It is important for all mums to note that the experience of breastfeeding is unique, as no two mums and babies are the same.
It does not always establish naturally for each mum. However, in my experience, there are always interim strategies, education and support which can be sourced from breastfeeding and lactation experts like us to help you optimise your feeding goals.
It is every woman’s choice whether or not to breastfeed. We should aim to ensure that it’s an informed choice.
Why breastfeeding is good for you and your baby
- Evidence based science tells us that it is still the best way to optimally nourish, provide long term health benefits and bond with your baby.
- Helps women return to pre pregnant weight faster.
- Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly.
- Both colostrum and mature breastmilk contain antibodies, good bacteria and other agents to help reduce your baby’s risk of infection.
- Breastmilk adapts to your baby’s changing needs as they get older and need fewer feeds.
- It even changes during a feed, lactose heavy in the fore milk and more nutrient rich good fats in the hind milk.
Helpful tips to establish breastfeeding
A newborn is designed to feed frequently and mostly sleep for the first few weeks. This is because your baby can only drink and easily digest small amounts of milk frequently in the beginning.
Frequent feeding helps establish your supply, meets your baby’s nutritional needs whilst providing this most special way of bonding and attachment.
In the first few days after birth your body produces that first food for the baby, colostrum. It is produced in small amounts but has high value as a food source.
Care for your breasts, check them regularly so you get to know them postpartum. Seek professional advice if you are at all concerned or your breasts become painful, red areas and you have a fever. This may be mastitis and requires medical attention.
Positional feeding (attach baby to the breast first then lean back in a comfortable chair/ position so you reverse gravitational effect) can slow the milk flow or hand expressing a small amount first to slow the first let down.
If you have large breasts, roll up a cloth nappy/hand towel and tuck under your breast to support them. Your baby is less likely to slip off.
Common breastfeeding positions that work well are the cradle hold, football hold or lying down on your side on your bed on a firm mattress, with no pillows or bedclothes in proximity to your baby.
Ensure you breastfeed in a comfortable environment and chair, allow your breasts to fall naturally. Unwrap your baby so you can experience skin to skin contact. Place the baby’s closest arm around and under your breast.
Support your baby’s head in the crook of your elbow so you can roll her into your body, “chest to chest, face to breast”.
Work towards feeding on one breast at a time until it feels soft and depleted and then offer the second breast if needed. This helps your baby receive both the fore and hind milk, which have equal value in satisfying our baby’s hunger needs and supports a more settled baby between feeds.
Bottle Feeding – formula or expressed breast milk
There may come a time when you wish to include bottle feeds when you’re breastfeeding or to transition your baby to formula.
There are valid reasons why this is a necessary alternative or addition to the feeding routine. These include low milk supply, poor weight gains for your baby, breastfeeding issues that are becoming insurmountable and mean you are not meeting yours or your baby’s needs, or managing mental health or medical conditions that don’t allow you to successfully breastfeed. And some women just don’t like the idea of breastfeeding.
Top tips to transition your baby to a bottle
Make sure the teat size is suitable for the age of your baby and when observing a comfortable milk transfer.
Whether you are giving your baby expressed breast milk or formula, often it is more palatable when the milk is a bit warmer than room temperature, but not too warm as the flow through the teat will become faster and possibly overwhelming.
Ideally both you and your baby need to be in a relaxed state. Best to decide what feed, or feeds, during the day you are going to consistently offer the bottle. Maybe it’s the first feed of the day or an overnight feed when all is calm, dark and quiet and your baby is drowsy.
Your partner or a family member may be more successful introducing the bottle to begin the process. Especially overnight.
The advice in this article is general in nature. Please always consult a medical professional to obtain advice that is tailored to yours or child’s specific condition.
Written for 9Honey Parenting by Beth Barclay