Breastfeeding: it’s natural, everyone can do it and babies automatically know what to do – right?
Sally J. Hall helps you make the best start
Soon after your baby is born, your midwife will encourage you to put her to the breast. As both you and baby are totally new to this, it may take a few tries to get it just perfect. You’ll be feeding every few hours in the first few weeks, so you’ll get plenty of practice to help you both master this new skill and it’s really useful to get advice from your midwife while you are still in the birth unit to gain and keep good habits from the start.
The Early Days
If you have to ask your midwife, “has my milk come in yet?” – It hasn’t! Between three and five days after the birth, if you have been nursing your baby on demand, you will suddenly find that someone has tied two bricks to your chest and you’ll be in no doubt at all that your milk supply has most definitely established itself. Before that, your baby is getting a substance called colostrum, a protein- and nutrient-packed liquid that supplies all she needs for the first few days.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Getting comfy is the best help you can give yourself to successful breastfeeding. Find a chair with arms or a special feeding chair, have a glass of water next to you and the radio, TV or a good book to hand. Once settled, make sure you raise your baby to the breast with a cushion to avoid sore and aching arms. At night, try to feed sitting up so there’s less chance of dropping back to sleep and have baby’s head higher than her bottom to avoid trapped wind.
My baby has lost weight, should I be worried?
All babies put on weight in their last few weeks in the womb in preparation for the birth but then lose a bit after the birth. This is natural, as they are only getting colostrum, which, though nutrient-rich, is quite thin. Your baby will start to gain weight again after a few days and be back to their birth weight in around eight days. You’ll know things are going well if she has several wet and a couple of dirty nappies a day. If you’re concerned though, speak to your doctor.
Houston, we have a problem
It may not all be plain sailing even when feeding is established. Some women find they become engorged – with too much milk and breasts that are hard and painful. Try expressing some milk and storing it in the freezer for later if your baby’s not so hungry that day. If you’re not making enough on days when baby’s having a growth spurt, try warm compresses or top up with a little formula. If you find your nipples are sore, use a special lanolin-based cream or dab some breastmilk around them when you finish a feed. Use breast pads to keep them dry, as damp boobs can rub on your bra and get sore.
If baby is not with you
If your baby needs to be in the Special Care Unit, you can still feed using your milk. Ask your midwife about borrowing a breast pump. Expressing next to your baby helps the milk flow; make sure you get plenty of help and advice.
There has recently been talk on social media of a ‘new’ method of helping babies sleep through the night. Mums are encouraged to extend the time between feeds so, the theory goes, they can go longer at night. Don’t be tempted to try this; babies need to be fed on demand. The first weeks are tough, as your baby needs feeding often and that includes nights but go with it, sleep when you can and get lots of help. Consider a night nanny or home help.
Taking the tablets?
If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor that breastfeeding is safe whilst on certain drugs.
To avoid sore nipples, it’s important baby sucks the breast the right way; this takes a knack. When baby’s hungry, she’ll start to open her mouth wider. Wait for a wide mouth, then push your nipple in under the roof of her mouth so she takes as large an amount of breast as possible. Don’t worry that she won’t be able to breathe; babies can suck and breathe at the same time!
Whether you’re having a night out, returning to work or want Daddy to help with night feeds, you’ll need a breast pump to support your breastfeeding. Sioned Hilton is a breastfeeding advisor with Medela, the breast pump specialists. Here she shares her tips to make a success of expressing.
- Your baby is the best aid to getting milk flowing, so try expressing from the left whilst feeding from the right, or vice versa. If you’re away from your baby, have a photo to hand; this also makes the milk flow better.
- Express when baby is most settled – usually during a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nap.
- Massage your breasts before and during pumping to encourage let-down and milk flow ◗ Pumping from both breasts at the same time is proven to produce 18% more milk.
- Expressed milk can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days or the freezer for 6 months.
Wait until you have established breastfeeding ( about 2-3 weeks) if you want to express for your partner to feed baby.
- Do your research when buying a pump and choose one that will suit your needs.
- Your body’s very clever and works on supply- and-demand to ensure baby always has enough milk. Expressing won’t affect supply.
- Breastmilk contains 415 different proteins.
- Stem cells exist in breastmilk.
- Almost three-quarters of mums produce more milk with their right breast.
- Breastmilk educates baby on a great variety of tastes and flavours.
- Breastmilk is the ultimate all-in-one meal.
- Breastmilk adapts to meet baby’s needs.
Good to know…
If baby isn’t feeding well or you can’t breastfeed, you can exclusively express. Try a double pump for quick and easy expressing. You can express from when your baby is born to support or boost your milk production.
Choosing a breast pump
Think about your plans. Returning to work?
A light, portable pump makes sense.
Intend to express rarely?
A cheaper hand powered version is fine.
Twins or a baby with special needs?
A double pump may be the best for you.
Consider hiring in the early days and then choose what suits you.
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