Breastfeeding your new baby can be an amazing bonding experience. But it’s also incredibly challenging, especially for new mums!
Don’t believe what you see on the big screen. There’s more to breastfeeding than just whacking baby onto your boob and hoping for the best. Milk supply, cluster feeding, engorgement … it’s no wonder new mums get overwhelmed.
So Mum Central gathered these helpful breastfeeding tips and asked respected midwife Liz Wilkes for advice about what to expect if you are a first time breastfeeder. Read on through our breastfeeding guide if you’d like to unravel the mysteries of breastfeeding!
9 super tips for mastering breastfeeding
1. Start as soon as you can
A great time to start breastfeeding is when you first cuddle your baby after birth. Skin to skin contact lets your baby search for your nipple. Your baby may lick, nuzzle or suck your nipple – all are a great start. Babies can feed up to 12times a day in the early weeks. It will take time for you both to learn how to breastfeed, so be patient and ask your midwives for help.
2. Get comfy
You will be breastfeeding your baby often, and feedings can take a while. So it’s important to take care of yourself and make feeding easier by getting yourself relaxed and comfortable, Liz says. “When you’re comfortable and relaxed your breast milk flows more easily. Be sure to invest in a comfortable chair and nursing pillow to help support both your back and arms.”
Hold your baby in a way that is comfortable for you. Some mums find sitting with the baby held across their chest most comfy, called a cradle hold. You can use a nursing pillow to support your baby and some mums also use a footstool. You might like to try the underarm ‘football’ hold or be more comfortable lying on your side. There’s no right or wrong way, so find what works for you and your baby. Check out more details on different feeding positions.
3. Nipple this way!
Breastfeeding can take while to get the hang of – for you and your baby. It takes lots of patience and practice! So don’t worry if your baby has trouble finding your nipple or staying on. It’s ok to ask your midwife, nurse or lactation consultant for help getting your baby attached. If your baby has attached well, you will notice little or no pain and that your baby’s mouth is wide open regularly sucking on the nipple and the areola, both lips are out, chin is touching the breast and nose is clear. If your baby isn’t attached properly, insert your little finger between your breast and your baby’s gums to break the suction and try again.
4. Funny feelings
When your baby attaches to breastfeed, this stimulates your breasts to let-down milk. This reflex can feel a little strange, like a tingling sensation, cause milk to drip or spray from the other breast or some cramping in your uterus in the first days after birth. It may feel funny, but is completely normal!
5. What goes down can come up
You can try to gently burp your baby between each breast and after feeding. Don’t worry if after a few minutes your baby hasn’t burped, some don’t need to or don’t need to after every feed. It’s also normal for babies to bring up some milk after feeding or when being burped.
How do you tell when your baby is hungry? Your baby will give cues, such as being more alert, restless, wriggling, tossing, turning, putting a hand to mouth, opening their eyes and searching or opening their mouth wide. Crying is a late sign of hunger and can make it more difficult to settle your baby so they can attach.
7. Repeat, repeat, repeat
How often do you need to feed your baby? While tiny tummies only need small amounts to fill up, they need to feed frequently. It’s normal to nurse 12 or more times in 24 hours. Plenty of feeds will also help your milk come in.
“In the first month it’s important to get both your body and baby into a good rhythm, so when your baby is hungry let them feed as much as they want,” Liz says. “Your milk supply is directly related to your baby’s demand, so encouraging long and regular breastfeeding sessions in the early days will help produce your supply and also keep your little one feeling full for hours (and not to mention sleeping longer!)”
8. Huge boobs and other difficulties
Breastfeeding can be wonderful – and tricky. Many new mums find it hard to learn and feel discouraged.
Some common difficulties are:
Engorgement, where your breasts feel very full and uncomfortable and may leak between feeds. This is normal and will settle down as you keep feeding your baby. You may need to express a little milk before feeding to help your baby attach properly. Hot showers, hot packs or nursing pads can also help. Aussie mum Rebecca Judd shares her experience of engorgement.
Sore or cracked nipples which are commonly caused because your baby is not attaching well. It’s okay to take your baby off the breast and try again, and to ask for help in getting your baby to attach properly. Check your bra is not rubbing on your nipples, and if you can, leave your bra off to allow air to your nipples after feeding. It can help to express a little of the milk after feedings and smear it over your nipples or to apply purified lanolin ointment. Don’t use soap on your nipples as this will dry them out, and keep breast pads dry by changing them often. Nipple protectors or shields can also be useful. If the pain persists, get it checked as there can be other causes such as dermatitis.
Blocked milk duct is a hard, tender lump in your breast that may also look red and feel hot. Feed often to help clear the blockage and try different positions. While feeding, massage the sore spot gently. Applying a hot cloth or taking a hot shower can also help.
Mastitis or breast infection is when a blocked milk duct gets worse. You may have a fever and feel as if you are coming down with the flu. If you think might have mastitis, check out the symptoms and treatments recommended by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. You should also see your doctor as you may need antibiotics.
Thrush is an infection that can cause white patches in your baby’s mouth and/or an itchy pink rash on your nipples and the skin around them. See your doctor as treatment is needed.
This mum shares why sometimes breastfeeding hurts like hell!
9. Where to go if you have questions or need help
Many mums find breastfeeding hard at the start. It’s ok to have questions or need help, so keep this breastfeeding guide handy. “Asking your midwife to support you with breastfeeding can give you a lot more confidence. Always remember – this is your baby and your body. While it’s good to be open to advice, try to trust your own instincts,” Liz says.
For help with breastfeeding, contact your doctor, midwife, lactation consultant, local child health service or call the Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline on 1800 686 268.
Want more breastfeeding advice to help you nail it? Take another look at our article about the four most common breastfeeding problems – and how to fix them.