How to give yourself the best start at breastfeeding
“The first few days of my daughter’s life were difficult. After an emergency c-section, my daughter was too sleepy to feed and when she did it hurt. I asked everyone I encountered at the hospital to help me but instead they fed her formula. I had no idea that would make my attempts even harder.
Over the next few weeks I still found breastfeeding to be difficult. Every hour was the same. Latch baby on, go pale with the pain. She would feed for two minutes then fall asleep.
As a result we would worry because she had barely fed so my husband would top her up with formula, whilst I, defeated, pumped both breasts to give her at least some goodness. Two hours later, repeat the process. This went on for nine weeks.
When your baby starts crying the most natural thing is to put her to your breast – you ache to be able to do that.”
So here is something people don’t tell you – breastfeeding is hard!! It hurts at the start, and you feel like that’s all your doing. Which is fine, but if you were like me and didn’t stop moving until the day you gave birth, it can be a real shock to the system to be sitting there for hours!
So to all of the mamas struggling to breastfeed, here are some tips for you:
- First of all get some lanolin gel – apply after each feed so as a result your nipple has time to recover. Make sure you find one that can be ingested by baby so you don’t have to wash if off before the feed. Another tip is to spread some breast milk over your nipple. Breastmilk has the most amazing healing properties. I remember when my newborn had jaundice and her eyes were a little yellow. My mother in law told me to squirt some breastmilk in her eye – it was all we could do not to fall on the floor laughing! Until we heard the same advice from health professionals…
- If you have an extra sleepy newborn, then you may have to wake him for feeds. Remove an item of clothing at a time so see whether this will help.
- Look for any feeding cues early on, so that baby does not resort to crying. As a result they may be too upset to feed.
- If you find it easier, cosleep with your baby. I personally was too scared until she was a little older. But I wish I could, since having her close to me would consequently have made breastfeeding through the night so much easier! If you are the same, then look into a cosleeper, which means that baby will have his own cot, but attached to the side of your bed.
- Forget the clock, forget routines. If you try and feed on a routine, you could be missing potential cues from your baby that he is hungry. Also, not emptying your breast of milk will stop it from creating new milk. The more you empty, the more you create (especially in the first couple of weeks). So imagine what happens when you miss a feed and supplement instead.
- Make sure you have lots of things to keep you occupied – Keep your phone, a book, a glass of water and a snack, the lanolin and the remote control handy! It will stop you from watching the clock and when your relaxed, you and baby will have a better time of it. Drink lots and lots and lots of that water!
Latch and Positioning
- If you have tried everything and you are still in pain, look into nipple shields. Don’t get too reliant on them though, once the cracked nipples have healed, remove them and try again. If you are finding that you are getting dependant on them, get back in touch with your lactation consultant.
- If you feel like the latch isn’t right, then keep taking baby off and putting back on until the latch feels better.
- Make sure that the baby’s mouth covers a large part of the areola and the underside of the nipple – The last thing you want is for baby to be sucking right onto the nipple, that is whats going to make it sore, and makes baby have to work even more to get any milk.
- Get a breastfeeding pillow – it will prop baby up to the right height so you can simply worry about the latch, and consequently you then have an extra arm to do whatever else you need to do!
- The hormonal, pheromonal exchanges with baby will not only provide baby with the antibodies needed, it will tell your body that baby is close, and to produce milk.
- Human milk passes through the baby’s stomach in 50-90 minutes. Breastfed newborns need to nurse 10-12 times a day. If a breastfeeding mother tries to feed her baby on a bottle schedule, her baby may not get enough food.
- Sounds strange, but allow baby to use you as a pacifier! Rather than introducing a dummy, put her on the breast as often as possible because when she is suckling, she is stimulating nerves in the nipple, which releases the following hormones into the system – prolactin, which activates the milk making tissues, and oxytocin, which allows the body to let the milk down.
- If your worried that baby is not feeding enough, check her nappies. As long as she is wetting 6 – 8 nappies a day, she is getting milk
Babywearing in the AmaWrap
- This is especially relevant and I could say this all day. Skin-to-skin contact. Wear your baby. Hold your baby.
- Babywearing and breastfeeding complement each other perfectly. When your baby is placed upon your skin, your body will release a hormone called prolactin, which enables your breastmilk to flow. Should a mother be struggling to breastfeed or produce milk, skin-to-skin contact is the best way to trigger milk production.
- You can place baby in the AmaWrap in just a nappy, against your bare chest (remove your bra and open your shirt to allow complete contact). Between you and the wrap, he will be nice and toasty! As a result you can reap all of the benefits that babywearing allows to enable successful breastfeeding, but also go about your day to day activities if you don’t have the luxury of being able to lie on the sofa all day.
Getting outside help
- Contact La Leche League or another lactation consultant – they are the masters of breastfeeding, and will provide you with the support you need. (Details at the foot of the article). Also, try and attend local breastfeeding groups for two reasons – the professional advice, and also meeting other mums in the same situation. One mum stated that “being away from the scene of my frustration and around other mums in a similar situation helped to reset my resolve”.
- Get your baby checked for tongue tie
We have trawled the internet looking for recipes for lactation cookies. Anything to help right? So take your pick, and let us know how they went!
Most of all, some days you will feel like you spent all day feeding. That’s normal.
Contact details for Breastfeeding Help
National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212
La Leche League Helpline 0845 120 2918