5 things you need to know to successfully breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come easily.
Many new mums, often approach breastfeeding with the expectation that it will be difficult and therefore automatically assume they probably won’t succeed.
We’ve all heard horror stories, and we’re constantly told by society that breastfeeding is challenging at times, often verging on the impossible for many of us.
Coupled with the fact that nowadays, many of us no longer grow up in larger families seeing our mothers and other female family members openly breastfeeding. So with the majority of new parents having little or no exposure to breastfeeding before we have our babies, it’s natural to feel anxious.
Whilst breastfeeding might be instinctive for your baby, it’s a learned skill for parents. But you CAN succeed AND have a beautiful breastfeeding journey, if you know what to do and you’ve got the right support to help you along the way.
Here are five simple, but important, tips to set you up for breastfeeding success:
1. Protect your milk supply
Your milk supply is one of the only parts of breastfeeding which is time critical.
The hormones which control your milk supply are at their highest straight after birth and in the first six weeks, after which they begin to gradually decline.
This means your body is most responsive to feeding/pumping and able to produce more milk during those early weeks, making it crucial to look after your milk supply.
Don’t forget, your milk works on supply and demand, so having your baby feed frequently, and emptying your breasts on a regular basis (every few hours) sends signals to your brain to produce more milk.
Here are some simple ways to help you produce more milk:
- Always offer both sides at every feed
Use a nappy change in between switching breasts to wake your baby up if you need to. They may not always want to take both sides, but it’s always good to offer.
Stimulating both breasts by removing some milk at each feed will cause your body to produce more than just feeding from one. Feeding only one side at a time means the other breast will go a longer period of time being full, which signals your brain to cut back on milk production.
- Express milk to stimulate supply
if your baby can’t latch, or there are signs that baby isn’t feeding effectively (such as baby is losing weight/being slow to gain weight, feeding can be painful or you are reliant on nipple shields) always start expressing to compensate and stimulate your supply until you get some expert support with breastfeeding.
Many, many parents are advised to ‘top up’ in the early weeks of breastfeeding, most often because their baby isn’t gaining weight, or has lost a lot of weight after birth. In these instances, they are generally advised to use formula.
This is because it is assumed mum isn’t producing enough milk, which contributes to baby’s slow weight gain. Not only can the early introduction of formula increase your baby’s risk of longer term health issues, but it is also associated with shorter duration of breastfeeding and it has an immediate impact on your milk supply.
Each time you feed or pump, you are signalling to your brain to produce more milk.
If your baby has a bottle of formula (or milk from another source) your brain doesn’t get that signal. So it’s always best to start with a routine of expressing milk on a regular basis by using a good quality electric pump (or hand expressing if this can’t be easily done ).
This way you’ll not only be helping ensure your baby is well fed, but also that your body will start producing more milk, so your baby doesn’t become reliant on formula or ‘top ups’.
2. Build your support tribe
Raising a child is wonderful but also very challenging.
Breastfeeding is no different. Many new parents struggle with conflicting advice and not knowing where to turn when they need more support or how to make sense of it all.
Make the most of any support networks during the early months.
Whether it’s friends or family who can help make meals or help out around the house, or your partner who can help change and settle the baby after feeds so you can get some much needed rest. Now is the time to accept all those offers of help!
It’s also worth researching any support resources specifically around breastfeeding.
You can visit a lactation consultant before your baby is even born, to advise you on all your breastfeeding concerns and will then be able to offer you personalised support whenever you need it after your baby arrives.
Research local breastfeeding support groups and services in advance, so you have their details to hand if feeding isn’t going smoothly.
3. It’s not what the latch looks like, it’s how it feels
Hearing that your baby’s latch looks good, when it’s hurting you, is about as helpful as hearing that your new shoes look good when they’re giving you blisters!
When your baby first latches on at the beginning of a feed, always judge the latch by how it feels. Don’t worry initially about what you can see.
It’s normal to feel the sensation of your baby feeding, and in the first week after birth it’s normal for your nipples to feel tender or sensitive, particularly in the first few days.
If you can feel pinching or sharp pain throughout the feed then baby is not taking a deep latch and you should reach out for support.
You don’t need to push through the pain, and in fact this will only cause damage to your nipples which may worsen the pain, or make it difficult to feed your baby all together in the long term.
If feeding feels comfortable, you can hear your baby swallowing (after day 3-4) and baby is content; this is the best gauge of how well they are latched.
Your nipples shouldn’t misshapen after a feed, so if they’re flattened, pinched or have a lipstick shape this means your baby is not taking a deep enough latch.
4. Understanding what’s normal
The first weeks and months of being a new parent can be extremely overwhelming, and not understanding how a normal breastfed baby will feed, sleep and behave can make you feel like a failure as a parent when your baby is actually behaving completely normally.
