The most important thing when it comes to a successful breastfeeding journey is position and latch. The better your positioning and the baby’s latch, the more comfortable you will both be and the more successful your baby will be at getting a decent amount of milk from you. Whilst a baby’s gums are surprisingly hard and can cause some discomfort at first, if you are in a lot of pain it would be advisable to see a breastfeeding councelor or lactation consultant (UK). Sometimes a minor tweak in the way you are doing things can work wonders. Some tips however:To get latched on, line up baby’s eyes with your nipple. Baby will be able to smell the milk and will open their mouth wide in the search for it; as they move their head up closer to the nipple, their chin will tuck into the breast and the head will tilt back slightly, this makes for a perfect latch as it will be deeper and their gums won’t be directly on the nipple which is often the cause of severe pain.
Research is showing that rather than the classic cradle position, mother sitting slightly back on a sofa or comfortable chair (not upright) and holding the baby upright on her chest allows baby to get a deeper latch and be more in control of their head and their milk intake.
Do not push your baby’s head onto the breast. It is fine to support their neck but if you push their head, a baby has a natural reflex to push away and this will cause a lot of frustration for baby and confusion for parents.
When in doubt about your milk supply or before your milk comes in after the first four or five days after birth, make sure you stay close to your baby and have lots of skin to skin contact. Trust your body and its ability to nourish your baby; whilst your baby’s nappies are wet and dirty and baby looks and seems well in him/herself it is a sign that they are getting all they need from you. If you really are in doubt, go and see an expert: breastfeeding councellor, lactation consultant. Also for things such as suspected tongue tie, mastitis, these really are the experts as your normal GP doesn’t have that in depth knowledge about these issues which can also be occurring due to an underlying problem such as bad position or latch.
Try to master feeding your baby lying down and you could be in for more sleep! Your breast milk naturally induces sleep for both you and your baby so if you follow the guidelines for safe co-sleeping and you are able to feed lying down, you could find you can both get some sleep during nap times and the night.
Your breast milk is constantly changing and adapts according to your baby’s needs: it will for example have a higher water content when the weather is hot so your baby does not need anything other than your milk before they turn six months – in hot weather there is no need to supplement with water in a cup or bottle; your milk is enough. Likewise when your baby is sick, your milk is already providing them with the antibodies to recover as quickly as possible and the water content to stop them from becoming dehydrated. If your baby has sickness and diarrheoa the best thing you can do is continue to feed your baby in short spurts as this will reduce the risk of dehydration and also help them get better quicker.
Trust your instincts. When you become a mother, even from the moment you’re pregnant, everyone knows best. You will receive advice, solicited and unsolicited, left right and centre. Try to listen to what your heart is telling you when it comes to your baby: whether you want to feed on demand, how you feel about letting your baby cry. People will tell you you’re making a rod for your own back if you don’t put them down, if you seem to be feeding all the time. What seems right to you? What we know is that when a baby is first born, it is called the fourth trimester and it means that they feel safe close to their mother, listening to the heart beat and the familiarity of what life was like in the womb.
Remember it is your legal right to feed your baby in public. If it is a public place and you have a right to be there then you also have a right to breastfeed your baby there and nobody can lawfully ask you to stop feeding your baby or leave the premises. Know that the law is on your side and you will feel more confident doing so. Make friends with other breastfeeding mums and when you are out together, it will become much easier to breastfeed in public, safety in numbers and all that. And once you have done it once, you will find it easier and easier every time!
Your baby may seem to want to feed sporadically and at times, non-stop. This is NORMAL. Especially in the early evening, a baby will tend to feed for longer periods and more regularly. This is called cluster feeding. It isn’t a sign that your body isn’t producing enough milk (as women are often led to believe), but it is your baby’s way of keeping your supply up.
Breastfeeding isn’t just nutrition for your baby: it is comfort, cuddles, a way to calm down, sleep inducer, pain relief (try putting your baby on the boob when they have to have their injections – it helps a lot), and much more.
Especially when at home alone, before settling down to feed baby during the day, make sure you have a drink at reach as well as the tv remote, a good book or magazine, snacks, and anything else you feel you might need! You could be there a while and once your baby is sleeping it may be difficult to move! Some women find it really useful to prepare a lunch the night before and then they can grab it one-handedly from the fridge the next day. Definitely have plenty of snacks that are healthy but are easily accessed/prepared such as nuts and dried fruits.
If you are struggling with things that need to be done such as cooking for other young children when your partner or other family members aren’t about, invest in a good sling which will help to calm baby or even help to get them to sleep whilst having a spare pair of hands. You can even learn to feed your baby whilst in a sling – sling libraries are a great resource as you can borrow before you decide which one to buy and they can help show you how to get the baby in the sling, feed in the sling etc.
Many women struggle to express a decent amount of milk but it is really important to understand that the more relaxed you are, the easier you will find it to express. People find a lot of success pumping from one breast while feeding off the other because of the natural let down.
Jo Couchman, breastfeeding support counsellor and mum of three advises…
Relax – Stress and tension can make milk let down less effective, and can make it harder for baby to latch. We associate the traditional cradle hold with breastfeeding and often believe to achieve this we have to sit up straight, hunching ourselves over to bring the breast to the baby. But there really is no need. Instead recline back, lay your baby across your chest and bring baby to the breast. Newborns can instinctively migrate towards the nipple on their own and with some gentle positioning from you and a bit of help from gravity will latch much more easily. If you have fast flow once your milk comes in this position can also help a choking spluttering baby as the milk has to move uphill and is therefore easier for the baby to control and cope with.
Don’t be afraid of feeding in public – Most new mum’s are afraid of feeding in public, but don’t be. There are breastfeeding covers on the market to provide privacy, but if you wish to remain discreet the easiest way is simply to layer up a couple of camisoles or have a vest under a dress or top then you just need to pull one layer up and the other down when feeding to be covered from below and above. It’s much more comfortable on a hot day and saves you carrying too much around. There has been a few pieces of press recently about people voicing negative opinions on breastfeeding and confronting publicly feeding mums. But remember, the media do like to sell a good story, it really isn’t that scary out there! I have breastfed 3 babies in restaurants, shops, beaches, parks and more, and I have never had anything but positive experiences and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had the same. You are providing your baby with great nourishment and that is something to be proud of wherever you are.
For more information about breastfeeding support, follow this link to the National Health Service website:
About the blogger:
Marie Behenna is the author of The FitMama Method, published by Souvenir Press 2012 and creator of the ChillMAMA Pregnancy Meditation
Marie teaches exercise and nutrition to pregnant and post partum mothers in North Hampshire, United Kingdom. www.fitmamastudio.com