The initial few weeks of breastfeeding can be a bit stressful. The mother is exhausted and hormonal after hours in labour and is suddenly responsible for this tiny creature who is trying to feed. How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk? Mum gets more upset and distressed and the situation gets worse and worse.
All breastfeeding babies are different
Some babies take to breastfeeding like a duck to water. Others don't. All children are different. Even if you’re feeding your second, third or fourth baby, you may still have problems. Mummy and baby need to get used to each other.
However, there are very few medical reasons why you shouldn’t get there eventually as long as you have good professional advice from your midwife or lactation specialist.
Babies want to suckle straight after birth
Babies want to suckle straight after birth.
Breastfeeding should start straight after birth. The baby’s natural instinct is to suckle. If a baby is left on its mother’s tummy, it will eventually work its way to her nipples and start helping itself.
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Skin to Skin Contact is Great
After birth, a great way to start breastfeeding is to have some skin to skin contact. This has the double benefit of comforting the baby with the feel of your skin and warming the baby. New born babies can easily get cold which can make it more difficult for them to breath. Even days or weeks after the birth it is a good idea to have some skin to skin time as it helps the baby to regulate their temperature, something they aren’t that good at to begin with.
Skin to skin doesn’t have to be exclusive to breastfeeding mothers, or mothers at all. Dads can do skin to skin as well and will find it a beautiful way to say hello to their new baby.
The first few Days or Weeks of Breastfeeding can be hard work
In the first couple of days, the newborn baby will suck and suck and suck and suck. This is normal and is comforting for the baby. It also stimulates the mother’s breasts to produce milk. This can be a difficult time when breastfeeding, as the mother will still be exhausted and the baby will probably not sleep for very long.
Hold in there, it gets better. I remember with my second son, he wanted to feed all night. As my first son had been in baby unit, I hadn’t experienced the sucking all night thing and was rather taken by surprise.
The Key to Breastfeeding is a Good Latch.
The most important bit about establishing breastfeeding is getting the latch right. Remember ‘nose to nipple’. The baby’s nose should start opposite your nipple. Your baby should then open his mouth WIDE, this is really important. As he opens it wide, quickly bring his head into contact with your breast. Most of the coloured bit of your nipple (the aerola) should be in your baby’s mouth. (If you can see some of it, it should be upper bit.) The baby’s upper lip should be curled under so that you can’t really see it and the bottom lip is curled out, fully visible. When a baby is getting milk you can see their jaw moving and hear little gulping sounds. When the baby stops feeding the nipple should be in its normal shape, not squashed.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Well, yes and no. Initially it may feel rather strange for the mother but it shouldn’t actually hurt. If it does hurt it is probably because the latch is not correct. I can’t tell you how important it is to get the latch correct. It is often the difference between comfortable enjoyable breastfeeding and getting stressed and upset. To begin with, especially whilst you are in hospital, it is an idea to get a midwife to have a look at your latch every time you feed. Even if it is your second or third child, it is still worth paying attention to the attachment.
Do breastfed babies need winding?
Yes, they can swallow air from their nasal passages which can lead to a build up of air in their stomach. This can be uncomfortable for babies. Breastfed babies can be quite difficult to wind as they don't generally swallow as much air as bottle fed babies. But it is important to do, otherwise it can lead to a build up over the day and an uncomfortable, unhappy baby. Many people use slings to keep the baby snuggled and upright which can help the air escape.
How do I know if my breastfed baby is getting enough milk?
At the beginning it can be difficult to know if your baby is getting enough milk. For the first few days, they get very little milk, until your milk ‘comes in’.
If your baby is not getting enough milk, they may become dehydrated which can be a serious medical problem. Babies who are getting enough milk, will be having wet and dirty nappies frequently. They should also gain weight. (In the first few days babies lose weight but then they start to put it on again.) Your midwife will monitor your baby's weight closely. If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough milk, talk to your midwife or a health professional.
Where can I get help with breastfeeding?
There is a lot of support available to breastfeeding mothers if you know where to look for it. Your first port of call is your midwife, either your hospital midwife or community midwife. Some hospitals also have a lactation specialist. There are many peer support groups that meet regularly, generally in coffee shops and offer advice and support. Try your local NCT branch or La Leche League to find out when they meet. Many places also offer breastfeeding clinics where you can go and breastfeed with a specialist watching you. There are telephone helplines available as well (e.g. NCT and La Leche League). I know I’ve said it before, but it is worth investing time at the beginning getting the position and attachment correct, it will save you sleepless nights in the future.
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- Talk to your midwife
- Find a lactation specialist
- Groups such as La Leche League, NCT and Parents in Partnership
- Online forums and FaceBook Pages
- Find a group of friends and meet in a sympathetic cafe every week.