Despite what much of our society believes breastfeeding does not just happen – it can take know-how, perseverance, and is a team effort between baby and mum. If you and your baby are having trouble breastfeeding, try not to worry because obstacles are common and sometimes all that is needed is some support to help you and your baby along.
Read on for some tips for breastfeeding.
Breastmilk is produced on the principle of “demand and supply”. The more baby drinks, the more breastmilk is produced. It is normal for a newborn baby to feed every two to five hours and feeds could take 45 minutes to an hour, as baby rests or more milk “comes down”. In the early months baby needs a minimum of six-eight feeds in 24 hours.
Good positioning and attachment are key for your baby to breastfeed.
• Ensure you are comfortable, and that your back is well supported. A good chair with an arm rest may help or a pillow to provide support for your arm while you hold baby.
• Let your breasts fall naturally. This will help with milk flow and avoid milk blockages.
• Baby should be unwrapped for ease of handling, to avoid overheating and for skin contact. Skin-on-skin contact helps with bonding and allows baby to smell you, your colostrum (first milk) and find the nipple.
• Ensure your baby is well supported behind the neck and shoulders and held close facing you. Your baby should not have to reach, stretch or twist to reach your breast. You should also not have to bend – bring your baby to you. Please consult your midwife for more information, or watching a demonstration video can help too, such as these by Mater Mothers.
• Your baby’s head should be in line with the nipple, with their chin touching or tucked into the breast.
• Baby’s body should be slightly lower than the breast with their lower arm brought around under your breast.
• Baby naturally opens the mouth after feeling the underside of the nipple with the top lip.
• When baby’s mouth opens wide, aim the nipple towards the roof of the mouth with the chin coming to the breast.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has some pictures and further information about positioning which may be useful.
Please do not believe it when well-intentioned people (perhaps a mother or older person) tells you that sore or damaged nipples are something that you should endure while breastfeeding.
While increased nipple and areola sensitivity or discomfort is normal while feeding is being established, this should ease a minute or two after you start a feed if baby is attached properly. Ongoing discomfort or a damaged nipple, can be a sign baby is not attached properly.
If baby is not attaching properly, ask your midwife or lactation consultant to have a look and identify the problem.
Signs of good attachment include:
• Baby’s mouth is wide open with the lips curled outward.
• In the early weeks you will feel that your breast has been emptied as there are changes in breast fullness. This means baby is sucking properly.
• Your baby may gulp at the beginning of breastfeed as mum’s milk “let down” comes and a higher volume of milk is swallowed. After an initial burst of sucking, the rhythm slows with pauses and deep jaw movements.
If your baby is attached incorrectly, place a clean finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth and push gently down on the breast to break suction. Women often find their little finger is best for this. Then make yourself comfortable and let baby reattach to the breast to try feeding again.
How much to feed
Babies know when they are hungry or full. Some babies stop feeding abruptly when they are full, while sucking for others becomes slower and slower as they become full.
For newborn babies, early hunger signs include licking or smacking their lips; opening and closing the mouth; or sucking on their lips, fingers, hands, or fists. If a baby is actively hungry, they might start fussing about or breathing fast; rooting around on the chest of whomever is carrying them looking for milk; or they may fidget, squirm, or clench their fingers. Late hunger signs include baby crying or becoming frantic moving their head from side to side. It can be harder for them to settle and be calm for feeding at this stage, so it is helpful to look out for the earlier signs and offer your breast to see if they are hungry.
Check out video on https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/behaviour/crying/baby-cues
Days 2 and 3 of breastfeeding
The second night after having a newborn can be a rough one as baby usually wants to cluster feed and the woman is often exhausted from lack of sleep. The baby cluster feeds to stimulate the release of a hormone called prolactin, which is important for getting the transitional milk to come in. The third day of feeding can also be quite emotional, as many women experience the baby blues when they are sleep-deprived, suffering emotional changes and sometimes they are just exhausted from the birthing process itself. Day 2 and Day 3 does not happen like this for everyone (some babies feed regularly from Day 1 however it is important to know and to be conscious of in case you have any concerns). Please speak to your midwife or hospital team if you have any questions, or worries regarding the baby blues or would like support with feeding and bringing your milk in.
How we support you
At Hatch, we are here to support you and your baby throughout your breastfeeding experience.
Our midwives can provide education on expectations and establishing feeding as well as offer support and strategies for common breastfeeding challenges. If you are looking for a more individualised approach however or have had previous breastfeeding issues due to poor supply, poor latch due to tongue tie or inverted nipples, or any personal history of breast surgery and want to be reviewed by a certified lactation consultant, please let us know.
• The Australian Breastfeeding Association
• The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria
• Mater Mothers Hospital
• Raising Children’s Network