We all know that breastfeeding has some amazing benefits for both mum and baby, but it isn’t always easy. To help you know what to expect when breastfeeding and how to prepare, we asked Midwife and Health Visitor Katie Hilton for her top tips to help you on your breastfeeding journey.
Do Your Research
After birth, you’re likely to be exhausted and in pain. It’s not exactly a great time to first start learning something new. So, swot up on breastfeeding ahead of time. You might like to take a breastfeeding class or talk to mums who have breastfed successfully before you actually have to do it. It’s a good idea to find out what breastfeeding support groups are near you so that you know where to go for help if you need it.
Holding your baby right after birth can help you get off to a good start, so try to cuddle your baby as soon as you can after delivery and give breastfeeding a shot. Baby’s senses of seeing, hearing, smelling and touch—are heightened in that first hour after birth. They’re neurologically wired to find the breast. And when they’re allowed to use those senses to latch on by themselves, the way they’re instinctively wired to, they tend to latch on correctly. If you can’t hold your baby straight after delivery then don’t worry, just take the opportunity to try breastfeeding when you do manage to get that first cuddle.
This requires some stripping on both your parts. Place your unclothed baby on your bare chest when he’s fussy or struggling to feed. (If you’re modest, cover up with a blanket.) The close contact will calm him and help trigger his feeding instincts.
Learn the Signs
When you see your baby chewing on his hands, making mouthing motions, or turning his head from side to side and bringing his hands to his face, he’s telling you, ‘I’m starting to get hungry’ or ‘I want to be near you’. When you respond to those cues, your baby learns to continue giving them, and you can often feed your baby before he starts crying. Once your baby cries, he’s no longer just hungry; he’s mad and hungry, and that can make breastfeeding much more difficult for both of you.
Get through Engorgement
Try to offer your baby a feed every two to three hours in the very beginning. If your breasts start to feel engorged—really tight, firm, large and warm—a few days after birth, don’t panic, that’s your full milk coming in. (Before that, your baby gets super-nutritious, concentrated colostrum.) Engorgement goes away in a few days, but rock-hard breasts can make things challenging. If your baby has a hard time latching on, hand express or pump a little milk before you feed him to make things softer.
Call in the Pros
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, so if you’re having pain, or if your baby isn’t wetting at least 6 nappies a day, call your Midwife or Health Visitor. It’s important to nip issues in the bud as quickly as possible and they can support you through any bumps along the road.
Get some Sleep
Just because you’re the one with the boobs doesn’t mean you have to do all the feeding. After you and baby have developed a consistent breastfeeding relationship (usually after the first 6-8 weeks), you might like to give your partner an opportunity to feed your baby — especially if you’re longing for a good night’s sleep. Just be sure to pump a bottle of breast milk before you go to bed. To maintain your body’s milk supply, try to have a pumping session every time your baby has a bottle.
Breast Feeding on the Go
Did you know that you can breastfeed in a baby carrier or wrap? Not all baby carriers are suitable for breastfeeding but choose one that is easily adjustable like the Izmi baby carrier, and you can breastfeed wherever you are without taking baby out of their sling. It is a good idea to get used to breastfeeding before you attempt this, but when you are ready, simply loosen your carrier or wrap slightly so that you can move baby inline with your breast. Make sure you always support your baby’s head during feeding as the carrier won’t offer the support they need in the breastfeeding position. Then when they have finished feeding you can re-adjust the carrier or wrap so that baby is back in their usual upright position.
Before you give birth, talk to your employer if you plan to continue breastfeeding if you return to work. (FYI: Your right to do that is protected by law.) Together, figure out a private place where you can pump, and brainstorm ways you can fit pumping breaks into your workday. It might seem daunting, but plenty of mums keep breastfeeding after they go back to work—and you totally can too if you want to.
At least a couple of weeks before you’re scheduled to go back to work, start trying to pump breast milk if you intend to continue breastfeeding. A few minutes after your baby’s morning feed is a good time, because that’s when your milk supply tends to be the greatest. You can also try pumping on one side while your baby feeds on the other (the ultimate in multitasking!). Both techniques will help you get used to pumping, and stockpile plenty of breast milk.
Educate Baby’s Caregiver
Make sure your baby’s nursery or child minder knows exactly how to prepare a bottle of breast milk (no microwaving allowed—just defrost in a warm bowl of water), to use the oldest milk first, and exactly how much and how often baby needs to eat throughout the day.
Know your Number
If you decide to continue breastfeeding and return to work, then before you go back, count how many times baby feeds in a 24-hour period. That’s your “magic number,” When you go back to work, the number of times baby feeds over 24 hours plus the number of times you pump should equal your magic number. Don’t be surprised, by the way, if your baby decides to eat very little while you’re at work and to feed constantly when you’re at home. It’s called reverse cycle feeding, and it’s completely normal. Be flattered, baby just prefers you to the bottle!