Breastfeeding may be natural, but it’s not always easy. The painful truth is, many mums struggle to breastfeed and, while some persevere through the pain and frustration, for others it’s easier to quit. To help set you up for breastfeeding success, we’ve rounded up our smartest tips and solutions from the experts.
1. Try different positions
Finding the best position for both you and your baby will take a little practise and experimentation. Once you have baby properly positioned, everything else should fall into place. Try various positions to alleviate sore nipples, as baby’s latch will be different depending on the angle you’re holding him at.
2. Create a breastfeeding station
Find a quiet corner to set up your breastfeeding station. Along with a comfortable chair, you’ll need a few breastfeeding essentials within easy arm’s reach: A breastfeeding pillow, nipple cream, burp cloth or muslin (in case of any spills), breast pads, and a large bottle of water. You may want to include a few books or magazines too.
3. Don’t wait to ask for help
Getting help early on can save you weeks of frustration and give you the encouragement you need to continue breastfeeding. Talk to the maternity nurses at your birthing centre or hospital, or make an appointment with a lactation consultant if you need advice on latching, breastfeeding positions, and to reassure yourself that your baby is feeding enough. Some hospitals and birthing centres have lactation consultants on staff certain days of the week, so definitely ask for help.
4. Don’t feed for hours
Newborn babies usually don’t need to feed for hours at a time, so know the difference between a feeding baby and one who is using your nipple as a dummy. Release baby’s mouth from your breast after 20 minutes or so of feeding by carefully inserting a finger into his mouth to release the suction. If he fusses, then let him continue feeding. Remember, to ease painful gas bubbles that can accumulate in baby’s tummy, be sure to burp baby well after and during feeds.
5. Look after your nipples
Moisturise your nipples using lanolin or coconut oil, or try expressing a few drops of breast milk onto each nipple after feeding. Use breast pads to stops leaks between feeds, and air dry your nipples as often as possible to reduce cracking and bleeding.
6. Get the right latch
Your baby’s mouth needs to cover the lower part of your breast and areola so that the nipple hits his high palate to stimulate sucking. When baby is latched correctly, you should feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast. You’ll know baby is swallowing when his temple and lower jaw move rhythmically and you hear him take a breath after he swallows. If baby doesn’t latch correctly, you could end up with cracked, bleeding nipples.
7. Painful, engorged breasts
Shortly after baby is born, your breasts will flood with milk and may become engorged, red, and tender, making it difficult for baby to latch on correctly. Feed baby as soon after birth as possible and avoid giving baby a bottle while he is learning to breastfeed, as this could lead to nipple confusion. Regular feeding, at least eight times in every 24 hours, will help regulate your milk supply. While showering, gently massage your breasts with a warm flannel to help with the milk flow, or place a cold compress or cabbage leaves on your breasts after feeding to reduce swelling and to draw any excess milk out of your breasts.
8. Use a breast pump if needed
To build up your milk supply, use a breast pump between breastfeeding. Pumping will remove more milk from your breasts, which will increase your milk supply. Some lactation consultants recommend pumping each breast once a day when your breasts are full and baby is not as hungry. That way you’ll have a stock of breast milk you can store in the freezer so your partner can feed your baby too.
9. Look out for thrush
Thrush is a fungal infection that can develop on your breasts and be passed to baby’s mouth when breastfeeding. Symptoms include sore nipples, achy breasts, or itchy and cracked nipples. If you notice little white spots in baby’s mouth or baby has a nappy rash that doesn’t seem to clear up, consult your doctor or paediatrician, as you’ll need to treat both your breasts and baby’s mouth with a prescription anti-fungal. To prevent thrush, air-dry your nipples, use breast pads in your bra, wear a clean bra every day, and reduce the amount of sugar and yeasty products in your diet.
10. Remember to eat
It’s easy to become so focused on your new baby that you forget to look after yourself. But you’ll need an extra 300 to 500 calories a day to provide enough energy for your body while you’re breastfeeding. Make good choices about what you’re eating, as following a healthy diet is as essential when breastfeeding as it when you were pregnant. Keep up your energy by choosing plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and seafood.
11. Invest in practical breastfeeding clothing
A good breastfeeding bra is vital; not only will it be easier to feed your baby, it provides excellent support for swollen, tender breasts. Button-up shirts and blouses are great options for easy breastfeeding, or layer up with a camisole underneath your shirt to camouflage your tummy. Invest in one or two breastfeeding tops with specially designed openings that make it easier to breastfeed baby, and if you’re concerned about feeding in public, use a soft cashmere shawl or breastfeeding cover to drape over your shoulders and cover up baby while breastfeeding.
12.Top up your fluids
It’s super important to drink plenty of water before and during breastfeeding to avoid dehydration and headaches. Fill up a large water bottle and keep it next to your bed or feeding chair. Cut down on fruit juices which may contain too much sugar, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these can interfere with baby’s sleep patterns.
13. Find a support group
It’s a good idea to research local breastfeeding resources or support groups in your area. There are also a number of free online resources that provide valuable breastfeeding advice. Getting help and support right from the start will save you weeks of upset and disappointment.
14. Keep calm and think peaceful thoughts
Feeling stressed can affect your milk production and the start of your milk flow, so staying calm and relaxed is important for ensuring the experience is enjoyable and successful for both you and baby. Try a warm shower beforehand, sit somewhere quiet, listen to relaxing music, or take deep breaths while baby is feeding.
15. Don’t give up
If you’re concerned that you’re not making enough milk for baby, remember that the more you breastfeed, the more milk your breasts will produce. If baby is getting enough milk, he will be gaining weight and will have about six wet nappies a day.