Breastfeeding

For MAMAs who have decided to breastfeed, congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will be tough at times, a big learning curve, but above all immensely satisfying.

If you are unsure about breastfeeding, how about giving it a go in hospital? Skin to skin is beneficial for both mum and baby, and when your little one latches on and starts to feed, you may well feel that you want to continue. If your baby could have just some of that magical colostrum, you will be giving him or her a very good start.

Breastfeeding facts:

  • Lowers chances of developing asthma, eczema, gastro-intestinal problems, diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Reduces chest and ear infections
  • Reduces likelihood of constipation
  • Lowers the chances of mum developing type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers later in life
  • Naturally helps you use up to 500 calories a day
  • Saves money and helps you bond with your baby

What are the recommendations?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and NHS recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months (so no solids or anything else other than breast milk) then continuing to breastfeed alongside solids until aged 2 or beyond.

How can I get started?

  • Firstly, have confidence in your body’s ability to do what it’s supposed to. There is only a tiny percentage of women that can’t actually breastfeed. Lots of women are not successful but this is usually down to unrealistic expectations of a newborn baby’s behaviour and/or misinformation from health professionals, or friends and family.
  • Do your research. Knowing what to expect really does help if you have any difficult moments. Find out where local support is, and make contact with a breastfeeding support team – they will be happy to give you antenatal advice and will be familiar faces should you need some support once baby is here.
  • As soon as possible after baby is born, have skin to skin contact – as much as possible. Skin to skin helps to regulate baby’s temperature and helps your body to start releasing hormones that will help with breastfeeding. Your little one will probably latch on fairly soon after birth then maybe have a very long sleep.

Your baby’s tummy is tiny, and they really don’t need large volumes of milk. At first they will be getting colostrum which is jam packed with antibodies and will also help them pass their first stools (meconium). After roughly 3-4 days your milk should start to come in.

If for any reason a health professional advises formula top-ups, please ask to see your hospital’s infant feeding coordinator who will support and help you.

Getting feeding right

  • Make sure you’re comfortably seated, using cushions etc. as needed.
  • Hold your baby so that you are not preventing their head from tilting. You want your baby’s body in a straight line and their nose positioned by your nipple – this ensures your nipple will be at the right angle inside baby’s mouth.
  • Once your baby opens their mouth nice and wide, bring them in quickly to the breast – their chin should touch your breast first – and they should latch on.
  • If you feel discomfort for more than a few seconds then unlatch them by putting your little finger into the side of baby’s mouth and try again. If discomfort or pain continues then please seek advice as soon as possible as it shouldn’t be painful. It may be that you just need a little support in getting the positioning just right.
  • Once your baby is latched on comfortably, allow them to feed until they come off by themselves, then offer the second breast.

Try to feed your baby regularly. Watch for feeding cues such as flickering eyelids, rooting, licking lips, sucking hands and making little noises. Offer the breast as soon as possible. Crying is a very late hunger cue and it will be harder to calm your baby and latch them on if they are screaming.

How do I know baby is getting enough?

This is a very common question and concern – partly because we are now a bottle-feeding culture; we are used to seeing babies take set amounts, with regular spacing. Please remember that breastfeeding is the biological norm so breastfed babies’ behaviour is the behaviour we should be looking at. Please don’t compare your baby’s habits and routines to that of other babies. It isn’t helpful and you may just question yourself unnecessarily.

If your baby is feeding very frequently, don’t worry – it’s normal! If it is constant, you may well want to seek advice just in case there is some positioning and attachment that needs altering or an issue such as tongue tie.

You should be able to see that your baby:

  • has a big mouthful of breast, hear them swallowing milk as they feed and see nice rounded cheeks
  • should be weeing (6 heavy wet nappies in 24 hrs after day 5) and pooing enough (at the beginning it will be black and tar-like, at least two stools a day from day 4 up until around 6 weeks, changing to yellow by day 5). Once they are over 6 weeks old their stool pattern may change and they may poo several times a day, or not at all for around a week.

Another thing to remember is that babies’ sleep patterns are as individual as their personalities. Your friend’s baby who is formula-fed may sleep for long periods or even ‘through the night’. This could be in part because formula is heavier and takes longer to digest, thus leading to longer sleep. However, breast milk is digested and used in the body quickly so baby requires feeding more frequently.

Having a positive mind-set may help with the disturbed sleep. This peaceful time spent cuddling your baby without general interruptions of the daytime is time well spent.

A newborn baby has only three demands. They are: warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three. ~Grantly Dick-Read

Support:

National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212

Find your nearest Breastfeeding Centre or there may be a Baby Café near you

Your local Sure Start Centre may run regular breastfeeding clinics

Best Beginnings offer short films on How To Breastfeed

References:

NHS Choices

National Childbirth Trust