Traveller women have always breastfed their babies as it is the best way to bring them on and strengthen them. If you don’t know how you feel about breastfeeding, at least try it. You can always pump your milk and give it to the baby through the bottle. Even a few weeks of breastfeeding will help strengthen your baby.
Benefits for the Baby
- Gives baby healthy start
- Helps protect baby from ear infections
- Easier on the baby’s stomach
Benefits for the Mother
- Helps mother and baby bond
- Easier as you don’t have to wait for bottles to heat
- Help you lose weight after birth
TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING
The midwife will help you with breastfeeding to make sure you are comfortable and the baby is latching on.
BEGINNING TO BREASTFEED
As a Traveller mother, there are three things to keep in mind if you would like to breastfeed your baby.
- Tell your nurse and doctor that you are an Irish Traveller.
The hospital will ask you about your ethnicity or cultural background. It is important to tell them that you are an Irish Traveller. They will then test your baby for a condition called Galactosaemia.Your baby will be tested in the delivery ward before their first feed. A blood sample will be taken from your baby’s foot and sent to the lab for testing.Your baby will be given soya milk until the test comes back clear.
- Tell your nurse that you would like to try breastfeeding.
The test results for Galactosaemia should be ready in 1 to 2 days. Your nurse can help you express your milk and store it while you wait for the test results. This will help in the flow of breastmilk. Your nurse can also help you and your baby have skin-to-skin contact.
- You must wait for the test results to come back before you begin breastfeeding.
If the test comes back negative, your baby doesn’t have the condition, and you can feed your baby whatever you choose, including breastmilk. If your baby’s test results show they have Galactosaemia, there’s no need to worry. You will be referred to a specialist doctor who will advise you on the best way to feed your baby.
WHERE TO GET HELP WITH BREASTFEEDING
- Your midwife, Public Health Nurse, or doctor
- Lactation consultant at your maternity hospital
or HSE online lactation support
- My Child
Information about breastfeeding
Do Travellers breastfeed?
Yes! Traveller women have always breastfed their babies as it is the best way to bring them on and strengthen them.
Although only a small number of Travellers are breastfeeding today, it’s important to get the number of Traveller women breastfeeding back up.
How can I get ready for breastfeeding?
- Talk to your partner, children and others in your home.
- Talk to your Traveller Primary Health Care Worker, doctor, midwife, or Public Health Nurse. Ask them questions during your check-ups.
- Sign-up for the free antenatal classes at your maternity hospital.
- Find a breastfeeding group close to you and go to a session.
- Talk to your midwife or doctor about the Beutler test and how to hand express breast milk.
- Think about doing skin-to-skin right after birth. Speak to your partner about doing it too.
Can I start breastfeeding right away?
The HSE asks that all Traveller women hold off on breastfeeding until the baby is tested for Galactosaemia which is very common among Travellers.
Galactosaemia is when the baby can’t process breast milk or regular baby milk. If the baby tests positive it can be very harmful for their brain, liver and kidney. This is why it is really important to tell the hospital that you are a Traveller at your booking appointment when they ask about your ethnicity or cultural background.
After the baby is born, the midwife or nurse will do a heel prick test, called the Beutler test, on the baby and the results will be sent away. It usually takes 1-2 days for the results to come back. While you wait for the test results, your baby will be given a soya-based milk. Your nurse or midwife will help you to hand express and store your breast milk to have ready for your baby.
It’s also great to do as much skin-to-skin to help you get ready for breastfeeding.
Even if you are not sure that you want to breastfeed you can still express the colostrum and have it ready. Colostrum is very important for babies and protects their system. If the test comes back negative, your baby doesn’t have the condition. You can feed your baby the colostrum and start to breastfeed.
The Beutler test for Galactosaemia came back positive. What should I do?
If your baby’s test results come back positive for Galactosaemia, there is no need to worry.
It’s really important that it is caught early and you and your baby are given the right supports on feeding. Although you won’t be able to breastfeed you can continue to give the baby the soya-based milk to make sure they stay healthy. It’s also important to continue skin-to-skin with your baby.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk that your body makes while you are pregnant.
It is called ‘liquid gold’ as it protects your baby from many diseases and has everything that your baby needs for growing healthy.
When does breast milk come in?
After your baby is born, your body will make breastmilk.
It is lighter in colour and thinner than colostrum. It can take about 3-5 days for this milk to come in.
When should I breastfeed my baby?
The best thing to do is feed your baby whenever they want and for as long as they want. They may be hungry or just need to be held.
How do I know when my baby is hungry?
There are things your baby will do to let you know they are hungry:
- Suck their fingers or fist
- Lick their lips
- Open their mouth and turn their head
- Move to your breast
- Get restless
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
If your baby is making lots of wet and dirty nappies, and is gaining weight after the first 2 weeks, it usually means they are getting enough milk.
