Top breastfeeding tips for new mums
Breastfeeding has many proven benefits for both you and your baby, so let us help you get the hang of it as soon as you can
With a bit of perseverance breastfeeding can become second nature to you both and you’ll never want to stop!
We've rounded up a list of top tips to get you started.
Read up about breastfeeding before your baby arrives
You have lessons to learn to drive before you can drive away in a car and the same applies to breastfeeding. It’s a technique that you will have to learn, but once you and your baby get to grips with it, you’ll love it! Ask your midwife about breastfeeding classes for pregnant women, or local breastfeeding groups who can help you out. Talk to as many breastfeeding mums as you can about their dos and don’ts.
Buy two good nursing bras before you give birth
It’s hard to tell what size your breasts will be once your milk comes in (they normally get bigger) so limit yourself to two bras for now. Lots of department or baby stores will have specialist staff who can advise you on which nursing bras work best for you.
In your hospital bag, remember to buy pyjamas or loose bottoms and a top for after you’ve given birth - these will be easier to breastfeed in. Having buttons down the front will help (or something loose that’s easy to lift up) but also pack a shawl or scarf so you’re covered if you feel the need to feed discreetly.
First hour feed
As long as you feel up to it, try to feed your baby within the first hour after birth. You may feel tired and your baby may be sleepy, but it can help to establish breastfeeding from the beginning and will strengthen the bond between you.
Strengthen the bond
Try to have as much skin-to-skin contact with your baby after you have given birth as it can strengthen the bond between you and your baby, keep you both warm and calm you down after the birth. It can also help you both to be in close contact as you begin your first breastfeed.
Feed your baby at first before your milk comes in
Try to feed your baby as much as possible at first before your milk comes in. This may seem strange if there isn’t much milk, but your breasts will be producing colustrum, highly concentrated yellow milk, which is thicker than breastmilk (that will arrive a few days later).
Your baby will only need a small amount of colustrum at each feed, but is perfect for a newborn baby and will help them to grow strong. It will also send signals to your body to start producing the thinner, milkier breastmilk that your baby requires as they grow.
It's normal for breasts to feel heavy
Your milk can take up to 2-5 days to come in and during this time it is normal for your breasts to feel heavy. As soon as your milk comes in, your breasts might well feel even more swollen and for a few hours you and your baby might have to get used to connecting all over again, but once you both get the hang of it and your baby starts to suckle, your breasts won’t feel so uncomfortable.
Get the right position
Getting your baby into the right position to breastfeed is the most important because if they are in the wrong position and not latched on, breastfeeding will be uncomfortable for you both. If it hurts when you feed your baby it may be that your positioning is not correct, so ask for advice immediately.
The perfect position to feed your baby in is to have the baby lying stomach to stomach with you and raised up to the height of your breasts with a pillow or two underneath their body. Their head should be supported by your arm but you should not hold their head. They should be able to tilt their head back easily to swallow.
Getting a good latch is essential for breastfeeding. If you are sitting comfortable and your baby is in the correct position you should move your breast to your baby rather than moving your baby to your breast. When the baby’s face is parallel to your breast, your nipple should be level with the baby’s nose. Your baby will then root (use their search instinct) to find your nipple with his mouth. Your baby should take a large mouthful of your breast; not just the nipple, but the area around it (the areola) and surrounding skin. Your nipple should go towards the roof of your baby’s mouth.
Get into a rhythm
All babies feed differently, some don’t feed for long and some take hours to feed. You and your baby will soon settle down into a rhythm as you both become perfectly in tune with one another.
Before breastfeeding always find somewhere comfortable to feed your baby and remember it can take time. Get a glass of water, a muslin and the TV remote so you can comfortably feed without having any interruptions! (It may be worth having your phone nearby so you don’t have to break your feed to answer it.) It's also very important to remember to drink lots of water and make sure you eat well whilst you're breastfeeding.
