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What to do if you are struggling to breastfeed?

Caitlin - Midwife at The Baby Academy

Breastfeeding your newborn is a natural and wonderfully rewarding experience for both mother and baby, but it isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem.

While breastfeeding can be an intensely loving, bonding experience, it can equally be a stressful and tearful time if things don’t go quite as planned. From trouble latching and painful nipples through to being unsure what to avoid, ensuring your baby is getting all the nutrients they need, breastfeeding can feel overwhelming – whether it’s your first, second, or fifth child!

Being prepared is half the battle and knowing the kinds of things you may encounter while breastfeeding can help massively when it comes to giving you a little extra peace of mind. Here are some of our top breastfeeding tips and advice.

Get your breastfeeding supplies in order

Having a few simple supplies on hand to keep you and your baby comfortable before you start breastfeeding can be a lifesaver! This can be as simple as a supportive nursing pillow or cushion, or a footstool to help position yourself and your baby.

It’s also helpful to invest in a well-fitting maternity bra so you can feed your little one with ease while out and about. Wait until the final month of your pregnancy before you get measured, as that’s when your breasts tend to be at their largest.

Talk to your doctor or midwife before you give birth

Chatting to your doctor or midwife about your plans to breastfeed before you give birth can help ease your mind if you have any questions or concerns. They can also help by providing additional resources or offering specific services available such as lactation consultants, antenatal classes, or  breastfeeding classes.

It’s also important to let your doctor know your plans to breastfeed if you’re taking any specific medications so they can plan accordingly and suggest alternatives if necessary.

Did you know? Breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of skin conditions such as eczema in your newborn

Breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth

The earlier you’re able to breastfeed after you’ve given birth, the more likely that your baby’s natural instincts will take over, making the initial process of latching on a little easier on you both.

Usually, newborns are ready to start breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, with the first feed full of nourishing colostrum – packed full of proteins and antibodies that help support your baby’s growth and development.

Try different breastfeeding positions

It can take a little trial and error to discover which breastfeeding positions work best for you and your baby and which are most effective for helping your baby to latch onto the breast.

For the first few days after the birth, your breasts will still be fairly soft while you’re producing colostrum, which is the perfect opportunity to practice your positions before your breasts begin to firm as they produce mature milk. Some positions to try include cradle position, side-lying and cross-cradle position.

Speaking of firm breasts…

It can be common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding for your breasts to become engorged from time to time as they fill with milk. This can make it tricky for your baby to get a deep latch. If this happens try to gently massage your breasts and hand express some breastmilk-this will soften the breasts which will help your baby with their latch.

Breast milk is amazingly adaptable! If you or your baby are sick, the antibodies and white blood cells in your breast milk adapt to fight off the infection.

What to eat while you’re breastfeeding

Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet while breastfeeding is key to maintaining both you and your baby’s health. Aim for extra portions of calcium-rich foods like milk and dairy products, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables.

If you don’t eat meat or dairy, you can opt for foods like broccoli, sesame seeds, kale or tofu. Alternatively, chat with your doctor or midwife about taking a calcium supplement.

Try to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol as these can increase caffeine and alcohol levels in the breast milk, as can some medications. Smoking can cause you to produce less milk, so it’s always advisable to speak to your doctor about alternatives.

How to make sure your baby is well attached

Poor latching not only means your baby may not be able to get enough milk during their feed but can also be a leading cause of sore or cracked nipples.

To ensure a successful, deep latch, hold your baby close so their nose is level with your nipple. Allow the baby’s head to tilt back slightly so their top lip brushes against your nipple which can trigger your baby’s natural reflex to open their mouth.

When properly latched, your baby’s chin should be touching your breast, with their mouth wide open. You may feel a slight tugging sensation, but there should be no breast or nipple pain during feeds.

Find out more

Learn from expert lactation consultants in our FREE ‘Breastfeeding Preparation Class’

Get practical and professional advice on

  • How to tell if your baby is hungry
  • Mastering your baby’s latch
  • Positions for optimal feeding
  • Understanding skin-to-skin
  • Antenatal hand expressing of milk
  • Breastfeeding myths debunked

All this plus more is covered in our Free Breastfeeding Preparation Class. This free class has already helped thousands of new moms embrace the wonders of motherhood👇👇