Breastfeeding basics

Within an hour after birth, if you have your baby on your naked chest for skin to skin, your baby will find his or her way to your breast searching for your nipple and the first feed which is called colostrum. Colostrum is the rich creamy, first milk you produce that is full of antibodies that help to protect your baby from infection.

Initially your nipples may be quite sensitive for the first 10 to 20 seconds of each feed, but this usually begins to ease after a few days. Correct attachment is very important to ensure you don't get nipple damage. If breastfeeding is painful in any way, speak to your midwife or lactation consultant as soon as possible.

On around day three or four after giving birth your breasts will begin to make milk. This is often called your 'milk coming in' and your breasts may feel swollen and tender. It is normal to feel teary and vulnerable at this time due to hormone changes.

It is important to feed your baby as much as possible to help your milk come in and to increase and then maintain your milk supply. If you have a caesarean birth you may find your milk takes longer to come in, but by around day seven to ten your milk supply will start to regulate itself.

It's common to worry about not having enough milk. Milk production works on a supply and demand basis, the more you feed, the more milk you will make.

Your new born baby will feed every two to three hours for the first few weeks. New born babies have very small stomachs so they need regular feeding.

The benefits of breastfeeding include:

  • Bonding between you and your baby.
  • Babies' guts can digest breast milk easier than formula.
  • The antibodies in breast milk help fight infections.
  • Provides many health benefits for your baby.
  • Convenient and free.
  • Breastmilk reduces the risk of allergic conditions.
  • It can be a contraceptive for some women
  • May reduce the risk of premenopausal breast cancer in mothers.

For some women breastfeeding can be challenging and may cause stress and pain. If you have any problems or breastfeeding is painful, seek help immediately. Contact your hospital lactation consultant or a breastfeeding association in your area or country.

When it comes to successfully establishing breastfeeding, you'll need patience, support and perseverance. Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable when you begin feeding as this will help relax your baby and allow your milk to 'let down' or flow.

There are many different opinions and techniques for breastfeeding. If you find a method that works for you continue with that method. When you start feeding make sure you are comfortable with cushions around you, water to stay hydrated, snacks and anything else close by that you might need during the feed.

Breastfeeding can be very challenging to continue when you are tired and your baby is crying. During moments like these it can be very tempting to give up and use a bottle. Seek out the right support and encouragement. Don't feel guilty or feel that you have failed if you choose to discontinue breastfeeding.

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