Breastfeeding is a skill that may take a little time for you and your baby to master. Fortunately, there are a variety of techniques you can try. This article will outline some of the most popular guidance provided by midwives.
Prepare for breastfeeding before giving birth
Even before your baby arrives, it's good to learn breastfeeding skills that will help you feel confident when the time comes to feed your baby for the first time. For this reason, it's recommended you attend your antenatal classes where you will be taught how to:
- Position and attach your baby
- Handle common breastfeeding problems
How to breastfeed your baby
- Before you even begin the feed, make sure you are in a comfortable position. You might like to try using pillows or cushions to keep your shoulders and arms relaxed.
- Make sure your baby’s head and body are in alignment as this will help them swallow the milk quickly.
- When holding your baby, you should support their neck, shoulders and back to allow them to tilt their head back and swallow more easily.
- Bring your baby to the breast and allow them to latch on.
- Ensure they are on a nose level with your nipple as this will encourage them to open their mouth.
Techniques for your baby to latch on to your breast
Midwives offer the following advice:
- Hold the baby close to you with their nose level with your nipple.
- Let their head tilt back a little so their top lip touches the nipple. This technique will encourage the baby to open their mouth.
- Once the baby’s mouth opens, their chin should touch the breast first. Their head should tip back so their tongue can reach as much of the breast as possible.
- Once they are feeding, make sure your baby’s cheek looks full and rounded.
How to breastfeed premature or ill babies
If your newborn baby is in neonatal or special care, your midwife may recommend a special technique called kangaroo care. Here, you hold your baby close to you, often under your clothes and with them in just a nappy. This will encourage them to start feeding.
How to build up your milk supply
A few days after giving birth, your breasts may begin to get fuller, signalling the arrival of your milk. Your body’s milk production will often depend on your baby’s needs. In other words, your baby can drink whatever they need as often as they want. This is known as responsive feeding or baby-led feeding.
Although this may take time, you and your baby will soon develop a pattern, and your body will start producing milk when needed. Breastfeeding during the night is also important as this is when your body produces more ‘milk hormones’.
It's important to try and maintain a healthy diet while breastfeeding. This article recommends that you obtain the essential nutrients directly from food rather than by taking supplements. You should also take into consideration the fact that including formula milk in your breastfeeding routine may reduce your body’s milk supply. If you have any concerns or questions, your midwife will be on hand to provide some helpful advice and suggestions.
What are the main benefits of breastfeeding?
Breast milk will provide your baby with a range of practical benefits:
- It is specifically designed for babies
- It helps protect them from infections and diseases
- It is available whenever they need it
- It allows you to develop a strong emotional bond with your baby
Even small amounts of breast milk can provide your baby with positive effects. For this reason, the longer you breastfeed, the stronger your baby’s protection will be and they will be less likely to suffer from:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Cardiovascular disease during adulthood
Moreover, several studies have shown that six months of breastfeeding can reduce your child’s risk of being affected by childhood leukaemia.
As your baby grows and starts to eat solid food, your breast milk will adapt to meet their changing needs.
As an added bonus, breastfeeding can also provide you with some health benefits and lower your risk of:
- Cancer (breast or ovarian)
- Osteoporosis or weak bones
- Cardiovascular or heart disease
How often should you feed your baby?
During the first week, your baby may want to feed often – almost every hour in the first few days. Here is a rough estimate of what to expect:
- A baby often feeds around 8 to 12 times a day or even more
- It is perfectly okay to feed the baby if:
- They are hungry
- Your breasts feel full
- You want to have a cuddle
Contrary to what you may have heard, you cannot overfeed a breastfeeding baby. If your baby is feeling hungry, they may:
- Show signs of restlessness
- Suck on their fingers or fist
- Make murmuring sounds
- Turn their head and open their mouth
If possible, try to feed your baby as soon as you notice these early signs as it can be quite challenging to feed a crying baby!
How can you tell if your baby has had enough milk?
You will know if your baby has had enough milk by making the following observations.
- They feed with a few quick sucks followed by longer sucks.
- The baby’s cheek remains rounded but not sucked in. You may also be able to hear them swallowing.
- They appear calm and come off the breast once they have had enough.
- After feeding, they appear content and satisfied.
- Your baby is healthy and gaining weight. If this is not the case, it may be advisable to consult your midwife.
In addition, after a week of breastfeeding, your child’s poo will no longer look black or thick. Instead, it will be soft or runny yellow.
Breastfeeding can be a hugely enjoyable experience that will provide you and your baby with several essential health benefits. The baby will be protected against a variety of diseases and infections while you will obtain some protection against health problems ranging from obesity to cancer. Remember, your midwife will be on hand to offer some sound advice as you prepare to begin breastfeeding. They will also teach you the best latching techniques and the appropriate feeding times.