Step-by-step help on how to make breastfeeding work

Need help with breastfeeding? Follow our simple step-by-step guide…

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  • GET TO GRIPS WITH BREASTFEEDING

    The benefits of breast milk are endless – it boosts your baby’s immune system and helps his digestion, while feeding is a wonderful opportunity to bond with him too.

    But, while you want to give your little one the best start in life, breastfeeding is not always a breeze. If you’re having difficulties, these steps can help you back on the right track.

  • Get comfy

    Finding a good position is crucial. There are lots to try – from lying down to holding your baby underarm. “Half of breastfeeding problems are down to bad positioning,” says Vicki Williams, National Childbirth Trust breastfeeding counsellor and lactation consultant (nct.org.uk).

    “It works best if gravity holds the baby tight to the mum, so try any position where you are slightly reclined so that your baby is nice and high up your body and lying against your skin.”

    If you are comfortable you are also more likely to relax and enjoy lots of skin-to-skin contact, which releases the hormone oxytocin.

    “Studies have shown that oxytocin improves a baby’s feeding reflexes and helps strengthen the feeding relationship between your baby and you, so try to have lots of skin-to-skin cuddles,” says Vicki.

  • Learn the latch

    Getting your baby to latch onto your nipple properly is the key to successful feeding for you and your baby. You want to get his lips around enough breast tissue so that your nipple goes right to the back of his mouth.

    “When your baby has a good latch you’ll find he scoops up more areola close to his lower lip than his top lip,” explains Geraldine Miskin, independent breastfeeding specialist (breastfeedingexperience.com). “Once you’ve got this right, the chances
    of having sore nipples are low.”

    Babies are born with the ability to latch themselves, but you can help by making sure he is close enough and gravity is holding him against you.

    “To improve the latch, make sure your baby is coming in with his chin first and pressed tightly to your breast, his nose is clear so he can breathe freely, and his mouth is really wide open,” says Vicki.

    If your baby isn’t doing this, then don’t be afraid to ask an expert for advice. “Experiencing pain is not normal, and can always be helped,” Vicki says. 

  • Follow his lead

    While breastfeeding is new to you, it’s also new to your little one. “Your baby has no concept of feeding times, so rather than following a strict routine, find a feeding pattern or rhythm that works for you,” says Geraldine.

    “It’s all about learning and watching your baby’s cues, and being able to predict what he might want,” says Vicki. “Rather than building a rigid routine where you feel restricted, it’s more helpful if you can tune into your baby and develop a two-way communication.”

    Learning when your baby can be flexible and amenable will help you tweak your breastfeeding schedule to suit your baby and your lifestyle.

    “Babies are remarkably flexible. They don’t feed to a rigid schedule any more than we eat to one,” Vicki says. “It’s more important to watch your baby than watch the clock.”

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  • Express yourself

    Expressing milk can help you in all sorts of situations where you want to carry on feeding your baby from the breast but are having trouble.

    “Experts advise you not to express for six to eight weeks after birth while your milk supply and baby’s cues are developing,” says Vicki. “But expressing is an option once breastfeeding has been established.” It can be a huge help if you need to leave your baby in someone else’s care, too.

    “If you don’t want to express, that’s OK, but if you do, you can make your breastfeeding routine as flexible as you need it to be to enable you to continue feeding for longer,” Geraldine explains. What’s more, your partner can help out with night feeds.

  • Search for support

    A lot of mums find that breastfeeding is easier when they have the support of their peers.

    “Studies have shown that mum-to-mum support is one of the most effective ways of helping mums to carry on breastfeeding up to the recommended six months,” says Vicki.

    Building up a support network can be key to getting through the tough times – and picking up hints and tips.

    “It’s really valuable to connect with other mums who might have hit the same hurdles as you and have practical suggestions, or local knowledge of who are the good professionals to go and see,” Vicki explains.

    Check out breastfeeding tips from real mums, and share your experiences with other mums in our forums.

  • REAL MUMS SAY... Tips on breastfeeding

    "I used an app to keep track of feeds. Get lots of clothes with easy access and a feeding cover so you can feed anywhere!" says Emilie Collings, 27, from Devon, mum to Jamie, 3, and Jessica, 11 months.

    "Do your research! Baby’s unexpected growth spurts can make you feel like all you do is feed. It’s good to know that these phases don’t last forever," says Grace Lymath, 24, from Cumbria, mum to Aubrey Willow, 1.

    "Try a breastfeeding bracelet. Once you’ve fed, move the bracelet to the wrist on the side you’re due to feed on next so you don’t forget," Claire Louise Heaton, 35, from Bournemouth, mum to Morgan, 13, Paige, 11, Molly, 8, Maisylou, 4, Kevin, 2, and Lenny, 2 months.

    Want to chat with mums about your experience of breastfeeding? Share your experiences with other mums in our forums, head to our Facebook page or tweet us @Baby_Expert.

  • Accessories

    If you've decided to breastfeed there are lots of products out there designed to help you get comfortable while you are nursing, and some that help you feel more comfortable when breastfeeding in public.

    Breastfeeding covers

    Breastfeeding or nursing covers may be useful when breastfeeding in public places to help with a comfortable and discreet feed, so you can nurse with ease.

    The Bebe au Lait Nursing Cover, £27.50, from Bibs and Stuff (pictured) comes in a range of colours and is easy to use, machine washable and multi purpose. As a nursing cover, or for expressing, it give you generous coverage providing privacy and focus for Mum and Baby. It also has a rigid neckline so you can can see your baby, and this also allows airflow. The cover also has a terry cloth corner for clean ups and a small item storage pocket.

    Check out our round-up of 5 of the best breastfeeding covers.

    Nursing pillows

    Finding a good position for feeding is cruical, and it's important to feel comfortable. There are lots of great nursing pillows that can help you get comfy while you feed your baby. Shop around to find the one that suits your needs best, or just use a few normal pillows to give you the support you need.

    Breast pumps

    Breastpumps can be a great way to make breastfeeding more flexible once breastfeeding has been established. Milk can be expressed by hand, but you might find a pump helps make it easier.

    For more information read the mum's guide to buying a breastpump, and see breast pump reviews on our sister site MadeForMums.com.

    Nursing bras

    Nursing bras are designed to give good support, be gentle on the breasts to ease sore nipples, plus cups may be unclasped for feeds.

    For more information check out reviews of the top nursing bras.

    Breast pads

    Breast pads help protect your clothing while you are nursing. You can choose between machine-washable or disposable pads. Machine washable pads cost more, but are actually more economical if you plan to breastfeed for more than three months. Try using the disposable pads during the early days, and switching to machine-washable once you feel more comfortable.

    To help you decide which breast pads could help you read our breast pad and nipple protector reviews.

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