We aren’t midwives or lactation consultants but we do understand there are some easy tips and tricks to getting your breastfeeding journey off on the right foot.
Did you know that breastfeeding mothers get protection against certain cancers and have a host of other medical benefits. Breastfed babies are healthier and studies have shown that there are increases in their IQ scores as well. Some mums say breastfeeding helps them lose weight too.
Breastfeeding is also convenient – no need to think about packing bottles and no worries about staying out longer than planned – your food supply is always with you. It is especially easy when feeding during the middle of the night – you hardly even have to wake up to feed the baby!
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy to learn how to do, especially in the beginning. And if your baby has complications such as delivery via c-section or suctioning at birth, it can be tricky to start with. Stick with it, and get some expert help early and it will work and you will enjoy it (eventually). It is an incredible bonding experience for both mother and baby.
We’ve put together a range of tips from successful breastfeeding mums but if you are having difficulties don’t delay seeing your midwife or lactation consultant or talk to the lovely ladies at La Leche League.
- LATCH LATCH LATCH LATCH LATCH. It’s so important to try and get a good latch every time. Your nipples will thank you for it. Read up on how to latch a baby and if you can, ask a breastfeeding mum to show you how she latches her baby. Don't be afraid to ask the nurse to show you again if it seems like they've just put your baby to your breast like a clash of symbols!
- Break the suction before you unlatch. If you need to swap boobs or your latch isn't quite right and you need to relatch then gently pop your little finger into the corner of bubs mouth which will break the seal - if you try to pull baby off without doing this it will hurt!
- Try to feed your baby as soon after birth as possible. Most babies are awake and alert for the first 1-2 hours after birth. After that they may be groggy for a few days (they went through a pretty traumatic ordeal coming into this world!!). The best time to start breastfeeding is during that alert time right after they are born and getting them started right away is the best way for successful breastfeeding. If you have a c-section this may be difficult because you will be groggy. Don’t worry if you can’t feed the baby right away, you can still be successful at breastfeeding.
- Take advice from different people BUT don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work for you. Every baby is different and every person you talk with has different experience and different advice. If you find you are struggling or overwhelmed we recommend seeing a lactation consultant as soon as possible – they are experts and can recommend solutions specific to you and your baby.
- When your milk comes in (approx between days 2-5 but it varies between women) your body is flooded with hormones and it’s not uncommon to feel teary and emotional (nothing like feeling like wanting to burst into tears just when all the visitors arrive!) so keep this in mind when scheduling visitors.
- Keep visits short and don’t be afraid to ask people to leave so you can feed. It’s important that you are able to sit with your breasts out if you want to and feed when baby demands rather than delay feeding because your great-aunt is in the room.
- Some woman find that it can take 8 weeks before breastfeeding becomes a natural instinct. Stick with it - it'll work.
- Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply and reduces engorgement. Aim for nursing at least 10 - 12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN'T nurse too often-you CAN nurse too little.
- Nurse at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth)--don't wait until baby is crying. Allow baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively and then offer the second breast. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first--wake baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing.
- To minimize engorgement: nurse often, don’t skip feedings (even at night), ensure good latch/positioning, and let baby finish the first breast before offering the other side. To decrease discomfort from engorgement, use cold and/or cabbage leaf compresses between feedings. If baby is having trouble latching due to engorgement, use reverse pressure softening or express milk until the nipple is soft, then try latching again. See our tips for engorgement here
- Don’t delay talking to a lactation consultant (or call your local La Leche League Leader). Depending on where you deliver, they can come to the hospital or birthing centre or see you at home. Tell someone early that you are having difficulties getting the baby to latch on. Ask to talk to them several times if you need to.
- Use Purelan cream after every feed if you need to - this stuff is magic! Using it after every feed BEFORE any issues will help your nipples to remain supple and will reduce soreness and dryness.
- Drink a LOT of water. Breastfeeding can be extremely dehydrating and you will need to make sure you have a lot to drink so that you don’t get weak and so that your milk comes in strong. Keep a full glass of water or water bottle by you at all times. Put water in the nursery so that when you feed the baby during the middle of the night you can drink then too.
- Get a bra or nursing tank that you can sleep in. You will need one because your breasts will get very heavy when your milk comes in – and they will leak! Make sure that what you wear isn't too tight as this can lead to blocked ducts and mastitis. Some sleep bra options
- You'll need good supportive nursing bras too - we recommend you have at least 3 - one on the body, one in the wash and one in the drawer. HOTmilk and Cake have a great range of options from 10B right up to 22H.
- Layering is a good way to make it easy to breastfeed. A stretching camisole or tanktop under a T shirt means you can lift the Tshirt up and pull the singlet down to give access to the breast, but your tummy and back are still covered.
- Babies need to be fed often as they have tiny tummies! Feed your baby when they are hungry and if that means it's every hour for a few days or weeks, then so be it. This stage passes quickly and you'll soon settle into a routine together.
- Read up on Cluster Feeding so you know what it is and don't worry when it happens. When your baby hits their growth spurts you'll feel like you are feeding for hours and hours at a time, especially in the evenings. This is NORMAL!
- For the first 2-3 weeks – you might find it useful to keep a feeding record but try not to obsess over it (says the woman who filled notebook after notebook with details of every feed, poop and burp).
- When feeding your baby during the middle of the night – you might like to make your feedings as “business-like” as possible and do it in the dark with just a night-light. Giimmo Night Lights are perfect for keeping things mellow but you can still see what you're doing. You want your baby to learn right away that he should sleep at night and that he shouldn’t be waking up to play during the middle of the night. Feel free to play with him and talk to him during daytime feedings so that he quickly learns the difference.
- Have everything you need within arms reach while breastfeeding – phone, TV remote, computer, books you want to read, cell phone, water, pacifier for the baby, burp cloth, nursing pillow, something to put your feet up on, etc. That way you don’t have to disturb the baby to get up and get something.
- If you are planning on going back to work after having a baby, you may want to get a breast pump [see the Medela or Ameda range of Breast pumps here]. Depending on how often you use it, you can get a manual one or an electric one. This will come in handy for a variety of different reasons including:
- You want to go out for an evening or afternoon and leave the baby with a care giver.
- The baby takes a long nap and you want to relieve your engorged breasts.
- You want to help increase your milk supply by adding in extra pumpings.
- If you are pumping you might want to freeze some of your milk away for future use. It best to freeze in bags, rather than bottles [see the range of Milk Storage Options here] . If you freeze in a bottle there is a much higher likelihood that the milk will get freezer burnt. Milk frozen in bags can be stored for 6-12 months in a good freezer.
- You can store fresh milk for 10 hours at room temperature OR up to 8 days in the refrigerator OR 3-4 months in the freezer (6 months or more if you have a deep-freeze). More info on milk storage see the La Lache League site here http://www.llli.org/NB/NBJulAug07p168.html
- Don’t bother buying too many bottles for your baby ahead of time. You probably aren’t going to need them for the first 1.5 – 2 months anyway, or indeed at all, and you never can tell what type of bottle your baby will want.