11 tips for breastfeeding mums
We've all seen movies where the mum has just given birth and is laying back, relaxing, and cooing as her newborn instantly latches for the first time. It looks like the most natural thing in the world. However, many mums find that when it's their turn to feed their little one for the first time, natural isn't the word that comes to mind.
Medicinal drugs, interventions during labour, the shape and size of the mother's nipples, delayed arrival of milk, and the characteristics of the infant's mouth are just some of the reasons responsible for a shaky start to breastfeeding.
The good news is, that with the right help, nearly all mothers can successfully breastfeed. However, the single best piece of breastfeeding advice for new mothers is to be patient throughout the initial few weeks. Allow yourself and your little one time to master this new skill.
Our best breastfeeding tips for new mums
1. Get your latch right
If your little one isn't attached to the nipple correctly, it can cause damage. The damage can occur as the result of just a few breastfeeds performed in the wrong position. So, nailing the latching the first few days should be a top priority.
When extreme damage occurs, mothers may need to take a break from feeding to allow their nipples to heal. During this break, infants can establish a preference for bottle feeding, and therefore when you want to return to breastfeeding; it can be tricky.
Educating yourself before the arrival of your little one may help you to get your head around the process. But the best help will come from the lactation consultants who will be there to assist you while you're in the hospital. Be sure to see a lactation specialist and get them to assess your baby's latch before you head home.
2. Relax and be patient
Few mothers get it right straight away; more commonly, it takes a few weeks to get the hang of it completely. The first couple of days isn't an indicator of how your journey will go. Many mothers struggle immensely in the beginning yet go on to feed their babies for several years. Try to go with the flow and take any small wins you get.
We know it can be hard to relax and be patient if your baby isn't getting any milk or is becoming distressed during feedings. That's why taking a stash of expressed colostrum to the hospital is highly recommended. You can use this to feed your baby when they can't latch.
Your doctor will provide you with syringes to store your colostrum and information on keeping your milk fresh. Expressing is not recommended before 36 weeks gestation.
3. Demand feed
Breastfeeding on demand or 'responsive' feeding describes a method where a mother feeds their baby whenever they're hungry. The alternative style is called ‘schedule feeding’, which involves a timed schedule based on the baby's age or weight. For example, a mother might feed their newborn every three hours, even if bub shows signs of hunger in between.
Demand feeding in the first few weeks is when it's most important, as this is when the mother's milk supply is established. Breastmilk production works on a supply and demand basis, so the more the nipple is stimulated and breasts are drained, the more milk is produced.
4. Take care of your nipples
Nipples were just a part of our body tucked away under our clothes 90% of the time. Now they are a vessel to provide food to a hungry, demanding baby. It's no wonder they get a little bruised and battered in the process.
Taking the time to protect your nipples will help to prevent damage. Lanolin nipple balm is a great cream that provides safe and effective relief. Unlike other creams, it's safe for little ones, so you don't need to wipe it off before feeding.
5. Air out your skin
If you are experiencing cracked or sore nipples, airing them out is one of the most effective ways to heal. If your nipples are constantly wet from feeding and then tucked away in your bra, infections like nipple thrush or dermatitis can occur. Both conditions are extremely painful for breastfeeding women and very high on the list of why many women stop feeding prematurely.
Exposing your breasts to sunlight can do wonders for tender nipples. So try to find a few minutes a day for some topless sunbaking; it might be the only time in your life it's acceptable!
6. Keep bub in your room
Having your little one close by overnight is a great way to improve your understanding of their needs. You'll start to pick up on the sounds they make while they're resting and know whether they're hungry, cold or just looking for a cuddle.
It's a great way to ensure you stick to demand feeding 24/7 rather than just during the day.
7. Avoid dummies
Dummies can be a wonderfully helpful tool, but it's best to avoid them for the first few weeks. Babies instinctively suck, and they may choose to suck away on their pacifier instead of feeding. Skipping feeds is detrimental to your baby and their needs but also your milk supply.
8. Don't stress about your milk supply
Many mothers spend so much time worrying that the milk they're producing isn't enough to feed their babies. The truth is that most women have enough milk to support their bubs hunger and growth needs.
Cluster feeding, in which babies feed super regularly, is extremely common in the first few weeks and even months. Many women take this constant feeding as a sign that they don't have enough milk, but really, it's just your baby's way of asking your body to make more milk.
If your little one has six or more wet nappies a day and seems happy after feeds, they're most likely getting enough milk. However, if you're feeling concerned, there's no harm in chatting to your health professional for peace of mind.
9. Prevent Engorgement
Engorgement occurs when a breastfeeding woman is producing more milk than her baby needs. It can be very painful, and because the breasts become so large and hard, it can be difficult for a baby to latch correctly.
Regularly feeding your baby is the best way to avoid engorgement, but you may find you need to hand express a little milk before each feed to relieve the pressure. However, be careful not to express too much, because this will increase demand and only worsen the engorgement.
10. Try different positions
When you feed 8-12 times a day, being comfortable is super important. Don't sit through an uncomfortable feed; instead, gently unlatch your little one by placing your pinkie in between their mouth and your nipple. Then, allow yourself to get comfortable and relatch.
You may also find that changing up your little ones' position helps keep your muscles and joints from stiffening. Football hold, cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, or even laying down are just some of the positions you can try out. So pop those names into YouTube to see the positions in action for yourself.
11. Try a lactation aid
In Shape Mummy is a breastfeeding-specific health shake designed to support the needs of lactating women. Each shake contains over 12g of protein, vitamins, and minerals to support postpartum needs, and galactagogues, herbs used to support milk production.
Finding the time to make meals can be tricky when you’re in the throes of breastfeeding. And that’s why we recommended incorporating a daily nutrient-dense smoothie into your schedule. Adding oats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and plant-based milk is a great way to ensure you meet your nutrient needs each day.
If you are going to incorporate a shake mix into your diet, it must be a breastfeeding-friendly formula like In Shape Mummy. What you ingest can pass through your milk onto your little one.
Breastfeeding newborn tips
We've spoken a lot about the challenging parts of breastfeeding in this article, but the beautiful bits that come with breastfeeding far outweigh the hard bits. The opportunity to bond with your bub while you're breastfeeding is second to none. It's a wonderful experience that has so many health benefits for you and your baby, and you will never regret pushing through.
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