Like the idea of breastfeeding your baby, but don’t know where to start? TRACEY LATTIMORE tells you everything you need to know about how to successfully breastfeed your precious new arrival.
When you’re pregnant, you want to do everything possible to ensure the health of your baby – and that doesn’t stop once baby has arrived. Breastfeeding is nature’s way of providing everything your baby needs in terms of food for his first six months, and it’s an incredibly bonding experience too. Spending time with your newborn cradled in your arms, watching him feed and knowing he’s being comforted just by being near you is a truly magical experience.
However, even if you’re keen to breastfeed right from the start, a few tips and techniques can make the experience much easier and much more enjoyable. After all, despite the fact that breastfeeding is natural and babies are born to suckle, many babies need to learn how to feed properly, just the same as you need to learn how to position your little one correctly. You’ll find that with a bit of practice – and a lot of patience – breastfeeding will soon become second nature.
Despite doing lots of reading up beforehand, first-time mum Helen Chambers (36) found that her baby would feed well on one breast, but not the other. “I’d spend ages sitting on my own, in the middle of the night, trying to get Molly to latch on to my left breast while she wriggled, cried and generally became quite agitated,” she says. “Eventually, I resorted to holding my breast and literally pushing it into her mouth – and holding it there – until she got a good latch. and then I’d try to work the feeds so that the night-time one would be from my right breast, just because it was quicker and less stressful.” Eventually, after about three weeks, Helen was able to feed successfully from both breasts.
Getting it right
After the birth, your breasts produce colostrum, a golden liquid that’s full of vital nutrients for your baby. He’ll only take about a teaspoonful of this at each feed as his stomach will still be very small. After two to three days, your milk will ‘come in’ and cause your breasts to feel hot and firm. as your baby feeds, the initial milk (called foremilk) will be thin and watery, but this changes to become thicker and creamier as the feed progresses (this milk is known as hindmilk). It’s important that your baby gets both of these at every feed to quench his thirst and satisfy his appetite.
So what’s the secret? according to former midwife and breastfeeding counsellor Clare Byam-Cook, breastfeeding is definitely a skill that has to be learnt. “You shouldn’t expect it to be as easy and as natural as everyone makes out,” she says. “But breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you’re doing it right. it’s only if you’re doing it incorrectly that you’ll get problems. So many people get sore nipples that it’s not surprising that they believe breastfeeding should be painful.”
Firstly, get comfortable. keep a large glass of water handy, as breastfeeding is thirsty work. Position yourself with plenty of pillows under arm or under your baby so that your arm doesn’t ache, and lay your baby so that his head and body are in a straight line. Hold him close to your breast so that he doesn’t have to reach out to feed – this allows him to tilt his head back so he can swallow more easily. His mouth should be in line with your nipple.
once you’re ready, bring your baby to your breast (not the other way round, otherwise poor posture can give you backache) and, with your baby’s mouth open wide, allow him to latch on. He should take a large amount of your areola (the brown bit surrounding your nipple) into his mouth – not just the nipple – and his bottom lip should curl back.
Help your baby by squeezing your breast to make it mouth-shaped. “Most mothers are told either not to shape their breasts at all, or to squeeze them the wrong way, which makes it harder for the baby to latch on,” says Clare. The easiest guide is that your fingers should go either side of your nipple where your baby’s nose and chin are. As you look down at your breast, place a finger and thumb at the three o’clock and nine o’clock position, so you squeeze your breast to fit into his mouth.
If you’re feeding correctly, your baby should appear satisfied after most feeds. He should be also gaining weight after the first two weeks and have at least six wet nappies and two yellow stools a day from around day five. And your breasts and nipples should not be sore. If you find that breastfeeding hurts, remove your baby from your nipple straightaway by inserting a clean finger in his mouth and easing him off, then try again.
Feeds shouldn’t take hours on end – once your baby has got into a regular pattern, feeding will become more effective and you’ll know how often he needs milk. Let your baby decide when he has had enough, and feed him on-demand – this will also help your breasts adjust to make the right amount of milk for him. And once you’ve got the hang of it, you really won’t look back!