Feeding your Baby
New babies bring many changes to the family. When caring for your baby you will probably be subject to a great deal of different and sometimes conflicting advice. If you have any questions or concerns talk to your midwife, lactation consultant or your doctor.
Starting to Breastfeed
Early initiation of breastfeeding is important for successful breastfeeding.
You will usually be able to have skin to skin contact soon after birth. Most babies are alert and start to suck immediately. When your baby feeds, the nipple and areola are taken into the baby’s mouth. With suckling hormones stimulate the glands to let-down milk, firstly a blue white watery milk ‘foremilk’ followed by the ‘hindmilk’. During the first days of feeding, you may feel some contractions in your abdomen as the baby feeds. The usually mild discomfort signals the release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size.
How you position yourself, how you hold your baby, and how you offer your breast all affect how baby latches on. This will determine how comfortable you and your baby will be during breastfeeding.
Choose a comfortable well supported sitting or lying position to avoid getting a stiff back, shoulder or neck muscles, or cracked nipples from the baby poorly latching on to the breast.
Babies as well as mothers should be comfortable during breastfeeding. Baby’s breastfeeding reflexes work best when baby is well supported with her body comfortably aligned. Position your baby across your front, hold her with her chest and tummy facing you (“baby’s chest to your chest”, “baby’s chin to your breast”) and her nose opposite the nipple. Bring your baby to the breast, not the breast to your baby.
Baby at the Breast
Having baby correctly attached to the breast is very important for successful breastfeeding.
When bringing your baby to the breast, support her neck and shoulder between your spread out fingers and thumb. This helps raise her chin off her chest so that she can open her mouth wide and allows her nose to be clear.
The nipple should be lined up with the nose. Her bottom lip should make contact with the areola (the dark area around the nipple), well away from the base of the nipple. Baby’s lips should be flared (turned outward).
When baby is feeding she should have a suck swallow pattern (long drawing sucks followed by shorter sucks) with pauses in between. You can see her ears wiggle as her jaw moves.
Feeding may be uncomfortable for the first few seconds after your baby first attaches as the nipple is pulled into the back of baby’s mouth. However, if it continues to be painful it may be that baby’s position is not quite right. Take your baby off the breast by putting a finger in the corner of her mouth to release the suction and try again.
Frequency of Feeds
There are no hard and fast rules. It is advisable not to let your newborn baby sleep for longer than six hours at one time. Follow your baby’s cues for feeding.
These might be
- hand sucking
- crying is usually the last cue for Feeding
Duration of Feeds
Don’t worry about timing your baby’s feeds. Like adults, babies may take different amounts of food at different times of the day.
- At the beginning of the feed your baby takes in the lower calorie foremilk which quenches the thirst. (Some mothers may think their milk is watery and may unnecessarily give up feeding because of this – this foremilk is low in fat and high in carbohydrates).
- As the baby continues the feed the milk changes to a high calorie hindmilk which satisfies hunger and promotes growth.
- Allow your baby to suckle until satisfied at the first breast. When your baby starts playing at the breast you can offer the other breast.
- If your baby does not want any more milk do not persist. Always start with the other breast at the next feed.
- If baby falls asleep in the middle of a feed, changing her nappy, taking off a layer of her clothing or stroking her may wake her enough to finish the feed.
- It is normal and very common for two day-old babies to be very hungry and wakeful.
- When the weather is hot you may find your baby wants to feed more often because she is thirsty.
Growth spurts when breastfeeding
At times (often around 2, 4, 6 and 12weeks) your baby may want to breastfeed more often. These times of extra feeding usually last two or three days and are due to your baby’s increased growth. This is normal. As your baby takes more milk through extra feeds, as more milk is ‘requested’ so your body will make more milk (it may take between 12 – 48 hours for your body to adjust) but then your baby will return to her normal feeding pattern.