“My breastfeeding advice for new mothers”
Sunday 5 May was the International Day of the Midwife. One of the many ways that midwives support women postnatally is by supporting them to start breastfeeding their baby, as this carries a huge number of benefits for babies and mothers. New mums can sometimes face challenges when they breastfeed, so Alessandra D’Angelo, senior midwife at The Lindo Wing, gives some tips on getting started.
1. Make sure your baby is latching on properly
You can tell if your baby is latching on properly as they will take a large mouthful of the nipple and the surrounding darker area. While feeding, you should be able to see that they have rounded cheeks with their chin touching your breast and their lower lip turned out. After a few days, you will be able to hear your baby swallow.
While breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, especially for first-time mothers, it shouldn’t be painful. If you experience pinched, sore or bleeding nipples, or your baby still seems hungry after a feed, these could be signs that your baby isn’t latching on.
2. Seek advice if breastfeeding is painful
If you’re finding that breastfeeding is painful, you should get a healthcare professional to look at how your baby latches on and the position you’re sitting in to breastfeed. You may just need to adjust your position.
Staff at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea and St Mary’s hospitals recently achieved stage two accreditation for the UNICEF Baby Friendly Standards, which is an accreditation programme that enables healthcare professionals to support all mothers with breastfeeding, so they will be able to offer help while you’re in hospital. There is also a team of Imperial Health Charity breastfeeding volunteers at Queen Charlotte’s who can provide advice and reassurance to you in the first few days after birth.
3. Breastfeed when your baby wants to be fed
Responsive feeding, which means breastfeeding whenever your baby wants to be fed, will ensure that you have a good milk supply.
You should usually feed your baby six to eight times every 24 hours, with feeds lasting 10 to 45 minutes or more. If your baby comes off the breast, this can mean the breast is empty, so you can switch to the other one.
4. Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk
If your baby is getting enough milk, they should have a normal skin colour, seem relaxed during breastfeeding and after the first week they should have six or more wet, heavy nappies and at least two dirty nappies a day.
If your baby still seems hungry, the most likely cause is that they are not latching on properly, so you should try adjusting your position or seek help.
5. Try different positions to sit in when breastfeeding
You should experiment with different positions to find out what works best for you and your baby. Try sitting upright, lying on your side or doing the so-called ‘rugby ball hold’. Help the baby towards your breasts rather than moving towards the baby. Make sure you’re comfortable and that you have some water close by to drink during feeding, in case you feel thirsty.
6. If you’re not producing enough milk try lots of skin-to-skin contact with your baby
You will tend to produce milk when your baby is close to you so try plenty of skin-to-skin contact and keep your baby near. Skin-to-skin contact can also encourage your baby to feed. You can put the baby’s nose close to the nipple so that they can smell the colostrum (the early form of milk produced) and squeeze some onto the baby’s lips. This will encourage your baby to latch onto the breast.
7. Take care of yourself as well as your baby
Make sure you stay properly hydrated, eat well and get as much sleep as you can as this will all help with your milk production.
8. Access more help and support once you return home
After you and your baby have come home, you can get support from local breastfeeding drop-in clinics, and helplines, as well as your community midwife or your health visitor.
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