When your baby is young it’s normal for them to:
- Only want to sleep on you.
It’s not because they don’t like the cot you picked, it’s because they have a primal instinct to feel in danger if they can’t feel or see you (and their eyesight is very poor at birth).
They may fall asleep on you and cry as soon as they’re put down. This is really normal and it will slowly pass as the weeks go by.
- Feed frequently.
In the first few days, your baby will receive colostrum when they breastfeed.
This thick, yellow substance is a powerhouse of nutrients and antibodies, but it is also low in fat and they take in very small volumes, meaning baby needs small and frequent feeds.
They may feed every 2 hours (or sometimes more) until your milk comes in, so your body needs to ‘switch on’ your milk making cells.
This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to feed frequently soon after birth. Each of those feeds in the first few days switch on your milk making cells, meaning your body is capable of making more milk. Try to make sure your baby feeds within the first 1-2 hours after birth, and regularly (at least every 3 hours or so) after that in order to make sure you can produce an abundant milk supply for your baby going forward.
- Breastfeeding isn’t all about food.
Your baby may want to feed for comfort. For example, when they’re winding or uncomfortable, when they’re overstimulated or overtired.
In the summer months you’ll also find baby feeds more frequently on hot days for extra hydration.
Breastfeeding will fix many problems for your baby, so don’t just think about it being about hunger all the time, offer the breast whenever you wish to – when in doubt, whip it out!
5. How to tell if your baby is getting enough
Healthcare providers often get fixated on a baby’s weight as this is the tell tale sign of whether your baby is getting enough milk and nutrients.
However, as parents, you yourselves can lookout for tell tale signs at home to establish how well your baby is feeding:
- do they have regular wet and dirty nappies ? (at least one wet and one dirty for each day of their age, until they’re a week old, then 6-8 wet nappies and at least 1-2 poos per day)
- do your breasts feel softer, lighter, deflated after a feed?
- can you hear your baby swallowing? Can you see them doing a slow rhythmic suck (rather than quick nibbling sucking like they might do on a dummy)?
- do they seem content after a feed?All of these are great signs that your baby is getting enough milk.
Breastfeeding – the bottom line
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, don’t lose hope. Many new mums struggle with breastfeeding, and it’s definitely not because you’re doing anything wrong.
More often than not, it’s because you haven’t had the right support or advice.
If you’ve never done something before, you can’t expect to know what to do.
So reach out before or soon after your baby is born for support from your local breastfeeding group, midwife or IBCLC ( International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
It’s important for you to realise that you’re not in this alone.
By following these breastfeeding tips, and with professional help and support if you need it, you’ll soon get the hang of breastfeeding and it will become second nature to you and your baby.
This sponsored article was written by Alissa Pemberton BSc (Midwifery), International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) & Holistic Sleep Coach – June 2022
Bloss has partnered with Ocado this Summer to make looking after yourself, your family and your baby that little bit easier – especially if you’re a first-time parent and could do with a helping hand.
When it comes to breastfeeding, there’s no “one size fits all” rule and every baby is different.
Here are a few everyday essentials that could give you an extra helping hand on your breastfeeding journey:
Why not stock up on some breast pads from your favourite brands such as Lil-lets Maternity Breast Pads (where you can now buy 2 packs for £4.50 before 2nd August 2022) or Lansinoh Washable Nursing Breast Pads to keep you going through the summer.
Those all-important muslins help with baby dribbles and burping.
The Aden & Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets come in a pack of 4 with some gorgeous summer prints and are so versatile as they are large enough to double up as a swaddle, muslin or breast- feeding cover.
For those every day simple muslin squares the M&S Organic Cotton Muslin Squares come in a pack of 5 and are such great value.
To make things more comfortable while breastfeeding the Lansinoh Breastfeeding Pillow is a great addition as it’s also compact enough to take out with you when on the go.
Don’t forget, if you’re expressing milk, you’ll need a pump, bottles and milk storage bags.
There’s a great range available, including the Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump , a pack of 50 breastmilk storage bags from Lansinoh and anti-colic easy start bottles from MAM for all the basics.
And obviously after feeds, it’s inevitable you’ll go through an abundance of nappies. Ocado has some great summer deals until 2nd August 2022 where you can get two Jumbo+ packs of Pampers Active Fit Nappy Pants (size 5 or size 6) for £18 or two Jumbo+ packs of Baby-Dry
You can also save ⅓ on Pampers Size 2 Harmonie Nappies (4-8kg) when you order before 2nd August 2022.
For anything else your family needs this Summer, head to bloss and Ocado to discover all the ways we can support you on your parenting journey.
bloss x Ocado