25 tips for breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has many proven benefits for both you and your baby, but this doesn’t mean you’ll get the hang of it as soon as your baby is born.
In fact it can be quite tricky to master at first, however with a bit of perseverance breastfeeding can become second nature to you both and you’ll never want to stop! Here are 25 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 do’s 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.
- Remember to buy pyjamas or a nightie for after you’ve given birth, that will be easy to breastfeed in. Having buttons down the front will help but also pack a shawl or scarf so that if your baby needs feeding and you have visitors you can feed discreetly (or ask them to leave!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the 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 he grows.
- 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 and very swollen for a few days. As soon as your milk comes in and you feed your baby your breasts won’t feel so uncomfortable.
- Getting your baby into the right position to breastfeed is the most important because if he is 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 help 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 his body. His head should be supported by your arm but you should not hold his head. He should be able to tilt his 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 his 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.
- 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.
- 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 him 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.
- 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 his chin or toes to rouse him, or remove a layer of clothes, change his nappy or change positions to wake him up gently before resuming your feed,.
- 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.
- If your breasts are full and feel engorged with milk, you too can instigate a feed. If you do not do so, you may find that your breasts develop painful conditions like mastitis and so it is beneficial to you to make sure your breasts are emptied regularly. You will come to know through these physical signals when your baby should be feeding and it will feel quite natural to do so.
- 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 he is hungry is a good idea, firstly to satisfy him and help him to grow, but also to keep up your milk supply. Generally speaking, a few weeks after his birth will see him settling into a feeding routine, which will arrive when he is ready.
- If you are thinking about expressing your breast milk, it’s best to wait 4-6 weeks until breastfeeding is fully established.
- At the beginning, if your baby is feeding less than every four hours during the day, you should try waking him between feeds rather than leaving him. If he is not getting enough milk during the day, he will wake more often at night and you can kiss goodbye to your chances of resting properly as you should be. You can talk to your midwife or health visitor about the frequency of feeding if you are worried about it.
- 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. 1 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 as if it doesn’t go away on it’s own (which it can do in some cases) you may need antibiotics.
- 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 his mouth.
- Apply nipple cream to the affected area (carefully following the instructions - and never apply before feeding) - 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! 'Yuck!' you may think. Yes, it may be a bit unappealing, but apparently it can work.
- 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.
- If at any time during breastfeeding you feel like giving up or that it is too hard, speak to your midwife, health visitor or better still, 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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