Breastfeeding: Arm Yourself For Success!

Photography: HADAS Images

By Rowena Gray, IBCLC

Surviving the sea of conflicting information and misinformation in the first days and weeks.

In a world of seemingly endless information and advice surrounding breastfeeding it’s almost a rite-of-passage into motherhood to find yourself completely overwhelmed with conflicting information. So how can you ensure that not only do you survive this but that you actually find the advice that’s right for you and your baby and at the time you need it?

Arm yourself with the basics of how breastfeeding works for both you and your baby and you will be better placed to sift out the good from the not so helpful advice:

  1. Learn How Breastfeeding Works for both You and Your Baby
  • Hold your baby close to you as many hours of the day as possible, not just when you’re feeding. Skin to skin contact at times other than when you’re breastfeeding helps to:

– lower stress hormones in your body due to tiredness, pain or feeling overwhelmed;

– stimulates your breastfeeding hormones so you can produce more milk;

– helps you gain confidence with noticing your baby’s subtle feeding cues.

  • Frequent feeding is a given. It’s normal! Breastmilk takes less than an hour for your baby to digest and your baby has a tiny stomach so he will need to refill his belly very frequently. One to 6 hours or more between feeds is normal.
  • Let your baby set the pace. There’s no set timing he needs to follow. Different sized babies have different feeding needs so we cannot expect a one size fits all approach to feeding. A hungry baby will wake himself and show signs of hunger when he’s ready to feed. His appetite fluctuates throughout the day – much the same as yours does – and so he will space his feeds in whatever way he chooses over a 24 hour period.
  • Latch is everything! Painful feeding and damaged, squashed nipples is NOT normal! Your nipples may feel very tender in the first few weeks but painful feeding is a sign your baby is not latching well. This limits the amount of milk he can access from your breast and often leads to a low milk supply.  When baby latches well you will feel comfortable and you’ll hear your baby gently swallowing with every suck.

Let your baby set the pace. There’s no set timing he needs to follow.

  1. Trust Your Body
  • Your breasts are designed for breastfeeding! During your pregnancy hormonal changes encourage development of functional breast tissue, or your ‘milk factories’. This is why your breasts grow.
  • Your breasts know what they’re doing! You start to produce milk from as early as 16 weeks into your pregnancy. Colostrum is ready for baby from the moment of birth and after a few days milk is produced. Every mother’s breasts produce and store a different volume of milk. No two breasts are the same. Your breasts respond to your baby’s feeding patterns by up or down regulating your milk supply – the more you allow your baby to feed according to his own needs, the better your milk supply will match his needs. It is rare to be unable to produce enough milk for your baby when you follow your baby’s lead.
  • Breastfeeding is instinctive for your baby. You can see this when your baby bobs his little head and mouths around your chest (or chin!). But it is a learned skill for you as a new mum. Be patient with yourself and try not to overthink it. Your baby simply needs access to your breasts – not your hands, your knowledge, your life skills. Just your breast.

Every mother’s breasts produce and store a different volume of milk. No two breasts are the same.

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