Breastfeeding Basics

Breast feeding can be one of the most beautiful experiences of mothering. It can also be frustrating and confusing. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do that will help make you a pro in no time.

Why Breastfeed

There are a whole host of reasons for both mum and baby that make breast feeding the way to go.

  1. It helps to create that close and loving bond with your baby like no other single thing will do
  2. Breast milk is specially designed by nature to provide your baby with the ideal nutritional balance, and it changes over time with the needs of your growing baby
  3. It is by far the most convenient form of feeding – after all, wherever you go, your breasts go too! No need to carry formula, sterilise bottles, or find somewhere to prepare a bottle.
  4. It helps prevent breast and ovarian cancer
  5. Breast feeding will prolong the time before your periods return, and who wouldn’t love that!
  6. Breast feeding can help you shed that baby weight that all women get when pregnant.

Things You Might Need

All you really need to breast feed are a pair of breasts. However, there are a few things that will help make it more comfortable and enjoyable for you and baby:

  • A comfortable chair with a high back to support your head, and low arms so you can hold your baby comfortably
  • A feeding pillow that will help support the weight of your baby – even though they are tiny they do get heavy after a while
  • Nursing bras. These are generally softer, without wires and have drop-down cups to allow comfortable access to your nipples.
  • Breast pads. These are a bit like nappies for your breasts, and fit inside your bra. They will prevent embarrassing wet spots appearing on your top when you least expect them. All sorts of things can trigger the ‘let down’ response – even someone else’s baby!
  • Breast pump. There will be times when you have to leave your baby, or when you want your partner to do some of the feeding. A breast pump will allow you draw off and store excess milk (in the freezer generally) for just such a time. This is especially useful if you are going back to work. A breast pump can also help you to increase your milk supply if it seems to be a little low.

Getting Started

Whilst breast feeding is a very natural process, some women and babies have trouble getting the hang of it. If you are struggling – persevere. There are plenty of people who can help you. Don’t be afraid to look for advice.

When you first feed baby – ideally within an hour or two of birth – you will produce colostrum, which is designed to provide your new baby with the nutrients and antibodies they need to build their immune systems.

Within a few days you will start to produce milk. Your breasts will start to feel firmer, and you will experience ‘let-down’, a tingling feeling in your breasts. Milk will most likely leak from the breast you are not feeding from. In the early days, this may also cause a cramping feeling in your uterus, which is your body’s way of helping return it to it’s normal size, and should ease within a few days to a week.

What is Latching On?

This is the term for how your baby takes the breast into it’s mouth. It is important for the baby to latch on properly, otherwise they won’t get sufficient milk, and you can end up with sore nipples. Don’t worry, this is generally quite an instinctive process, and any difficulties are usually resolved within a few of feeds.

Baby’s mouth needs to be open wide, with their bottom lip curled down. If the sucking hurts your breast or your baby’s cheeks are sucking in they are not latched on properly. Always bring your baby to your breast, not the other way around.

How Often Should I Breast Feed?

Generally speaking, in the first month a baby should be fed on demand. This might be as often as 10 or 12 times a day. Babies should never go more than 4 hours without a feed – even at night. As your baby grows, they may feed less often. By the way – count the hours between feeds from the beginning of the feed, to the beginning of the next. The length of the feed isn’t too important – some babies are guzzlers and some are grazers.

Your baby will let you know when they have had enough by slowing down or stopping sucking, turning away, or even falling sleep. Don’t worry if they have only drunk from one side – you can start on the other side at the next feed.

Breast milk is much more easily digested than formula, so you might find that breast fed babies feed more often than formula fed ones.

Is baby getting enough?

Some breastfeeding mums worry if their baby is getting enough milk. If your baby is happy, gaining weight and producing around 6 wet nappies a day, they are getting enough.

One last thing…

Don’t be surprised if as soon as you feel you have established a breastfeeding routine, baby changes things up for you. You may find that with sleeping, eating and behaviour, your baby seems to be one step ahead of you.

Try to be flexible, and if you are worried about how your breastfeeding is going, a doula, baby health nurse or lactation specialist can always give you advice and put your mind at rest. And to help with those middle-of-the-night questions, all my clients receive a complimentary copy of the Breastfeeding Video series by Amberley at Maternal Instincts. I would be happy to chat with you about any other concerns or questions you might have.