Beginners Guide To Breastfeeding
*This is a guest post
It is a well-known fact that breast milk is better for babies than formula milk. Having said that no woman should feel bad if they can’t or don’t want to breastfeed their baby. Having a baby is a huge commitment and no one should be made to feel they are not doing their best for their baby.
You need to remember that your baby has not read any instruction manual on how to feed so you need to learn together.
Your baby will cry, this is their way of telling you they need something, maybe a feed, or a cuddle or a change of nappy, it doesn’t mean they are hungry.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk is designed for your baby and as your baby grows this changes to suit your baby.
You pass immunities on to your baby.
Breast fed babies are less prone to obesity.
You can do it anywhere.
Babies have few infections such as stomach and bowel infections.
You cannot leave your boobs on the bus, you could leave your bottles.
It’s convenient and is always available. No sterilising bottles and making up feeds.
It helps to stop baby asthma, and baby eczema.
Cot death (sudden infant death) is very rare in breast fed babies.
It helps mum lose her baby weight.
Certain cancers such as breast, and ovarian cancer is reduced.
Heart disease is reduced.
Osteoporosis in mums is reduced.
If you like this post then check out: Why Do Babies Cry In Their Sleep?
DOWNSIDES OF BREASTFEEDING
Only you can do it, but once feeding is established you can express your milk so that someone else can do this for you.
For one Mum’s personal experience of breastfeeding check out this post: Breastfeeding: How Was It For Me?
HOW TO GET PREPARED
It is best to get measured for a bra when you are about 36 weeks pregnant. My advice is, buy one bra but keep the box so that when you have your baby and the bra is comfortable you can send your husband or mum to buy more.
If you don’t want to wear the same bra at night you can get sleep bra’s which may be more comfortable.
Make sure you are clear when you are pregnant on who you want to help you after the birth and have chats with those involved on what you would like them to help with. Talk to them about breastfeeding and how determined you are. I have visited women who are worried that their baby is not feeding enough but if they are sleeping, weeing regularly and pooing they are fine.
The First Feed
When your baby is born you will be given him or her to do skin to skin. This is also a good opportunity to try your first breast feed. The midwife who cared for you will help you to do this.
My advice is to make sure you are comfortable before you start feeding. Sit comfortably, you may need a pillow on your lap. Make sure your baby has its tummy to your tummy, hold babies head and guide him or her to the breast. Your nipple needs to be on the roof of the baby’s mouth and hopefully he or she will suckle. This does not happen straight away for everyone. If baby does not attach to the nipple at this point, don’t panic but when baby opens its mouth gently push him onto the breast.
If Baby Doesn’t Want To Feed Straight Away.
Some babies will not feed straight after birth, so mum can express her colostrum (first milk) into a small syringe to feed to baby.
The midwife will show you how to express but the gist of it is to hold your breast in one hand, place your hand just in front of the nipple and gently squeeze towards nipple. I found that lots of mums found this difficult to start with, so I always showed the dad’s how to do it and they were usually successful.
Lots of mums who are still pregnant will think that they would not want their partner to do this for them, my answer to this is, you leave your dignity at the entrance and pick it back up on the way out.
The Early Days Of Breastfeeding
Offer the breast to your baby at regular intervals, at least every 3 hours throughout the day and the night, and always ask for help if you are struggling. Most post-natal wards have Maternity Care Assistants who are experts in helping mums feed and have more time than the midwives.
If you find that your nipples are sore, you need to make sure that the baby is in the optimal position and is taking enough of the nipple into its mouth. If baby is sucking on the end of the nipple this can be very sore and will damage the nipple. Make sure your baby has been checked for tongue tie as this can stop the baby taking enough of the nipple into its mouth. Other causes of sore nipples can be thrush, but this usually happens later on. This can be treated by your Doctor of Health Visitor with cream for the nipple and drops for the baby’s mouth.
My advice is, do not leave the hospital too soon, make sure your baby has fed well otherwise you will have problems when you get home. Taking a baby home is stressful enough without worrying about feeding.
You may be offered a top up feed for your baby whilst in the hospital, this can be very tempting, don’t feel bad that baby needs this, but ask for a syringe or a cup to feed this to your baby. This can sometimes give your baby a taste for milk, so they latch on the next time your try to feed.
Don’t give up if baby still isn’t latching, next feed put baby to the breast and have a syringe with some milk in to squirt into the babies mouth to encourage sucking.
If all else fails, try a nipple shield, these are soft flexible covers for your nipple and will usually encourage your baby to suckle. I am aware that many health professionals hate nipple shields and discourage ladies from using them. My opinion is that if it encourages your baby to feed then they certainly have a place.
Breast fed babies are self-directed with their feeds, this usually means baby needs a feed every 3 hours which can be very tiring, so you need to rest in between feeds. The housework can wait.
It is sometimes difficult to know if your baby is passing urine in the first few days as the nappies are so good, they absorb the urine. If you’re not sure put a piece of cotton wool in the nappy which will show you if they have.
Babies poo starts off black, it’s called meconium and is very sticky. Usually mum gets away with this first nappy and it’s the dad or the midwife who gets to change it. Poo then goes a black/green colour and then goes yellow. Breast fed poo is runny with bits in like seeds. This is normal and baby has not got diarrhea. It can also be quite explosive and travel quite a long way if the nappy is off.
Mums sometimes feel they do not have enough milk, most women do but if your baby is not gaining weight, it may be advisable to express your milk after feeds to encourage your supply.
Nice Guidelines say that breastfeeding for six months is the optimum time, this is great if you can manage this, but remember any breast milk is better than none.
Problems During Breastfeeding
Mastitis, this is when the breast gets infected. First signs are you may start to feel unwell, your breast will be pinker or red on one or more areas. It can come on quite quickly and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Women can be told to stop breastfeeding when this happens. DO NOT STOP. This is the worst thing you can do. Ring your GP, take paracetamol regularly up to 8 a day, and feed regularly. You may need to express milk to make yourself more comfortable but remember the more you take off the more you make. Mastitis usually clears up quite quickly with antibiotics so don’t despair.
Some ladies may have inverted nipples, this can be a problem, but mums can encourage their nipples to protrude by massaging them. You could also get some nipple shells. These fit inside the bra and can also start the milk flow, whip them out before feeding and baby will hopefully be able to latch onto your nipple.
Some babies get very windy, this is sometimes due to diet. Try thinking about what you are eating, I found that too much chocolate, too many grapes, and fizzy drinks can do this. Try cutting these down and see if that helps.
Finally enjoy your baby, enjoy the feeding, be proud of yourself you are doing a great job.
Do you have any great breastfeeding tips for a new mum? Share in the comments below!
Carol Duncombe trained as a Midwife in 1970 and over the next 45 years delivered over 2000 babies. For the majority of her career, she was a community midwife in the historic Buckinghamshire town of Olney.
You can read more from Carol in her book “A Midwife’s Memoir“