Cluster feeding is totally normal and expected. It's actually a really healthy sign that your baby is doing all the right things! 

There's so much about the early days of parenthood that many of us do not know about. And it makes sense; the early postpartum period plays out behind closed doors. We are rarely privy to the overwhelm, exhaustion and heady love of the newborn phase. 

A really common part of the early breastfeeding experience is cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is when your baby is simply bunching a lot of feeds together in a short period of time and they may do it around times of illness and developmental leaps, too. 

Your baby cluster feeds for two main reasons:

  • To stimulate the brain to release prolactin, the hormone that’s responsible for milk production. Your prolactin levels are highest at night and in the early hours of the morning, hence they gradually decline throughout the day. By late afternoon and early evening, your prolactin levels may have lowered enough to slow your milk production. Every time your baby feeds, it drain prolactin from the breast which encourages your brain to release more, hence why your baby typically cluster feeds in the early evening.
  • Your baby feeding is a crucial part of the milk production process! More feeds = more milk, hence cluster feeding is an efficient way for your baby to build your milk supply, fill their belly and eventually stretch out the time between feeds.

4. Breastfeeding relaxes you and your baby with a big rush of oxytocin (that yummy love hormone). 

Your pituitary gland produces oxytocin in the brain and it plays a really pivotal role in labour, birth and breastfeeding. It's often referred to as the "love hormone" because it encourages us to bond, trust and love.

Oxytocin is released as soon as your baby latches and it widens the milk ducts which makes it easier for the milk to flow down them. This is known as the "let-down reflex" and it feels like a tingling sensation in your breasts and nipples. 

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This let-down may occur if you simply think about your baby or hear them cry; that's the power of oxytocin, the love hormone, and its strong connection to breastfeeding.

Listen to this episode of Mamamia Out Loud where the hosts discuss the term chestfeeding. Post continues after podcast.


5. Breastfeeding can make you feel more thirsty than you've ever felt before.

Oxytocin, that hormone that your body releases during breastfeeding, triggers your thirst. It's like your body giving you a big, friendly reminder that in order to continue making milk, you need to stay well hydrated. This means drinking a good two to three litres of water a day. Always keep a water bottle beside your bed and next to the lounge.

6. You can prepare to breastfeed.

There's so much you can learn about breastfeeding before you have your baby and it's for this exact reason that I created my Breastfeeding Guide. I take you through the intricacies of breastfeeding, including the importance of planning for postpartum, connecting with a lactation consultant, and rallying your support network. I also explain the steps involved in antenatal expressing. Consider it active postpartum prep!

Sophie Walker has a Masters in Public Health, is a mum to three boys, and is the founder and host of Australian Birth Stories podcast that has over eight million downloads and is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives. She also has a range of education resources available, including her online birth preparation course, The Birth Class. Every week on the podcast she shares an interview with a woman who steps into her most vulnerable space to detail all the precious details of her pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Each story is unique, hence the podcast is an amazing education resource for pregnant women, their birth support partners and professionals working in perinatal health.

Did you know we have a whole family focussed community you can join on Facebook for more discussions like this? Join the Mamamia Family Facebook group and follow  Mamamia Family on Instagram and tell us what #parentinglookslike for you!

Feature Image: Getty.

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