Breastfeeding in the first week looks different for every family. The initial mental ‘image’ we think of when we picture breastfeeding often is not an accurate reflection of the journey it takes to establish breastfeeding. So, here are some tips to help you with breastfeeding your newborn baby!
Baby-led Feeding: Breastfeed your baby on their demand. If you time or schedule breastfeeding, this means they are unable to control when and how much breastmilk is being produced. They have the whole 24 hours to remove the amount of milk they need, so every feed will be variable in length and productivity and that is what nature intends!
Supported: Set yourself up to breastfeed comfortably with everything you need first, which includes good back and arm support. Bring lots of soft items to fill ‘gaps’ and take baby weight off so you can focus on optimising your baby’s attachment.
Early: Offer feeds early, when you first notice feeding cues and before your baby is distressed. This gives you more time to attach them correctly and means their tongue can be down/in the right position. When they are crying their tongue will be up, back and not in the right position to attach well.
Skin-to-skin: In the early days, skin-to-skin contact can help your baby feed productively and it encourages your milk production, let down, hormone regulation and bonding.
Shoulders: Your hand should be holding your baby’s shoulders and bottom of their neck but not holding the middle or top of their head. This allows them to tilt their head back freely when needed and gives them space to breathe during a feed.
In-line: Your baby’s body should be in a straight line and tucked towards your body, ‘tummy to tummy’. They should not need to turn their head to face the breast. It is easier for them to swallow and manage milk flow when they are tucked in close and facing forward.
Open mouth: Await a wide-open mouth. You can use your nipple to brush across your baby’s nose and mouth to encourage them to open their mouth wide. They may open only slightly at first so do not try to ‘shove’ the nipple in. Instead wait and keep stimulating them to open until their mouth opens wide or ‘gapes’. When this happens, keep their chin and lower lip fixed well below the nipple and quickly draw their body towards you. Simultaneously bring their top lip up over the top of the nipple. This allows them to get a large mouthful of breast tissue and not just the nipple.
No pain/pinching: A lot of new mothers can be heard saying “Breastfeeding hurts, but at least he/she is feeding”. But in the absence of pre-existing damage, pain indicates your baby isn’t attached correctly. Pain in your breast means it’s very likely your baby isn't feeding/draining the breast effectively anyway. Unresolved attachment difficulties and persistent nipple pain can lead to ongoing breastfeeding issues so it’s important to detach your baby if it hurts and try again!
Seek support: If you are experiencing breast/nipple pain, you are worried about your baby’s attachment or you’re worried you aren’t making enough milk – seek advice from an experienced breastfeeding professional. Many early breastfeeding issues can be resolved with only a few small corrections, and could determine the longevity of breastfeeding for both you and your baby.
What are some additional tips for successful breastfeeding?
- There is more than just ‘one way’ to breastfeed. It’s often worth attempting multiple breastfeeding positions and holds until you find what is most comfortable for you and your baby.
- Breastfeeding is a natural process, but it also is a skill. And like any skill, it can take time, technique and education to confidently master! Your baby is also learning alongside you, so it’s important to have a good support network and advice from an experienced professional when you need it.
- In the first few days of breastfeeding, you may not hear your baby doing big gulps or swallows when they feed. This is because they are receiving small but precious amounts of colostrum at first! Colostrum contains crucial antibodies and vitamins to give your baby the best start in life.
- Some women describe being able to feel a ‘letdown’ during breastfeeding and some do not. This is perfectly normal either way! (The letdown reflex has been described by some as tingling, heat, pins and needles or light electrical impulse sensation).
- Use your baby’s nappies and behaviour as the biggest guide/reassurance that they are breastfeeding well! ‘What goes in, has to come out!’. This is mostly relevant to wet nappies in the first few weeks after birth. If your baby is passing 5-6 or more clear wet nappies in 24 hours (after they are a week old) then this is great indication they are receiving the breastmilk they need!
Written by Keryn Thompson, RM & IBCLC (L-301766)
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