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 things 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 without having to completely undress. Wait until the final month of your pregnancy before you stock up, as that’s when your breasts tend to be at their largest.
Keep your breasts and nipples moisturised
The skin of your breasts is very delicate, and along with your nipples, can quickly become dry, chapped, cracked and painful if not taken care of properly. Take care not to over-wash your breasts, and try using a gentle cleanser and soft, clean cloth to pat dry your breasts after nursing. There are plenty of nipple creams on the market that can help soothe any soreness or irritation – aim for a mild, non-greasy balm or cream.
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 in your area such as lactation consultants, antenatal classes, or even online breastfeeding classes.
It’s also good to let your doctor know your plans to breastfeed if you’re taking any medication so they can plan accordingly and suggest alternatives if necessary.
Breastfeed 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 2 hours 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 little one latch on.
For the first few days and weeks after birth, your breasts will still be fairly soft while you’re producing colostrum, which is the perfect opportunity to practise your positions before your breasts begin to firm as they produce mature milk. Some positions to try include cradling, side-lying and cross-cradling.
Speaking of firm breasts…
It’s common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding for your breasts to become engorged and hard as they fill with milk, particularly if your little one isn’t able to feed, or you aren’t able to pump every 2-3 hours. This can make it tricky for the baby to get a good latch, so try to gently massage your breasts to soothe any tightness and soften the tissue.
What to eat while you’re breastfeeding
Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet while breastfeeding is key to maintaining both you and your little one’s health. Aim for extra portions of calcium-rich foods like milk and dairy products, as well as plenty of fruits and veg.
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 about taking a calcium supplement.
Try to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol as these can get into your 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 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, but take care their nose isn’t squashed against you. You may feel a slight tug, but there should be no breast or nipple pain during feeds.
Find out more
While breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding experiences of motherhood, it can also be a challenging time. Above all else, try to be patient and be kind to yourself, and remember you aren’t alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your midwife, doctor, friends, or family if you need a little reassurance. Soon, breastfeeding will become second nature and a precious part of you and your baby’s bonding time.
Our team of health professionals are ready to guide you through your pregnancy and into parenthood. We are a modern alternative, drawing on the very latest evidence-based research. Together, let’s get ready to parent.