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Breastfeeding: 6 things a new mother needs to know

Breastfeeding: 6 things a new mother needs to know

Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 06:14

Nothing can properly prepare you for the amazing experience of becoming a mum for the first time. You may feel an overwhelming pressure to ensure that your baby is fed and this can lead to the early introduction of supplements. Here are some tips for breastfeeding in the first few hours:

1. Wake your baby with some gentle winding before breastfeeding

Your baby is used to being snuggly tucked away inside where there is little stimulation and noise. When your baby is born, you may find that he or she remains quite sleepy, in order to block out the excess stimulation. This can make breastfeeding a little tricky. Where possible, reduce stimulation and use gentle waking methods (rather than a nappy change) where possible.

2. The more skin-to-skin contact the better 

When babies are kept in skin to skin contact with you, they remain really calm. They also wake a lot easier and you can minimise stimulation by keeping baby covered with a light blanket, so that when a feeding time comes round, your baby is rested enough to be able to focus on a feed.

Even just doing an hour of skin to skin a day as shown to be incredibly powerful for establishing and maintain breastfeeding. It is underrated but so important and really lovely and relaxing for both you and your little bub.

3. Breastfeed as often as possible  

The more you feed your baby, the quicker your baby’s blood sugar levels will stabilise. This is important for all mums but even more so for mums with gestational diabetes. If your baby is not interested in feeding, hand express small droplets of colostrum from both breasts every hour and rub this on your baby’s gums. Colostrum is so amazing, even in small amounts and provides everything your baby needs. 

You don’t need formula to stabilise baby’s blood sugar levels, you have everything baby needs.

4. Alternate breasts for effective feeds

Remember that you only have colostrum in the early days and your baby needs as much of this as possible, so where possible feed from both sides and ensure that your baby gets good helpings at each feed.

By day 3 – 4, your colostrum will transition to transitional milk and this is when mums are told that their milk is ‘coming in’. Your milk will then transition to mature milk round day 10 – 14, by which time breastfeeding will be more established anyway.

So you can see that feeding from both sides at each feed for at least the first 5 days, is not going to be a problem. The more your baby feeds, the more he or she will poop and therefore, the less jaundiced your baby will be. 

One of the most common reasons for offering a bottle of formula is that baby becomes too jaundiced and doesn’t have any bowel movements. 

5. Squeezing milk from your breast will help your baby to feed

This is one tip I believe every mum should know before going into labour. Often little babies are very sleepy at the breast which makes breastfeeding a bit of a nightmare. It is easily rectified by simple breast compression which pushes milk into your baby’s mouth, keeping baby awake and feeding actively for the duration of the feed.

Mums are often told to tickle baby’s toes and back, blow on baby, pat baby’s back to keep baby awake, but this really is ineffective when your little one decides to zone out. Instead, place a flat hand on the breast (not too close to your nipple or you will pull this out of baby’s mouth) then push inward (toward your rib cage) and hold for 20 seconds before moving to a different part of the breast. Work your way all around the breast until baby feels full and satisfied. 

6. Break breastfeeding with a nappy change midway

Breastfeeding is a new concept to your little one. Your baby is used to having food effortlessly delivered in the right quantities via your baby’s umbilical cord, so don’t rush the early day feeds.

Often mums are encouraged to do a nappy change at the start of the feed to wake baby but I suggest that this should be your last resort. Instead, try waking your baby with gentle movements – see my Active winding techniques in my ‘Breastfeeding a ‘fussy’ baby ebook. These gentle movements wake your baby up without creating a stressful situation. 

You can also just undress your baby down to the nappy and place baby on your skin. Hand express a few droplets of colostrum for your baby to lick or taste and you will see that this will help baby wake and latch.

Feed from one breast – use breast compression if you need to keep baby awake

Wind and nappy change – your baby will be less distressed after a little feed

Feed from the same breast or offer the other side if you feel your baby fed well on the first.

If you find that your baby is still offered a bottle feed after trying all this, know that you can get breastfeeding back on track and that breastfeeding has not been ruined forever. After 2 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding, your baby’s gut will be restored and you can get on with breastfeeding in the way you had envisaged.

Geraldine Miskin is a breastfeeding specialist. Visit Geraldine's website.

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