When I was pregnant I was obsessed about breastfeeding my twins. I was really lucky to have so much support from the local twins community to empower me. However, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for my breastfeeding journey (and actually parenting journey too). I was thrilled to manage to feed the twins until 13 months when they just used to crawl about on the bed giggling so we decided to move on, but so thrilled with our achievement.
I’ve put together what I think are the top ten tips for breastfeeding – these are general tips focussing on the wider picture and based upon my own experience of helping mums in their own homes (and in mine).
1. Relax – try to keep positive calm thoughts going through your mind and keep your body relaxed – especially around your neck and shoulders – this will help keep your baby calm and help with the flow of milk.
2. Get comfortable, ideally with your feet elevated and somewhere to rest your feeding arm. Try semi reclined position as it can help take away the tension from your back and neck.
3. Positioning – laid back positioning is ideal to help with latch. Baby’s tummy and your tummy should be touching – let your baby root and find the nipple. The baby might use it’s hands and/or face to do so.
4. Experiment – there’s no perfect position – each mum and baby are different and what suits one combination of mum and baby doesn’t always suit another. Whatever position works for you (laid back, cradle, rugby ball or other), make sure you (ie mum) is comfortable and baby is well attached.
5. Attachment – this is the biggest issue many mums and babies have. Good attachment can mean better quality feeds, no nipple pain/damage, will help establish a good milk supply, encourage mum and baby to bond well, should be demonstrated by lots of wet and dirty nappies and hopefully a more settled baby. This is a good film from the NHS about attachment – but if you’re unsure, go to a clinic or get support from a local peer support group (or if you’re in Edinburgh – NurtureMe!) and get it looked at. Your nipples should not be sore, damaged or be misshapen at the end of a feed.
6. Don’t wait for your baby to be screaming before trying to latch them. Try to keep your baby close by so the moment you see any hunger cues, you can prepare to feed.
7. Skin-to-skin – this is vital not only to feeding but to baby’s general health and well-being. There is mounting evidence of the important of this in terms of baby’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, many other vital statistics as well as general bonding with mum and dad. The lovely thing about skin-to-skin is that it’s something that dads can also do to help with baby’s feeding. Dad can carry out skin-to-skin and when baby starts to show signs of stirring, mum can take over and prepare to feed. Skin-to-skin also helps release mums oxytocin which helps release milk so don’t just let dads do it!!! Babywearing can also help and should be encouraged.
8. Try not to breastfeed by numbers including frequency and length, especially for a term and healthy baby. Babies generally know what they need and the first few weeks is about establishing a good milk supply and technique so feed on demand. If you think your baby is hungry then feed, even if they just finished their last feed an hour ago (yes I can still hear me and my mum saying ‘surely he’s not hungry again!’). Nappies, lots of wet and some dirty, are a good indicator that baby is doing well as is weight gain and a settled(ish) baby.
9. If a feed hasn’t gone well, then move on and focus on improving the next feed. Keep your expectations realistic and don’t put any extra pressure on yourself.
10. Finally, keep yourself as well as you can. Sleep when you can (possibly someone can take the baby out for a walk so you can sleep), eat well (nourish your body with good food), and keep hydrated.
If you’d like to introduce a bottle of expressed milk so that mum can at times get a break (remembering that we don’t have access to any wet nurses or people who can feed our babies should we not be able to), I suggest regular expressing during the day for 5-10 minutes on each side, when you can, and then starting a bottle between 4-6 weeks, once feeding is established but before baby rejects a bottle.
If you’re worried about your milk supply, you can express to increase it between feeds, try to relax and eat and drink well. Supplement by taking fenugreek and blessed (not milk) thistle together and breastfeeding tea which is widely available – these will help.
This is part of a series of blogs for Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2014 (19th-25th May 2014), provided by NurtureMe.