It has been argued when it comes to looking after your newborn, one of the best things you can do is breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides your baby with all their essential nutrients, helps protect them from illness and promotes normal brain and bodily development. Breastfeeding is a natural process, but it can take a little effort to get it right. Here’s a brief introduction.
First, you’ll need a comfortable, supportive chair to sit in or position yourself on your bed. Ensure the room is warm enough for your baby and is suitably quiet. Initially, it’s very important to have skin to skin contact, so have your baby in their nappy only. Always ensure your baby is calm before starting.
The first step is to place your baby on your chest. Many babies will start to move their head around in search of milk. Should they move towards one breast, gently position them across your lap and ensure that you are supporting their back with your hand. Use pillows to help support the baby and/or your arms if needed.
Women are advised to bring their baby to the breast, and not the breast to the baby (which might hunch your back). Let your baby nuzzle into your breast. Some instinctively open their mouths quite quickly while in other cases it may be necessary to brush their lips against the nipple first. It may take a few tries, however, should your baby lose interest, just pop them back on the middle of your stomach and try again.
Your baby will usually start feeding as soon as they have latched onto your nipple. Good position is essential – their mouth should fully cover your nipple and areola with the tongue underneath the nipple. Tilt their head slightly so that the nose is free and they can breathe easily. They should be facing you with their body in a relatively straight line. It’s important when feeding to ensure that the baby is swallowing as well as suckling.
Once you and your baby have the hang of feeding next time just bring them straight to the breast. The duration of any feed will vary, and you may find it helpful at first to start writing down details so you can keep a track of feeds. While the very first milk from your breasts is a highly nutritious substance known as ‘colostrum’, as the baby grows the first milk expressed at any feed is the thinner ‘foremilk’ which quenches thirst and is full of nutrients. This is followed by the calorie-rich ‘hind milk’ which satisfies hunger. So it’s important not to rush a feed and to finish one breast before moving to the next. It’s also important to start successive feeds on alternate breasts.
A Helping Hand
While breastfeeding is nature’s way, it can still take effort to get your baby feeding comfortably. While in hospital, make the most of any help offered by the nursing staff and feel free to ask questions. Should you be having difficulties back at home, the Australian Breastfeeding Association is a wonderful resource. Their website features lots of useful information, and they have a 24-hour phone service so help is just a phone call away. Remember too that your local Early Childhood Centre may provide valuable advice and assistance. Phone them first to check if you need an appointment.