It is important to start from day one, as the body needs to be stimulated in order to produce milk. In fact it has been suggested that it is psychologically beneficial to the baby to breastfeed within two hours of birth.
So, get all the help and advice you can from the midwives in the hospital, if the hospital is very busy it is a good idea to be transferred to a maternity unit, where the midwives have more time to go through the techniques of breastfeeding. Also it is a good idea to have someone available to you who knows how to help you once you return home, if this is not possible spend as much time as you need in hospital in order to be sure you come home breastfeeding as it may be more difficult to established breastfeeding on your on.
When starting to feed get comfortable, sit so that your back is straight and your lap is flat. Use pillows to support you baby and bring the baby to the breast, not the other way round. Turn your baby’s body towards your tummy. Tuck your baby’s bottom under your elbow or support your baby by using a pillow. Hold your baby behind the neck and shoulders.
Start with your baby’s nose opposite your nipple. Allow your baby’s head to tilt back. Move your baby’s mouth gently across your nipple until your baby’s mouth opens really wide. Bring your baby towards your breast quickly. Your baby’s bottom lip and chin should touch your breast first.
Your baby’s chin is in close contact with your breast. Your baby is able to breathe easily. You can feel your baby has a big mouthful of breast. You may need to support your breast.
Babies love to breastfeed, but they usually come off by themselves when they have had enough. It is common for a newborn baby to sleep on the breast before being full, if this happens you can tickle the baby gently on his body or face or gently blow his face so he starts to feed again.
You will know when breastfeeding is right: it will feel comfortable (it may hurt a bit at the beginning when the baby first latches on the breast, but it should be comfortable once he gets going); your baby will be relaxed; you will hear a soft swallowing; you can also see the baby’s jaw moving below his ears.
If it does not feel right…start again, slide one of your fingers into your baby’s mouth, gently break the suction and try again. With a newborn you will probably need to try several time before he latches on the breast properly, as they do not know how to feed when they are born, so you have to persevere until he opens his mouth wide, then quickly and gently hold your breast in his mouth – it also helps to compress your breast while feeding a newborn to encourage him to suckle.
At the beginning it can be frustrating, as the newborn may not open his mouth wide enough to latch on correctly, so, you need to be patient and encourage the baby to open his mouth by rubbing the breast on his face. Support the baby’s head with your hand, while gently but firmly pressing the baby against your breast. Once he has latched on, the baby may find it hard to suckle the milk, so compressing the breast can help him to suckle. At first you may need to manipulate your breast into the baby’s mouth several times, as the newborn baby does not know how to feed, you have to help him.
Advice for breastfeeding mothers:
It is a good idea to put your baby to breast within 30 to 60 minutes after birth. Keep your baby with you so you can breastfeed often. Your milk should arrive in about five days, in the mean time the baby will be drinking the colostrums, which has all the nutrients the baby needs and will kick start the baby’s immune system.
It is important to have a balanced diet to pass all the necessary nutrients for the baby. It can be difficult to make sure you get enough vitamin D; it is present in only a few foods, such as fortified margarines, oily fish, eggs and milk. The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to gentle sunlight, so it could be a good idea to give vitamin D supplement for breastfed babies during the winter.
Breastfeeding provides comfort as well as nutrition to your baby. Offer your breast whenever your baby cries, whimpers, or seems uncomfortable. Breastfeeding “on demand” is most natural.
Newborns breastfeed often — the average is eight to 12 feedings per day.
Every baby is different so they will feed for different length of time, as long as they are putting weight on, they are getting enough milk, it is normal for babies to get 80% of what they need during the first five minutes – other babies may be on the breast for about one hour for comfort, they may also fall asleep while feeding. It is a good idea to get reassured with your midwife or health visitor.
Breastfeeding should not hurt. But, do not be put off if it hurts at the beginning, be persistent and ask for help to your local maternity unit, if you have any doubts.
The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make for your baby. Drink plenty of fluid, about four pints per day and eat healthily. Try to avoid caffeine, chocolate and fizzy drinks, as they may over stimulate the baby.
Once you and your baby learn how to breastfeed, breastfeeding will be a good time to relax and enjoy each other.
Even if you think you can not breastfeed or if you feel funny about it, give it a go, because once you start you will find it to be very natural.
Everyone is different, but every mother should be able to feed her baby naturally.
How to avoid sore nipples
Sore nipples are common in the first weeks and are often caused by poor positioning.
To avoid sore nipples, follow these guidelines:
Make sure your baby’s mouth is opened wide (like a yawn) before he or she latches onto your breast.
Change your position for breastfeeding. Be sure the baby’s mouth is about one inch behind the nipple and on the areola, not on the nipple.
Rub colostrum or breast milk into your nipple and areola after each feeding.
If your nipples are sore and dry or cracking, start breastfeeding with the less sore breast first.
Use Lansinoh Lanolin cream on your nipples, as it is excellent to help heal the nipple skin if it is sore.
If your nipples remain sore, ask for help. It can be normal for the nipple to feel sore when the baby first latches on, but once she gets going it should stop hurting. If it does not, then start again. Keep using Lansinoh Lanolin cream after every feed, it has excellent healing properties. Once the breasts get used to breastfeeding, in about four weeks or so, it will stop hurting completely.
How to look after the breast while breastfeeding
To provide your breasts with the support needed, it is recommend wearing a good fitting-nursing bra during the day and at night. (Be sure to bring your nursing bra with you to the hospital.)
Wash your hands before breastfeeding. A bath or shower once a day is all you need to keep your nipples clean. Do not use soap or other products when washing your nipples; use warm water only.
Allow your nipples to dry after a feeding. Leave the flaps of your nursing bra down after feeding and whenever possible to dry your nipples.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother
- Breast-feeding is inexpensive.
- Breastfeeding is always available.
- With breastfeeding, there is nothing to mix, measure, or heat, and no bottles to wash.
- Breastfeeding makes night time feedings quick and easy.
- Breastfeeding makes travel with baby easier.
- With breastfeeding there is often less vaginal bleeding after delivery.
- Breastfeeding promotes a faster return of uterus to its pre-pregnant size.
- Breastfeeding can help with weight loss.
- Breastfeeding may decrease osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the baby
- Breast milk is the ideal food for the baby.
- Breast milk is easy to digest and absorb, causing less colic.
- The iron in breast milk is utilized more readily.
- Breast milk changes to meet the needs of the growing baby.
- Breast milk contains substances that promote nervous system development and brain growth.
- Breast-fed babies have fewer allergies. In families with a history of allergies, breast-fed babies experience less asthma, food allergies and eczema.
- Breast-fed babies have fewer illnesses, such as ear infections, colds, flu and GI upsets. They also have fewer doctor visits and hospitalisations, because of the special protective factors in breast milk.
- Breast milk may help babies to respond better to vaccines, as antibody levels have been found to be higher in breast-fed babies at seven and 12 months.
- Breastfeeding may decrease SIDS (cot death).
Marcia has been practising yoga for over 20 years and has specialised in the Hatha and Ashtanga schools of yoga, although has also enjoyed learning other branches such as Iyengar. As well as yoga she practices meditation, and plays a wide range of sports, including badminton, cricket, cycling, and walking.