If you have decided to try to give breastfeeding a go, well done. That is usually the first step!
has endless benefits for you and for your little one. But if breastfeeding doesn't come naturally at first, don't worry. A lot of new mums and their babies have to practise until they get the hang of it.
Remember, even if you have breastfed before, your newborn hasn’t - they are learnin
g as they go and so are you.
How to start breastfeeding
The first time your baby is placed on your chest after delivery is a great time to start breastfeeding. At the beginning, your body will produce colostrum that will help protect your baby from infection. It is amazing, your little one's tummy is very tiny, so she only needs these small amounts to fill up. As her tummy grows, your milk will change and you'll produce more of it.
Turn your baby's whole body toward you, chest to chest. Touch her upper lip with your nipple, and, when she opens her mouth wide, pull her onto your breast, holding your breast for support. Her mouth should cover not just the nipple but as much of the areola as possible.
Don't panic if your newborn seems to have trouble finding or staying on your nipple. Breastfeeding requires patience and lots of practice. Don't hesitate to ask a nurse to show you what to do or to help get your baby to latch, and request visits from a lactation consultant while you're still in the hospital.
Once you get started, remember that breastfeeding shouldn't be painful. It can take your nipples a few days to “toughen up” but after a few seconds after her initial latch, it shouldn't be painful. Pay attention to how your breasts feel when your baby latches on. Her mouth should cover a big part of the areola below the nipple, and your nipple should be far back in your baby's mouth.
If, after a couple of days, the latch-on still hurts, break the suction (by inserting your little finger between your baby's gums and your breast) and try again. Once your baby latches on properly, she'll know what to do.
How often you should breastfeed?
Frequently. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce. It is a supply and demand scenario. Breastfeeding eight to 12 times every 24 hours is pretty much on target. Most mums choose to breastfeed on demand and take their baby’s lead.
You should feed your newborn whenever she starts to show any early signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting around for your nipple. Crying is a late sign of hunger – ideally, you should start feeding your baby before she starts crying.
During those first few days, you may have to gently wake your little one to breastfeed, and she may fall asleep again mid-feeding. To keep her awake during feedings, you may want to unswaddle her or remove a layer of clothing. To make sure your baby's breastfeeding enough, wake her up if it's been four hours since your last nursing session.
Problems you may experience
Some mums adjust to breastfeeding easily, encountering no major physical or emotional hurdles. But many new mums find it hard to learn. If you're feeling discouraged, you're not alone.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed by your baby's constant demands and exhausted from lack of sleep. And you may have questions: Are they getting enough milk? Is it normal to have sore nipples? Should I wake her if she falls asleep while feeding?
Although women have breastfed their babies for centuries, breastfeeding doesn't always come easily. Many women face difficulties early on.
Common problems you may encounter in the first six weeks include:
- Engorgement (breasts that are excessively full and uncomfortable)
- Mastitis (a breast infection)
- Sore Nipples
Don't suffer in silence. Call your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you're suffering from any of the above.
There are also many breastfeeding support groups in your local health centre. A day and a time where you can meet with other mums in the exact same situation as you. Ask your PHN for more information.