Breastfeeding your baby from birth provides your baby with all the nourishment and nutrients your baby needs. It also helps to strengthen the bond between mother and baby, and helps your baby to feel loved, secure and warm.
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it doesn't mean you will find it always comes naturally. The answers below are to some commonly asked questions. As you begin to breast feed you will find that you develop a style that suits you.
Step by Step
1. Position - the key to comfortable feeding is being in the correct position to feed your baby. This helps prevent problems such as sore nipples.
2. You can either lie down or sit up to feed baby, but be comfortable. Some people like to use a pillow to raise baby up to the breast. If you choose sitting, sit upright so you can bring baby to the breast (not take the breast to the baby). Leave baby's arms free to move.
3. Position baby across your front with the whole body facing you and pulled in close. Baby's mouth should be level with your nipple.
4. Cupping your breast with your hand, touch the baby's lip lightly with your nipple to encourage baby's response. When the mouth is open wide like a yawn, draw baby closer to you - baby needs to take your whole nipple. With the chin against your breast, baby sucks and draws in the milk. Allow baby's head to move freely to breathe.
How long should baby feed?
Feed for as long as baby wants. If baby tires or falls asleep in the middle of a feed, try burping and/or changing the nappy before trying the second breast.
To release your nipple from baby's mouth, slide your little finger gently into the corner of the mouth - this will break the suction and help prevent sore nipples.
Both breasts may not always be wanted at each feed.
How often should baby feed?
Some people subscribe to the notion of breastfeeding on demand, others strictly every 3-4 hours, how often you feed baby is up to you, although no longer than every four hours is best unless baby is sleeping through the night (Oh how wonderful!). New babies do however need feeds more frequently, you may want to be feed every two hours (or more often) to begin with. As babies get older they may feed less often during the day and (usually at night) have one longer sleep.
Remember to get a daily rest and to eat and drink when you are hungry and thirsty - even if it is the middle of the night!
At times (sometimes at 2 and 4, and usually at 6 and 12 weeks) your baby may want to breastfeed more often. This extra feeding usually lasts for several days and is due to an increased appetite because your baby is doing so much growing. As your baby takes more milk, your supply increases and your baby will settle again. This is often called a growth spurt.
Suckling is the most efficient way of increasing your milk. So let baby lead the breastfeeding.
Is baby getting enough milk?
Yes, if baby:
•has 6 to 8 nappies over 24 hours (or 5 to 6 disposable nappies).
•is gaining weight.
•is well and mostly happy.
Breastfed babies often have frequent, loose bowel motions. However some only have one dirty nappy every few days. If you are concerned see your health professional.
How is your milk produced?
The first milk made by the breasts after birth is colostrum which your newborn baby needs. It is often quite yellow and creamy, gradually changing to mature breast milk which looks thinner and whiter but is just right for your baby.
Both colostrum and mature milk have antibodies which help your baby resist infection.
The letdown reflex starts the flow of milk from your breasts. It can be triggered by your baby's cry, smell, or just thinking about baby, as well as by suckling. Some women feel a tingling (letdown) sensation in their breasts as the milk starts to flow. As the milk comes in, your breasts may, at first, feel heavy, hard and uncomfortable. As your breasts adjust to your baby's needs, the amount of milk you produce will settle down and your breasts will feel more comfortable.
The baby suckling and removing milk increases the volume of milk. The more you feed or express, the more milk you will produce.
Tiredness and stress can affect your milk supply, so rest when baby rests if possible.
Benefits of breastfeeding:
• Immunity from breastfeeding lasts even when the baby is no longer being breastfed.
• Breastfed babies have fewer serious illnesses than those who are formula feed.
• Breastfeeding can assist with brain development, and protect a child against obesity.
• Economical and convenient.
• Provides bonding for mother, father and baby.
• Breastfeeding can increase sexual pleasure due to the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin causes contractions similar to those experiences during orgasm. For this reason some mothers give up breastfeeding, thinking that these feelings are unnatural.