So you are thinking of breastfeeding, or you have already made the decision to breastfeed? Great! I am sure you have already heard all the brilliant things that breastfeeding can do for you and your little one; including lowering the risks of breast and ovarian cancer for you. Whilst reducing the risk of childhood illnesses such as asthma, ezcema, ear infections and tummy bugs for your baby. Your body is an amazing milk producing machine. It can tailor your milk to your babies requirements, including all those fantastic antibodies to help fight off any bugs.
Although breastfeeding is ‘natural’ its not always easy. Hopefully we can help you out with some advice and information. Remember that most areas have local breastfeeding support groups. If you need some face to face guidance the best place to start is to speak to your Midwife or Health Visitor.
1. This is going to take some time
Right the baby is awake and she wants some food, like now. But hang on, there are two people to think about before you feed her. Don’t forget about yourself. Babies can breastfeed for up to 30 mins and sitting hunched over with one leg under your bottom and the TV remote over the other side of the room is not an ideal set up! I know its hard if your little one is screaming like she is having her limbs removed by a bear, but just take a moment for you.
Grab a glass of water because breastfeeding is thirsty work. Sort those cushions out on the sofa so they are propped up behind you and put something decent on the TV or radio. Now you can sit down and get yourself comfy, grab the breastfeeding cushion if you have (no one likes dead arms). Try not to lean forward when you are attaching baby to the breast as this is going to be really uncomfortable after a few minutes. Lay back into the cushions so your back is nice and supported, put your feet up if that is your preference. Comfy? Good now you can settle in for the long haul without having to keep fidgeting about.
2. Let It All Hang Out
So we have all seen those amazing mums in Costa’s who can breastfeed their baby with barely a scrap of skin showing – brilliant. I can guarantee she didn’t learn to do that overnight. Learning to feed your baby takes a bit of practice! In those first few days as you are getting to know each other and getting to grips with feeding your cute little bundle at home get your whole breast out.
This makes it loads easier for you and baby. Firstly you can see what you are doing without having bits of cloth in the way and secondly babies vision is designed to see light and dark helping them to negotiate the difference between breast tissue and nipples. Loads of places sell nursing tops, for the first few days don’t try anything to fancy or those ones where you get a tiny hole to stick a nipple through. Go for the one where the whole front folds down so you can easily get to the whole breast when required. Stick to my mantra if in doubt get the whole thing out!
3. Nope, Try Again
Every piece of breastfeeding literature you read will tell you that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt – this is true. Don’t get me wrong when you first start your nipples do take a while to harden up to the idea of having the equivalent of a Dyson attached to them. But a good nipple cream should see you through the worst of this. What you should find, is once baby is latching and attaching correctly, that there is no pain on the nipple after the initial couple of sucks. If it hurts, its not right! Stop, right there. Take your little finger and break the seal of babies mouth. She probably won’t like this, but just a couple of poorly attached feeds will destroy your nipples quicker than you can imagine.
Take her off, check your position. Remember nose to nipple, wait for a big mouth and lead with the chin. You should see some dark aerola at her top lip and her lips should be flared out, with the chin burying into the breast tissue. You don’t want to see any aerola at her bottom lip and she certainly shouldn’t be hanging off your nipple! If you take her off and your nipple looks like the end of a lipstick it means she is not taking enough breast tissue into her mouth and that your nipple is being squished against her hard pallet, Ouch!
Don’t settle for poor attachment, keep taking her off and readjusting until you both get it right. This helps her learn and saves you from a miserable few weeks. I know nobody wants to keep faffing about at 3am, but its worth it I promise.
4. Everybody Take A Breath
Everyone raves about how natural breastfeeding is and how much simpler it is than bottle feeding. Yes in many ways it is both those things, but don’t be fooled. Natural does not guarantee easy! In the wee hours of the morning when you have been up every 90 minutes to feed and your baby is screaming, your nipples are sore, you have attempted to latch your baby on 10 times and you can’t remember what sleep feels like; nothing is easy. Just stop for a minute, take a breath, grab a drink or go to the loo.
The more stressed you get the more stressed your baby gets, this is a recipe for disaster. Stress inhibits everything to do with breastfeeding and not only is it impossible to latch a screaming angry baby onto a sobbing broken hearted mother. At a cellular level all the breast milk receptors and milk let down control is all affected by stress hormones. I know right? As if this is the ideal time to not have any milk, are you not stressed enough already?? This is why its so important to try and remain as calm as you can. Easier said than done I know. But just take an extra 5 minutes; calm yourself and then calm the baby, once you are both ready then the feed can begin.
5. Don’t Struggle Alone
This is probably my most important tip. Breastfeeding support has had a huge amount of investment in recent years, even before Jamie Oliver decided to stick in his two penny worth. There are loads of places to get help out there. Your midwife and health visitor are both trained to assist you with breastfeeding problems, they should be able to advise you on positioning and attachment. As well as giving you help with any niggles you may have. Nearly all the Children’s Centres’ run drop in breastfeeding sessions during the week where you can get professional help and speak to other mums going through the same issues. You can also access your local NCT or La Leche breastfeeding support, links to both these organisations can be found in our useful links.
What if its 3am? Then get online, there are loads of helpful articles and blogs out there that can give you a confidence boost or some pointers. The online mum forums are great too for a bit of advice from other mums who have been their before you. Sometimes knowing that you are not the only person out there who is struggling can make you feel loads better. Don’t get swallowed up by ‘mum guilt’ you are not failing, access the help out there, that’s what it is there for 🙂