By Katie Hilton MAM Expert Midwife
Katie Hilton is a dual qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor and the expert adviser for MAM UK. She is also a mu’ma herself to one cheeky little man.
A Tough Skill To Master
While breastfeeding has some pretty amazing benefits for both mum and baby, it can be a tough skill to master initially. If it turns out you do have problems, don’t quit right away. Most times, it does get easier, and remember: Practice is key!
To help you, we put together advice to help prepare you to breastfeed and to make your journey more enjoyable.
1. Do Your Research
After birth, you’re going to be exhausted and in pain. It’s not exactly a great time to first start learning something new. So swot up on breastfeeding ahead of time. Take a breastfeeding class. Talk to mums who have breastfed successfully before you actually have to do it. Also find out what breastfeeding support groups near you.
2. Start Early
Holding your baby right after birth can help you get off to a good start, so cuddle your baby as soon as you can after delivery, and give breastfeeding a shot right then. Baby’s senses of seeing, hearing, smelling and touch—are heightened in that first hour after birth.
They’re neurologically wired to find the breast. And when they’re allowed to use those senses to latch on by themselves, the way they’re instinctually wired to, they tend to latch on correctly.
3. Go Skin-to-Skin
This requires some stripping on both your parts. Place your unclothed baby on your bare chest when he’s fussy or struggling to feed. (If you’re modest, cover up with a blanket.) The close contact will calm him and help trigger his feeding instincts.
4. Learn the Signs
Respond early to your baby’s rooting behaviours. When you see your baby chewing on his hands, making mouthing motions, or turning his head from side to side and bringing his hands to his face, he’s telling you, ‘I’m starting to get hungry’ or ‘I want to be near you’.
When you respond to those cues, your baby learns to continue giving them, and you can feed your baby before he starts crying. Once your baby cries, he’s no longer just hungry; he’s mad and hungry, and that can make breastfeeding much more difficult for both of you.
5. Get through Engorgement
Offer your baby a feed every two to three hours in the very beginning. If your breasts start to feel engorged—really tight, firm, large and warm—a few days after birth, don’t panic: That’s your full milk coming in. (Before that, your baby gets super-nutritious, concentrated colostrum.)
Engorgement goes away in a few days, but rock-hard breasts can make things challenging. If your baby has a hard time latching on, try hand expression, or pump a little milk before feeding him to make things softer.
6. Call in the Pros
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, so if you’re having pain, or if your baby isn’t wetting at least 6 nappies a day, call your Midwife or Health Visitor. It’s important to nip issues in the bud as quickly as possible.
7. Get some Sleep
Just because you’re the one with the boobs doesn’t mean you have to do all the feeding. After you and baby have developed a consistent breastfeeding relationship (usually after the first 6-8 weeks), it’s okay to let your partner give your baby a feed — especially if you’re longing for a good night’s sleep.
Just be sure to pump a bottle of breast milk before you go to bed. To maintain your body’s milk supply, it’s important to have a pumping session every single time your baby has a bottle.
8. Plan Ahead
Before you give birth, talk to your employer about your plans to continue breastfeeding when you return to work. (FYI: Your right to do that is protected by law.) Together, figure out a private place where you can pump, and brainstorm ways you can fit pumping breaks into your workday. It might seem daunting, but plenty of mums keep breastfeeding after they go back to work—and you totally can too.
9. Practice Pumping
At least a couple of weeks before you’re scheduled to go back to work, start pumping breast milk. A few minutes after your baby’s morning feed is a good time because that’s when your milk supply tends to be the greatest. You can also pump on one side while your baby feeds on the other (the ultimate in multitasking!). Both techniques will help you get used to pumping, and stockpile plenty of breast milk.
10. Know your Number
Before you return to work, count how many times baby feeds in a 24-hour period. That’s your “magic number,” When you go back to work, the number of times baby feeds over 24 hours plus the number of times you pump should equal your magic number.
Don’t be surprised, by the way, if your baby decides to eat very little while you’re at work and to feed constantly when you’re home. It’s called reverse cycle feeding, and it’s completely normal. Be flattered—baby just prefers you to the bottle!
When the time comes make sure your baby’s nursery knows exactly how to prepare a bottle of breast milk (no microwaving allowed—just defrost in a warm bowl of water), to use the oldest milk first, and exactly how much and how often baby needs to eat throughout the day.
If You Have Any Questions About Breastfeeding or Anything Else Why Not Ask Our Midwife or Join Our Parenting Support Group On Facebook.
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