Breastfeeding is important not only for your newborn’s development but also as a bonding experience between a mother and her baby. Although natural and important, breastfeeding can be difficult and many women encounter a number of issues. It is important to remember that this is common and not something to worry about – in most cases, there are some simple fixes that will help you to breastfeed successfully. Antenatal classes are immensely helpful during the pregnancy stage, and your midwife or health visitor will initially help you once the baby is born, but after this, it is down to you to provide nutrients for your newborn. It is understandable that this can cause some stress and anxiety, so here is some advice for this important part of motherhood.
Skin to skin contact between mother and baby is vital in the early stages to forge a strong connection and encourage the newborn to feed on your breast. You will have the infant on your tummy after birth when you should gently stroke him/her and let them see your face. This contact should be maintained until after they feed for the first time and will help to regulate their breathing and heartbeat.
Attachment & Positioning
Attachment and positioning is key to success when it comes to breastfeeding. When positioned and attached correctly, you will feel no pain, and the baby will feed well. It may feel strange at first, but this is perfectly normal, and you will quickly get used to it. For proper attachment, bring your little one close and ensure that the head and body are in a straight line facing the same way. Move their nose to your nipple so that they can reach. Support their back, shoulders, and neck so that they can move their head freely – if they do not open their mouth, try rubbing your nipple against their upper lip. The tongue and lower lip will make contact with your breast, and you should be able to see your breast above their top lip. Signs that they are not properly attached are feelings of pain, short sucks, drawn in cheeks and restlessness.
When the baby is attached, do not push the back of their head and simply let them feed. When they come off on their own, offer them the second breast. They will not always take both at every feeding, but try to encourage them to do this.
Positions & Public Feeding
There are many positions that you can try for breastfeeding, but the best one will be whatever makes you and the baby comfortable. Two of the more popular positions include sitting up with your baby across you and lying back in a chair or on the bed. It can be stressful and daunting to feed in public but remember that you are protected by law, and you should feed the child whenever they are hungry no matter where you are. There is a lot of advice for successful feeding in public online.
You should always feed your bundle of joy when they want as they do not overfeed and it helps you to produce all the milk that they need. This is called responsive breastfeeding and will require you to respond to their feeding signals – these include making sucking sounds, sucking their fingers and licking their lips. Typically, a baby will want to feed around 10 times in 24 hours. Do not time or count each feed and simply let them feed until they stop.
The first bottle feeding should come at around 4 to 6 weeks – any later than this, and you may struggle with bottle refusal. It is best if somebody else gives them the first bottle so that they can get used to being fed by someone other than you.
It is best to avoid giving a newborn formula until they are at least three weeks old, but it can be a helpful tool after this as it is unrealistic to expect that you can feed every time that they need. This could be because you are away, your milk has dried up, or you are having latching issues. High-quality organic formula from places like Formuland could be the answer and it should not be too challenging to make the switch. Try introducing it slowly, using it with their food (after six months) and by offering it when they are hungry.
What to Avoid
It is best to avoid alcohol when breastfeeding, as it will pass on to your baby. It is wise to drink no more than two units a week or consider pumping in advance if you plan to have a few drinks. Avoid smoking as your milk will contain nicotine – this can lead to infection, and there is also an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Ask your GP or pharmacist if you are prescribed any medication or buy anything over the counter as certain drugs can interfere with breastfeeding.
Having sore nipples is common early on, but if it continues, then you may need advice from your midwife or health visitor. Difficulty latching on, tongue-tie, thrush, eczema, and nipple vasospasm are all common causes for sore nipples, so you will need to speak to somebody to identify the cause so that a solution can be found. There are also certain creams and products that can be used to alleviate symptoms.
Experts state that babies should have breastmilk and/or formula exclusively for the first six months. It is then recommended that you continue breastfeeding whilst providing solid foods until they are two-years-old. When you stop comes down to your own choice, and many breastfeed for shorter or longer periods of time than this. Weaning your baby off breastmilk can be challenging, but there is a lot of helpful advice online for this.
Breastfeeding is much more than a means of feeding your baby and an important bonding experience for mother and child. Despite this, there are many potential difficulties and challenges that you face, but it is important not to be discouraged, and there are always solutions available. The above advice should alleviate concerns and educate, but it is always smart to speak to your midwife or a professional if you are having difficulties or looking for further advice.