Having been convinced of all the benefits of breastfeeding many new mothers are surprised to discover just how challenging it can be during the first week or two. It can be sore – very sore! Learning how to “latch on” can be very tricky; and your breasts may be on demand just when you need to sleep. It can also be very confusing if you are getting lots of varying advice. However, it really will be worth the effort once you and your baby have learnt the necessary skills. And remember your baby hasn’t done it before either. Get as much help as you possibly can in the early days, and here are just some of the tips from our ebook "After Birth".
- FInd a position that is comfortable for you and baby. Side-lying or "laid-back" positions are often easiest at first.
- Bring your baby to the breast and not the breast to the baby.
- Make sure baby is comfortable and warm and place“tummy to Mummy”, so that the baby is looking at the breast. Position the baby so its nose is approximately opposite your nipple.
- Newborn babies have a “rooting” reflex. A baby does this when she is looking for the breast to start feeding. Stroking the cheek will make her turn towards the side being touched, and stroking the lips with your nipple will help the baby to open her mouth ready to feed.
- Gently support her head with one hand and cup your breast with the other. Narrow the nipple by holding the thumb above and fingers underneath, making a C shape so that the baby can get more of the breast into her mouth. Allow the baby to latch on herself.
- In the first weeks of feeding there may be a moment of slight discomfort, as she draws the nipple in (breath in deeply and it will pass). Once the nipple is completely in, the sensation should be ‘strong’ or ‘dragging’ but not painful.
- It is very difficult to describe the sensation of a properly attached baby, but if she is attached correctly, the sensation you feel in your nipple should not be described as painful – remember this is ‘breast’ not ‘nipple’ feeding. If it is painful, place your little finger inside the corner of the baby’s mouth to ‘break the seal’ and remove her from the breast. It is better to have to put her on a few times and get the latch correct, rather than damage the nipple by leaving her suck on the nipple incorrectly attached.
- A baby needs to have a good mouthful of her mother’s breast tissue so that the tongue is flat and able to “milk” the breast effectively. If the baby is latched correctly, most of the areola (the dark skin around the nipple) will be inside the baby’s mouth. The baby’s lips should be wide, in a K-like shape, bottom lip rolled out, and the nose should press against the breast. The baby should be looking slightly upwards, and be content. If your baby seems unable to latch on and seems to be constantly chewing on your nipples check that he is not tongue-tied.
- The cheeks should remain full and round and the jaw muscle around the bottom of the ear should be seen moving as she feeds. You shouldn’t be able to hear a noisy “kissing” sound, but you should hear her swallowing.
- Make sure you are comfortable; support your back with cushions and pillows; prop up the baby if necessary on a cushion; and use a footstool (even a few books will do). Sit up straight. Do not keep leaning forward pushing your breast to baby – sit upright and bring baby to you.
- You will get very thirsty. Ensure you have a drink of water or juice beside you prior to starting each feed. At night keep a glass of water AND a glass of ice beside the bed. This will mean you have a cold glass of water at hand during night feeds.
- At the end of each feed gently squeeze out a few drops of breast milk – packed with antiseptic qualities – and rub it back into your tender nipples.
- Chilled green cabbage leaves will soothe hot, engorged breasts, particularly as the milk comes in. Change them regularly, about every 20 minutes. Time is up when the room begins to smell like cooked cabbage soup! Only do this for 12-24 hours.
- Grated carrot (yes you have the makings of coleslaw if you are also using the cabbage for engorgement!) will soothe sore and cracked nipples. Just place on a breast pad against your nipple and remember to clean off before feeding
- Coconut oil also seems to help many women with cracked and sore nipples. Use breast pads when you apply it as it may stain.
If you find breastfeeding difficult, there are many people who can help and reassure you: Most hospitals have midwives who are dedicated to giving breastfeeding support; and there are antenatal and postnatal support groups for women wishing to breast-feed. Check your local phone directory, or national breastfeeding websites.