Breastfeeding – it’s the most natural thing in the world, right? Well, not for everyone. Here’s how to give yourself the best possible chance of success
Q. What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
A. Breastmilk is a perfect, complete food for your baby. It changes during each feed, from a watery foremilk to a thicker, creamier hindmilk. It’s also good for you, helping your womb contract, and protecting against breast and ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.
Q. Every how often should I feed my baby?
A. Newborn babies can’t take in much milk at any one time, so you may feel as though you do nothing but feed in the early days. Six to eight feeds a day is perfectly normal. As your baby grows, she’ll get better at emptying the breast and will be able to take more milk, meaning she’ll go longer between feeds.
Q. What’s the best position to feed in?
A. Hold your baby in such a way that she can feed easily from the breast without having to crane her neck or strain to reach your nipple. To begin with, you may find it easier to bring her up to the level of your breast then support her on a cushion. This will make it easier for her to latch on.
Q. Speaking of which, how do you get a good ‘latch’?
A. The most important thing to remember when attempting to get a good latch is that you should bring your baby to your breast and not the other way around. Once you’ve found a comfy position, lie your baby down on her side, with her tummy close to your body and her mouth directly in front of your nipple. If her mouth is shut or she’s crying, try brushing your nipple against her lips to stimulate the rooting reflex – where she’ll automatically start looking for the nipple. Make sure her mouth is as wide as possible as she comes to take your breast in her mouth, and that her tongue, bottom lip and chin touch the breast first.
Once she has successfully latched on, hold her close as she feeds so that she is not pulling your nipple towards her mouth. Her head should be tilted back slightly, with her chin against your breast and her nose clear – she should be able to breathe freely. Finding a good breastfeeding position and perfecting the ‘latch’ is important – the more confident you are, the more likely you are to get out and about with your baby, safe in the knowledge you can feed anywhere.
Q. How long does it take to breastfeed?
A. A single breastfeed can last anything from 10 minutes to an hour. Make sure you’ve got support for your back by propping yourself up with lots of cushions, or get comfy in a specialist breastfeeding chair. Have a drink and a snack within easy reach.
Q. How do I know if my baby is sucking correctly?
A. Once your baby latches on, she’ll start with short sucks that become slower, deeper and more rhythmic once the milk starts to flow. Your baby will feed fairly continuously for 10 minutes or so. Support her head by putting your palm behind your baby’s shoulders and your index finger and thumb behind each of her ears. Signs of poor sucking include infrequent sucks, pursed lips or hollowed cheeks. Break the latch gently by putting your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth, and try again. Lots of babies find it hard to stay awake during a feed, so if you notice that your little one’s swallowing is slowing right down, she may be falling asleep. Take her off the breast and rub her back ti stimulater her.
Q. How can I be sure she’s getting enough milk?
A. The best way to judge is to see how long she lasts between one feed and the next – the longer this is the more milk she’s likely to have had. You’ll also notice that after a feed your breast may feel softer and less full than before. When your baby is pausing almost as often as she is sucking, she has emptied your breast and/or had enough milk. Now’s the time to wind her. Hold her in an upright position against your shoulder and gently rub or pat her back – don’t forget to use a muslin to protect your clothes! If your baby is content after a feed, and producing yellowy-mustard stools as well as six to eight wet nappies in 24 hours, she’s getting plenty of nourishment.
Q. Is it all right to breastfeed in public places?
A. It’s against the law to prevent a mum from breastfeeding her baby in public.
Q. Breastfeeding hurts! Is this normal?
A. Lots of mums experience sore nipples when they first breastfeed, but they will harden up. An incorrect latch is the most common reason for sore nipples, so don’t be afraid to take your baby off the breast and try again. Rubbing a good nipple cream into your breasts after each feed may help, as will exposing them to the air. If one or both of your breasts feel hot and tender, or they look inflamed and red and you generally feel ‘fluey’ and under the weather, you may have mastitis. It’s not usually serious, but do see your GP, who can advise on treatment. For information and support, visit laleche.org.uk.