Breastfeeding is a skill. And like any talent, there are tricks that make getting to grips with it a whole lots easier
There’s no denying breastfeeding is an amazing way to feed your baby – you don’t need sterilised bottles or a boiled kettle and the milk is readily available and free.
Research also shows breastfed babies aren’t as likely to get diarrhoea or chest and ear infections, and have less chance of developing eczema.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll just plug your baby on and go. You need these tactics to boost your chances of breastfeeding success.
Give your baby her first feed as soon as possible. Even if you’ve had strong painkillers in labour, try to do it in the first hour. And you can’t have too much skin-to-skin contact. It initiates your baby’s feeding cues.
Tell your team
Make sure your family and friends understand why breastfeeding matters to you – research shows new mothers are more likely to succeed with the right support.
‘Inform your partner about all the health benefits,’ says Emma Pickett, from the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. ‘If he knows why you’re doing it, he’ll be more encouraging.’
Have realistic expectations
In the first few weeks, babies feed eight to 12 times in 24 hours. ‘Don’t worry if she’s hungry 30 minutes after her last go – babies cluster feed when they’re in a growth spurt,’ says Emma.
From day five up to week six, as long as you get around six wet nappies and three poos the size of a £2 coin or bigger every 24 hours, your baby’s fine.
Keep an eye on how you feel, too. ‘Expect some nipple soreness but, if pain continues, something isn’t right,’ says Alison Shaloe, lactation consultant. ‘Get help before your breasts get too painful.’
Find out about local resources
While you’re pregnant, find out about support groups and establish a relationship with a breastfeeding counsellor, so help is on hand when you need it. Contact the four main charities – Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, NCT, Breastfeeding Network and the La Leche League – and see who’s most prominent in your area.
Ditch the guilt
Breastfeeding may not feel easy, especially in the first few weeks when you’re getting used to it or if you’re in pain. But, with a little determination, it can end up as the simplest option.
Don’t be afraid to have a back-up plan, though – for some, it can help to have some formula in the cupboard, just in case.
See it for yourself
Most of us haven’t seen babies being breastfed until we do it ourselves, so ask a local breastfeeding counsellor if you can visit a support group – no one’s going to object to a pregnant woman – or watch a video online.
‘Some women assume their baby will just have his mouth on her nipple but, if you watch, you will see the baby has a wide-open mouth that takes in a lot of the mother’s areola,’ says Emma.
Just go with the flow
Babies don’t work to any schedule, especially in the first six weeks. Even if you thrive on a routine, hold back for the first six weeks while you get your milk supply up and feeding established – expressing can also help with this.
‘The best patterns come straight from your baby,’ says Emma. ‘If you impose a timetable, you will have less flexibility later.’
Babies are the product of years of evolution – trust yours to know how to get exactly what she needs.