I know when I was breastfeeding my first baby I was woefully unprepared for what lay ahead. However, as I stayed for three nights I had plenty of opportunities to ask for help. However, this is not always the case and many mothers now leave hospital within just a few hours of their baby's birth meaning ongoing breastfeeding problems can be disastrous and lead to mothers quitting prematurely.
For my contribution to this month's carnival I've decided to repost an article I wrote for my website listing some tips to enable new mums to get breastfeeding off to the best possible start.
Top Tips for Breastfeeding Success
Many mothers to be would like to breastfeed but do not know where to begin. Since many will never have seen a breastfeeding mother it seems foolish to expect it to come naturally.
Breastfeeding takes time and patience. It is often difficult in the early days and can be uncomfortable if your baby is not positioned correctly.
The first step to success is to do plenty of research – read books about breastfeeding, do online research and to talk to as many breastfeeding mothers as possible. Contact your local breastfeeding support group and ask for advice, or call in and chat to mothers currently breastfeeding. Read breastfeeding stories written by mothers. Ask around family members who have either breastfed or tried to breastfeed, but bear in mind every woman will have different experiences to share – some more helpful than others!
It really is beneficial to get as much information as possible from as many sources as possible. As with many things in life, preparation is the key. The more you prepare the easier it will be.
Below are a few points to consider to stand the best chance of breastfeeding success:
•Breastfeed As Soon As Possible
Try to feed as soon as possible after the birth, preferably within the first 30 minutes. If the baby is too sleepy, at least have some skin-to-skin contact with him whereby you hold the baby next to your bare skin.
Ask for help and advice while you are still in hospital as all women should be able to breastfeed given the correct assistance at the beginning. Do not be afraid to complain if you feel your needs are not being met.
If you have problems when you return home ask the community midwife or health-visitor for guidance. Or you may want to phone a breastfeeding counsellor, particularly if you require advice at night.
•Feed On Demand
Most hospitals have a rooming in policy for breastfeeding mothers. This means the infant stays with mum 24 hours a day so that you can feed on demand. People may advise you to feed every 4 hours but breastfed babies need to be fed more regularly. Babies have tiny tummies and breastmilk is digested very easily. Feed the baby as often as he wants or if your breasts feel very full.
•Make Yourself Comfortable
Perhaps the most important thing to do in order to feed successfully is to get comfortable. You may like to purchase a custom-made breastfeeding chair or a breastfeeding support cushion although, strictly speaking, these aren’t necessary. As long as your back and shoulders are supported and do not ache you will be fine. Whilst getting used to breastfeeding try to keep your feet on the floor or on a few books to make a nice lap for baby.
•Position Baby Correctly
Ask a midwife to guide you the first few times you breastfeed to ensure the baby is positioned correctly. Incorrect positioning is one of the most common reasons for problems such as cracked nipples and blocked milk ducts occurring.
There are a number of breastfeeding positions you can try, although most women opt to place the baby in the crook of their elbow or under their arm like a rugby ball. Some women also find it easier to lie beside their baby in bed and feed side on. Be careful not to fall asleep due to the associated risk of cot death.
Once baby is positioned correctly, turn his tummy towards yours and his face toward your breast. Place baby’s nose and upper lip opposite your nipple. You may find it helps to use your free hand to cup your breast at this point.
•Help Baby To Latch On
To encourage the baby to ‘latch on’ gently touch his upper lip with your nipple. This will stimulate the baby to open his mouth wide and he will instinctively latch on and will start to suckle. The baby’s bottom lip should be curled outwards and he should have the whole nipple and most of the areola (the area around the nipple) in his mouth.
When the baby is correctly positioned and you are comfortable feeding can begin:
· As colostrum, the very first pre-milk feed, begins to flow you may feel a mildly painful stinging sensation that will subside within a few seconds.
· At the onset of a feed the baby will suck quickly and with vigour. This stimulates the release of prolactin, the milk-producing hormone and oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the let-down reflex. As the let-down reflex kicks in the rapid sucking will become slow deep gulping as the milk starts flowing.
· To help prevent windy pains stop the feeding occasionally by slipping a clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth. This will break the suction. Gently tap or rub the baby’s back. You may find your baby suffers some reflux, or sicks up, in the early days – remember he doesn’t know when he is full up. Over time he will learn to recognise the signs. Always seek medical advice from a qualified medical professional if you are at all concerned about how much or how often baby brings up feeds or if projectile vomiting is a problem. Medication is available which can help baby. Have plenty of baby-gros and bibs available!
· If you find the feeding extremely uncomfortable or painful try repositioning the baby ensuring that he is not sucking the nipple but has a good proportion of the areola in his mouth. You may need to try repositioning a few times until you both get the hang of it – he and you are both learning. Practice makes perfect!
· The baby will let you know when he has had enough milk by falling asleep, pushing the nipple out of his mouth or even appearing drunk and very relaxed. You should offer both breasts at each feed unless the baby is obviously full. Allow baby to decide when to finish. If you stop him too soon he may not get enough of the high calorie hind-milk so he will get hungry again sooner.
Always begin the next feed with the breast that was not used last time or used less – by alternating you will maintain a steady milk supply. To remember which breast to offer you can put a safety pin on your bra on the side you used last. Alternatively, you might like to try something a little more fashionable, like a breastfeeding necklace or bracelet.
Don't forget to read the following carnival posts (updated as they become available) for more information about breastfeeding experiences in the hospital.
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Breastfeeding experiences in the hospital
The Milk Mama: Newborns, Nursing, and Hospital(ity)
Momma's Angel: My Hospital Experience in Norway
Whozat & Shrike: The Nipple Intervention
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Please Speak Up
The Beautiful Letdown: Breastfeeding in the Hospital
Healthcare for you and your family at our private hospitals.