Breastfeeding your baby whenever they want will help them get the
milk they need. Babies who are breastfed can’t be overfed. If you’re worried your baby is not getting enough milk, talk to your midwife, doctor, Public Health Nurse or HSE lactation consultant.
What if I don’t have enough milk?
Most women worry that they won’t make enough milk for their baby, but usually this isn’t a problem. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will have.
If you are worried, talk to your midwife, doctor, Public Health Nurse or HSE lactation consultant.
How should I hold my baby while breastfeeding?
There are different ways to hold your baby while you breastfeed. Choose what is most comfortable for you and baby. If you are having issues talk to your Public Health Nurse or HSE lactation consultant.
Should my baby drink from both breasts at each feed?
Yes. At each breastfeed, see if your baby wants to feed from both breasts.
Let your baby feed from one breast for as long as they’d like. Once they are finished with one breast you can take a break, wind them and then offer them the second breast. If they don’t latch on, they’ve probably had enough.
Do breastfed babies need to be winded?
Yes. You can wind your baby after they are finished with the first breast and before you offer them the second breast.
Wind them again when they are finished feeding.
How long does breastfeeding take?
Babies can feed for 5 minutes-40 minutes at each feed.
In the early days babies can feed often but once they come on and get used to it, the quicker they will be. Usually when they are finished they will come off your breast, look sleepy or fall asleep at your breast.
How long do I need to breastfeed for?
Any amount of breast milk is great for your baby. Every drop counts so you can breastfeed for 1 day or years – it’s up to you.
It is recommended that babies only need breast milk for the first 6 months.
Can I breastfeed if my baby is born early?
Yes! If your baby is born early or is unwell breast milk is very important.
In the hospital, you will be encouraged to give your baby breast milk as it will help your baby fight any sickness.
It is also easier to digest than baby milk. Your baby may not be able to breastfeed right away but you can express your milk and it will be given to your baby. Your nurse or midwife will help.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. In the first week of breastfeeding you may feel a bit uncomfortable at the start of the feed. If this is happening, it can help to try a different position or to re-attach your baby.
Some women may experience:
- full breasts that are hard or painful
- sore or cracked nipples
- breasts that are hot and feel like they are burning
- a small lump in the breast
This is not normal, and you should contact your Public Health Nurse, midwife or doctor right away as the issue can be fixed quickly. Don’t wait to see if the pain will go away.
I started to breastfeed in the hospital but now I am home and my nipples are cracked and sore - what should I do?
Before you leave the hospital you will be given numbers of midwives or lactation consultants to call if you have any problems. Ring them if you are worried or have any questions.
You can also talk to your Public Health Nurse who you will see a few days after you come home from the hospital. They can explain how to treat any problems and help you and your baby be more comfortable while breastfeeding.
A breastfeeding support group in your area will also be able to help. You can link in with your local Traveller organisation or Primary Health Care Project for more information.
I need help but it’s the weekend and the services are all closed - what do I do?
There are breastfeeding groups that support women 7 days a week.
If you are worried about your baby, call the out of hours doctor and speak to them. If it is urgent, you can always contact your nearest hospital.
What does expressing mean?
Expressing is when you gently squeeze milk out of your breasts. You can express milk with your hand or use a breast pump. The milk can be given to your baby right away or put in the fridge to give later.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to express your milk:
- To collect breast milk while you wait for the Galactosaemia test results
- You have to be away from your baby
- Someone else is helping with the feeding
- If your breasts feel full and uncomfortable expressing can sometimes help
- To increase your milk supply
- Your baby was born early and not able to breastfeed right away
Can I breastfeed and also use baby milk?
Yes. You can breastfeed and use baby milk at the same time, but it’s recommended that you wait to give a bottle until breastfeeding is part of your daily routine.
This usually takes at least four weeks. The longer you are able to only breastfeed, the better it is for your baby.
When you are ready to start using baby milk it’s best to begin slowly. This will give your body the time it needs to reduce the amount of milk it produces. Your baby will also need time to get used to bottle-feeding, as it’s different to breastfeeding. You can start with one bottle feed a day.
Talk to your Public Health Nurse, midwife or doctor for advice on starting to use baby milk.
You can also express your own milk and feed it to your baby rather than using baby milk.
Do I need to stop breastfeeding if I get sick or have an infection?
No! It is safe to continue breastfeeding for most common illnesses. Talk to your doctor, public health nurse or midwife who will advise you on your illness.
Can I breastfeed if I have an ongoing health issue like asthma or diabetes?
Yes, women with long-term ongoing health issues can breastfeed, including women with asthma or diabetes.
Breastfeeding has been proven to even help lower the chances of your baby having the same condition later in their life.
If I breastfeed, can I take medicine?
Most medicine is fine to take while you are breastfeeding.
Talk to your chemist, doctor or Public Health Nurse about each medicine you take to check that it is okay.
