Breastfeeding is natural and we all agree it the preferred way to feed babies. But establishing breastfeed isn’t always easy – most mothers find meeting their breastfeeding goals takes patience, determination and lots of support.
BY: YVETTE O’DOWD
Here are my tips for getting breastfeeding off to the right start.
Don’t wait for the baby – learn as much as you can about breastfeeding when you are pregnant. The first thing your baby will be looking for after the birth is the nearest place to eat and he or she won’t wait for you to read the manual!
- Go to an Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) Breastfeeding Education Class as early as you can – second trimester is ideal. You will learn how breastfeeding works and how to make it work for you. Classes are available to ABA members and your membership comes with Australia’s most popular breastfeeding book, Breastfeeding … naturally.
- Talk about your breastfeeding plan and make sure you pack it in your hospital bag. Just like labour and birth, it helps the midwives caring for you to know how you would like to manage breastfeeding.
- Get to know your support network – once you start maternity leave, link up with your local ABA breastfeeding support group and introduce yourself to the breastfeeding counsellors in your community. Go along to some group meetings before the birth, where you will meet breastfeeding mothers and see them feeding their babies.
Take the first feeds slowly – there is no need to rush baby into his first feed. If everything is okay with the birth, ask to have your baby laid skin to skin against you and request hands-off help from your midwives.
- Your baby knows how to find the breast and attach all by himself, but he needs to take his own time to get there. Ideally you will stay skin to skin for at least the first hour or more.
- Routine can wait. Ask to have weighing, nappies and other non-urgent stuff to be delayed until after the baby takes that important first feed.
- Don’t worry if skin to skin can’t happen for you straight away – if you have a caesarean or you or baby need some special care after the birth, you can look forward to being skin to skin as soon as it is right for you.
- Enjoy the rest – your baby might spend a lot of time asleep in the first day or so, but will quickly change, so take the chance to sleep, because things will soon change!
Be ready for the marathon! Around the second half of the first week, your baby and your breasts are all about the same thing – MILK
- Just when you start getting used to it, everything changes! After a few days of colostrum alone, you both need to transition to the next stage. If you are lucky, your milk supply and your baby’s demand will be in sync straight away, but for most mums this takes a few days. In the meantime, you might have over-full breasts, a grumpy baby and need extra help to get the two together. This is usually around the time you are going home from hospital, so this is when you need your support system most.
- Your baby still knows how to get on the breast by himself, so if you are having trouble with the techniques you learned from the midwives, try holding him skin to skin again and follow his instincts. Those newborn reflexes will help him take the lead and you can follow.
- If your breasts are too full for your baby to get a good attachment, help him out by expressing some milk before he goes on. You can do this by hand or use a manual or electric breast pump if you have one handy. Once he gets on, he will be able to feed better.
- A newborn baby is growing around the clock, so you can expect to feed him 8 – 12 times a day! And in the early days, feeds may take up to an hour, so you can expect to spend most of your time feeding. The marathon won’t last forever, but it sure feels like it! As he gets bigger and more efficient, he may be able to finish a feed in as little as 5-10 minutes – something to look forward to!
Getting to know each other as you continue to learn your baby’s needs, there will naturally be times when you feel confused and unsure.
- You can easily check that your baby is getting enough milk – every nappy will give you feedback! Look out for at least 5 wet disposable nappies each day and plenty of poo!
- Don’t delay feeds – a calm baby will attach easier and feed better. Keep you newborn close to you and watch out for early feeding cues. Wait to change his nappy until after the first breast and don’t wait for him to cry before offering the breast.
- Watch the baby, not the clock. How long between feeds, how long on each side, how long is a feed … your baby doesn’t care, he only knows full and empty! Let him feed as often as he needs and as long as he needs, he knows what to do.
- Mini marathons can be expected when your baby is busy growing – you can expect 24 hours or so of more frequent feeds and a grumpy baby.
- If your baby is feeding well, you are less likely to have engorgement or mastitis. Learn the early signs and what to do if you experience them.
Get help if you need it. Most common breastfeeding problems can be solved.
You can call the Breastfeeding helpline whenever you need to – it is normal to have questions and concerns. Trained Breastfeeding Counsellors are there to help. 1800 68 62 68
- Breastfeeding shouldn’t continue to be painful – pain is a sign your baby is not attaching well. Seek help from ABA, your child health nurse or IBCLC lactation consultant.
- Feeding your baby as often as he needs is the best way to avoid low milk supply. Most babies continue to need 8 or more feeds in 24 hours beyond the early weeks. This includes night feeds.
- It is normal for babies to fall asleep at the breast – and normal for them to wake up again as soon as you try to put them down! Your baby will soon be able to feed without a nap in the middle.
- When your breasts start to feel softer and less firm around 4-6 weeks – don’t panic! You haven’t lost your milk your breasts just work more efficiently now.
When breastfeeding gets off to the right start, you can be confident it can continue for as long as you and your baby want. Being prepared and knowing when and where to get help can make all the difference.
This purple-haired mother of three and granny of one has been a breastfeeding counsellor for more than 20 years, runs breastfeeding education classes for parents expecting twins and more, facilitates local babywearing and natural parenting groups and writes for a popular parenting website. Yvette lives in her Frankston home with her husband, son, daughter, son-in-law and two year old granddaughter, plus a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and a senile cat! In her spare time, Yvette is a keen photographer and scrap-booker and is keeper of a fairy garden.