Encourage a full feed
Once your milk comes in it’s important to encourage your baby to feed fully from the first breast before moving on to the second breast. This will allow your baby to reach the hindmilk, which is the milk at the end of the feed and will help them to settle and gain weight. The foremilk; the milk at the start of a feed is much thinner and more thirst quenching and your baby needs both types of milk during a feed
Feed durations vary
How long a feed lasts varies with each mum and baby – it can be anything between 10 and about 40 minutes. The duration of each feed depends on your baby’s age and technique and also on your let-down reflex.
If your baby becomes sleepy during a feed don’t worry! Tickle their chin or toes to rouse them, or remove a layer of clothes, change their nappy or change positions to wake them up gently before resuming your feed.
Feed from the breast you last fed on
You should start feeding your baby from the breast you last fed on. This means each breast will receive the right amount of stimulation to ensure a good milk supply. It will also enable your baby to receive the highly nutritious fatty hind milk from both breasts. In order to help you remember which breast you should be feeding from next, you could place a bracelet or even a hair band around the corresponding wrist.
Instigate a feed
If your breasts are full and feel engorged with milk, you too can instigate a feed. It is beneficial to you to make sure your breasts are emptied regularly, if you do not do so, you may find that your breasts develop painful conditions like mastitis. You will come to know through these physical signals when your baby should be feeding and it will feel quite natural to do so.
Gradually introduce a routine
At the beginning, try not to force a strict feeding routine on to your baby. Until your milk comes in it is best to feed your baby as much as possible to encourage your milk supply. Once it comes in, feeding your baby when they are hungry is a good idea, firstly to satisfy them and help them to grow, but also to keep up your milk supply.
Generally speaking, a few weeks after their birth will see them settling into a feeding routine, which will arrive when they are ready.
When is time to express?
There should be no reason why you can’t express breastmilk from the start, though some women find this easier after four to six weeks, when breastfeeding is fully established. If you find it hard to express milk at first, relax and try again another time.
Make sure baby gets enough
At the beginning, if your baby is feeding less than every four hours during the day, you should try waking them between feeds rather than leaving them. If they are not getting enough milk during the day, they will wake more often at night. You can talk to your midwife or health visitor about the frequency of feeding if you are worried about it.
If they are putting on weight at a good rate for their size, you might find there is nothing to worry about.
Symptoms of Mastitis
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, which can lead to an infection if not dealt with. It is actually caused by milk in the tissue of your breast, which can build up and lead to painful, hard, swollen breasts, which may be hot to touch and is often accompanied by a fever, headache and chills. One in 10 breastfeeding mothers experience mastitis so while it’s not pleasant it is fairly common. If you notice any of these symptoms DON’T stop feeding your baby as this can make it worse. A hot compress on your breast can help and also bed rest. Contact your GP straight away if you think you have mastitis - if it doesn’t go away on its own (which it can do in some cases) you may need antibiotics.
Dealing with sore nipples
As you get used to breastfeeding, you may notice that your nipples have become red and sore and feeding can be a little painful. Poor positioning and latching on is the number one cause of sore nipples. But even if you feel like you're nursing a baby barracuda, try not to let it put you off breastfeeding – there are measures you can take which will ease the pain. Try changing your baby's position, remember your baby actually needs to take not just your nipple but a large part of your areola (the pigmented area around your nipple) into their mouth.
Apply nipple cream to the affected area (carefully following the instructions – and never applying before a feed). Cream it can really help to soothe them. Nipple guards can also help if your nipples are very sore. Some people swear by putting cabbage leaves down their bra! Yes, it may seem a bit unappealing, for some, it really works!
Don't be afraid to be quite firm. If your nipple still hurts, use your index finger to gently pull down on your baby's chin in order to bring his lower lip out. You may have to do this for the duration of the feed, but this is usually not necessary.
Seek advice before giving up
If at any time during breastfeeding you feel like giving up or that it is too hard, speak to your midwife, health visitor or other breastfeeding mums. Once breastfeeding is established and you and your baby settle into a routine, it can be a wonderful experience and one which you will remember fondly long after you stop breastfeeding.
Always ask for help first before deciding to give up – you’d be surprised at how something simple like a position adjustment can make the world of difference.
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