Medela UK’s in-house Lactation Consultant, Sioned Hilton, has been working with breastfeeding mums for over 20 years. She has joined us to share her expert advice on 5 frequently asked questions when it comes to breastfeeding.
Can you do anything to prepare for breastfeeding?
It can help to get lots of advice and read up on breastfeeding before baby arrives so that you can feel more prepared and know what you can expect from those first few days. Find your local breastfeeding support group with peer supporters, research the National Breastfeeding Network factsheets and keep details of Medela’s weekly Breastfeeding Café on your fridge, just in case you want to seek out some advice, help or tips in those early weeks.
Have realistic expectations, you and your little one will both be new to breastfeeding, it may be a little uncomfortable to begin with but trust it will get better and improve.
Top Tip: Most importantly, remember to believe in yourself. The human body is amazing and incredibly, has the ability to grow a baby, give birth and feed long after birth.
How do I ensure baby has the right latch when feeding?
The early days are essential for you and baby to get breastfeeding established and your milk production initiated. Find a comfortable position first of all. One of the most important principles of nursing any baby is a good latch; chin to breast, nipple to nose, nipple falls deep into the mouth, the lower lip curls out under the nipple, and the upper lip thins and curls up a little. The baby’s suck will be a little tender for the first few days on the nipple, remember this is entirely new so will take some getting used to. Listen and watch for a burst of lots of sucks and swallowing of milk for a successful feed. If it hurts it’s not quite there yet – take baby off the breast by placing little finger into corner of baby’s mouth break the seal and try again. Seek further advice from your midwife if you are unsure.
Top Tip: You can also look at baby’s nappies; this will indicate the volume of milk going through their system. Lots of milk equals lots of yellow mustard coloured stools!
Should I feed from both breasts during a breastfeed? How do I know when a breast has emptied?
No, you don’t need to feed from both breasts at all times; sometimes your baby may just be thirsty and other times he may feed for what seems like hours on end! The important thing is that you listen to your baby and your own body’s needs – everyone is different and no two breastfeeding journeys are the same.
Feeding from the first breast you need to listen out for your baby swallowing milk regularly, on average it takes your baby around 7-15 minutes to feed from one breast but for some feeds it can be an hour. The longer he is on the first breast the better he will drain the fat rich milk that comes as your feed progresses. If he is still rooting after a good session on first breast you can switch to the other breast.
In the early days (the first 4-6 weeks) your breasts will be over-producing milk as your supply builds. Many mums feel fuller as time passes between feeds, by checking and feeling the breasts mums will be able feel changes, from a full to a softer breast when baby feeds. After this early period, you and your baby will have got to grips with how your breasts and feeds feel. It’s very much based on each mum and baby; touching and feeling the breast while listening to how your baby is sucking and swallowing milk. It is normal that your breasts feel softer after the first 6 weeks – you are in tune with your baby’s needs; feeling full indicates you are getting to a point you need to feed soon and can lead to engorgement.
Top Tip: If you switch from one breast to another, your baby will be receiving a lot of foremilk – which has protein, carbohydrates and water but not as much fat. It is important baby stays on the first breast long enough to get the fat rich milk as this is what promotes healthy growth.
Top Tip: Mums often find that one breast can produce more breast milk than the other. There are several reasons why your breasts could produce different amounts but as long as little one is content, steadily growing and you’re meeting their needs, there is nothing to worry about.
Should I establish a regular breastfeeding routine?
In the first few months, you and your baby need to be close, you should feed in response to your baby’s hunger and also to your breast fullness for your own comfort.
When you’ve settled into breastfeeding you may find that you have developed a good routine for going out and especially around naptimes/bedtimes. It’s important to bear in mind that this routine may go out the window when your little one has a growth spurt or is unwell as this often means all they want to do is feed! Establishing a routine is great for both parents and children but remember you have to be flexible too as life is unpredictable.
Top Tip: There are no set rules when it comes to parenting, just as every mum and baby are different, so are each family. Work out and do what is best for you as a family.
What is cluster feeding? Do all babies do it?
Cluster feeding in the early days often falls in the evening time when mums sit down. It can be an enjoyable time for bonding with your baby. It is often thought of as nature’s way of encouraging baby to have close baby to mum cuddles, stimulate tomorrow’s milk supply, that in turn boosts feeding hormones. It may seem as though your baby isn’t settled and you may question is there milk available; be reassured the breast is never empty and will be topping up production so milk is always on tap direct from the milk cells.
Plan the evening with cluster feeding in mind – prep your evening meal earlier in the day, watch TV or read your favourite book, incorporate a loose bedtime routine of bath, book and feed – whichever way suits you, baby and family life.
Top Tip: Cluster feeding can also coincide with growth spurts (typically around 3 weeks and 3 months). Even if you have established a routine based on your baby’s demands, you may still find that he has periods of cluster feeding, particularly if he is unwell or needs reassurance.
Sioned Hilton is a registered International Certified Lactation Consultant. Passionate about supporting breastfeeding mums, Sioned works with world leading breastfeeding brand, Medela to provide advice, tips and information on breastfeeding and expressing breast milk so mums can continue to breastfeed for as long as they choose.