Do I need to be on a special diet if I’m breastfeeding?
No, breastfeeding women don’t need to be on a special diet or cut out any foods like in pregnancy.
You should try to eat healthy foods as much as you can. This will help you get all the things your body needs while you’re breastfeeding.
You might find you are hungry more often, which is normal. Eat 1 or 2 extra snacks every day, like a sandwich, yoghurt or fruit. Drink plenty of water.
Can I drink alcohol if I am breastfeeding?
Yes, you can drink alcohol if you are breastfeeding, but it’s best to drink only a small amount and not very often.
Try to wait until your baby is at least one month old before you drink alcohol as you and your baby are getting used to breastfeeding.
Just like other things you eat and drink, alcohol can get into your breast milk. To avoid getting alcohol into milk, here are some things you can do:
- Feed your baby before drinking alcohol
- Express your milk before drinking alcohol if you plan to have more than two drinks. You can then give your baby the expressed milk while you wait for the alcohol to clear from your body.
- Wait two hours after each drink before you breastfeed again.
Do I need to throw out pumped milk if I am drinking?
No! There’s no need to dump breast milk if you’ve had alcohol. If you are expressing your milk, try to do it before you have a drink, that way you can still give it to your baby.
Can I breastfeed if I’m a smoker?
If you’re finding it hard to stop smoking, still continue to breastfeed as this will protect your baby from infections.
Your baby will be healthier if you stop smoking before you get pregnant, or as soon as you find out you are expecting. If you are not able to quit smoking while you are pregnant you can still stop after your baby is born. This will protect them from health problems.
If you smoke, try to time your cigarettes so that you are smoking right after you breastfeed. Be sure to smoke outside and away from your baby and ask friends and family to do the same. After smoking, brush your teeth, wash your face and arms and remove your jacket and put it away.
Your doctor or midwife can help you make a plan to quit smoking.
You can always link in with your Traveller Primary Health Care Project or local Traveller organisation too or use the HSE QUIT services (Freephone 1800 201 203 or freetext QUIT to 50100).
I’m embarrassed to breastfeed in front of my family. What should I do?
There is no reason to be embarrassed about breastfeeding. Traveller women have always breastfed their babies with the support of their families.
Tell your family why you want to breastfeed. They will get used to you breastfeeding and see that your baby is growing strong and that breastfeeding calms them.
If you are worried about family or friends dropping by, you can keep a breastfeeding shawl or blanket close by. You can also have expressed breast milk in the fridge for when you need it.
What happens if I’m out in public and my baby needs a feed?
Many women worry about breastfeeding in public but it’s good to remember that most people won’t even notice you are breastfeeding or are too busy to pay any attention!
Here are things you can do that might make you more comfortable to breastfeed while away from home:
- Use a shawl or thin blanket over your shoulder.
- Wear a vest top under your t-shirt or jumper so youhave easy access when it comes time to feed.
- If you are at a shopping centre or restaurant you can ask if there is a private feeding area.You can also have a bottle of expressed breast milk ready for your baby.
How can I talk to my other children about breastfeeding?
While you are pregnant, talk to your older children about the new baby and let them know you will be breastfeeding.
This might be new for them, so it’s important to tell them why you’re breastfeeding and that it’s good for the baby. It might help to show them pictures of breastfeeding mothers or use a doll to show how you will feed the new baby.
It’s natural for your children to be curious when they see you breastfeeding. Ask them to join you for a cuddle while you breastfeed and answer any questions they have.
What can my partner do to help?
- change nappies
- help with bathing
- making sure you have food
- help with the cleaning, cooking and buying groceries
- minding older children and keep them busy
- encouraging and supporting you
- Do skin-to-skin from the time your baby is born. This helps with bonding.
- Talk to your Traveller Primary Health Care Worker or Public Health Nurse together about breastfeeding.
Bottle and Special Feeds
Some babies might need to be put on a special feed. The hospital will give you a prescription for the first few weeks, after this you need to go to your GP to get a new prescription. If you aren’t sure about this talk to your Traveller Community Health Worker or Public Health Nurse.
Baby milk can harmful if it isn’t made the right way. It is very important to:
- Boil water and let cool before you put in the powder – too much or not enough can make the baby very sick
- Never use a microwave to warm-up baby milk
- Sterilize the bottles as soon as they are finished
- Don’t reheat bottles or leave it standing for more than 2 hours
- Throw out any unused bottles in the fridge after 24 hours
FEEDING YOUR BABY
- Don’t put a blanket under the baby and prop the bottle under them as it can cause choking
- Make sure to take the bottle away from your baby before putting them in the cot
- Babies under the age of 1 should not get cows milk as it is too heavy and they can’t digest it properly
- Don’t give sugar and water to your baby as it can cause tooth decay
- If your baby has constipation go to the doctor or chemist and they can help you