The experience of breastfeeding is unique as no two mothers or babies are the same. Your breastmilk is perfectly designed for your baby and changes to meet your baby’s growing needs. Lactation is the process of producing breastmilk for your baby and it can take up to six weeks to be well established.
Breastmilk is produced using a ‘demand and supply’ principle.
The more your baby takes, the more breastmilk is produced. It is normal for a newborn to feed at intervals of two to five hours and feeds may take 45 minutes to an hour. In the early months your baby needs a minimum of 6-8 feeds in 24 hours.
Good positioning and attachment is the key
- Position yourself comfortably with your back well supported
- Allow your breast to fall naturally
- Unwrap your baby to allow easy handling, skin contact and avoid overheating
- Ensure you baby is well supported behind the neck and shoulders with your baby’s body facing you with body flexed and held close. Your baby should be able to reach your breast easily, without having to stretch or twist
- Your baby’s head should be free with the top lip in line with the nipple
- Your baby should be slightly lower than the breast with their lower arm brought around under your breast.
- Your baby’s chin is touching or tucked into the breast
- Support your breast using your free hand with fingers well back from the nipple/areola, aim your nipple towards your baby’s nose
- A wide open mouth is encouraged by allowing your baby to feel the underside of the nipple with the top lip.
- As your baby’s mouth opens wide, bring your baby to your breast, aiming the nipple towards the roof of the mouth with the chin coming to the breast.
- Your baby’s mouth is wide open with the lower lip curled outward
- After an initial short burst of sucking, the rhythm should be slow and even with intermittent pauses and deep jaw movements
- A change in breast fullness indicates transfer of milk (breast emptied) in the early weeks
- You may hear your baby’s gulps at the start of breastfeeding as the let down of high volume milk is swallowed
Increased nipple and areola sensitivity (discomfort) is normal whilst feeding is being established. Nipple sensitivity when you start a feed should ease after a minute or two if your baby is attached properly.
Constant discomfort can indicate that your baby is damaging the nipple. In this situation it is important to gently detach your baby from the breast and reattach. To detach baby, place your finger in the corner of your baby's mouth, and push down onto the breast to break the suction.
- Early hunger signs include your baby smacking or licking lips, opening and closing his/her mouth or sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers or fists
- Active hunger signs include baby fussing or breathing fast, rooting around on the chest of whomever is carrying them; trying to position for breastfeeding by lying back, fidgeting or squirming a lot or clenching fingers or making a tight fist over the chest or tummy.
- Late hunger signs include your baby crying and/or moving their head frantically from side to side.
Some babies may detach from the breast abruptly and will quit feeding suddenly when full. For other babies, it can be a gradual process as their sucking becomes slower and slower until they are full.
I have to return to work but I am breastfeeding. I don't want to wean. What can I do?
It’s a shame to have to interrupt such an enjoyable routine, yet it’s quite possible for Some mothers are able to continue to fully or partially breastfeed their baby for many months after returning to work. It does take some pre-planning, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t be put off easily. Discussing your desire to breastfeed with your employer may help to gain some support. Start by expressing extra breastmilk and freezing it. If you haven’t been expressing, it might take a little while to build up your milk supply to be able to express more than a few milli-litres of milk each time you express. Hiring an electric breast pump may make the process easier. You may need to express at work to keep your breasts comfortable. Keep the milk refrigerated and bring it home in an insulated cool bag. Some mothers find regular expressing difficult to maintain. However, your baby can be offered an infant formula when you are at work, and still be breastfed at home. Many mothers and babies are able to continue to partially breastfeed for many months with this more flexible arrangement.
Our 2 year old has started to become very demanding and has regular tantrums. His naughty behaviour usually occurs when I am trying to feed my baby?
Going from being the centre of attention to having to share attention with another can be very difficult when you are 2 ½ years old (see Introduction). Organise a snack for your 2½ year old child to have while your baby is feeding. Make the snack fun by putting the food into a lunch box and adding interesting healthy foods. Place a rug on the floor so he can have a picnic. Having a special DVD or television show to put on while you feed can help keep your toddler occupied and happy. Have a special book to read or toy to play with during feeding time. This can act as a distraction and make feeding a special time. Tell your son that you will spend some time playing with him when you have put the baby down to sleep. Make sure you carry through with any promises you make to spend time with your son. Providing some structured attention with mummy or daddy can really make a difference as does encouraging extended family and friends to share some of their attention with both your son and baby.
I am going to be in the hospital for a couple of days, but I'm still breastfeeding my newborn. How do I manage?
As you have a couple of weeks until you are admitted to hospital, building up a supply of breast milk in your freezer will provide milk for your baby when you are unable to feed. In hospital, arrange ahead for your baby to room in with you (as per hospital policies to promote, protect and support breastfeeding), with the support of your partner or alternately to be brought into you at regular intervals to breastfeed. When you are being admitted talk to the nurses about your needs as a breastfeeding mother. You may need to ask for assistance to sit up to breastfeed or to express when you have returned from the operation. At home, your baby may be a little fussy or even refuse the breast when they are reintroduced to the breast. This may be a reaction to the emotional and physical separation of mother and baby and if the baby needed to be temporarily offered milk feeds from a bottle. Gently persist in offering the breast, as it may take a little while before baby settles back into a good feeding pattern.
Does Tresillian support breastfeeding?
Our nurses and paediatricians are committed to supporting breastfeeding if this is the mother’s chosen method of feeding her baby. Breastfeeding encouragement, education and support is provided to mothers striving to overcome difficulties breastfeeding. However, if a mother makes the decision to wean this will be respected and supported. If a mother chooses to give her baby an infant formula or has to wean for whatever reason, the nurses will support and help the mother to ensure that infant feeding is an important and pleasurable experience for both her and the baby.