How breastfeeding works
If you’re a mum who’s about to start breastfeeding for the first time then you probably have a lot of questions about how it’s all going to go down.
Some mums will tell you that it’s a natural thing that happens as easily as breathing, whereas others will tell you stories about how it seemed to take forever to get their little one to have their first feed.
It seems like every breastfeeding mum has a different experience that can even differ from child to child, leaving you wonder where to turn for breastfeeding advice.
That’s why we’re going to look at some of your frequently asked questions about all things breastfeeding and help you to get all the answers you need.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has lots of health benefits for you and your little one, as it helps to pass some of your natural protection from diseases and infections onto your baby.
This means that baby’s developing immune system will have some help when it comes to fighting off bugs, making them less likely to get sick.
Breastfeeding can also help to lower your own risk of certain health conditions, including obesity and breast cancer, so it really is a win – win situation!
For more information about the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding Vs Formula guide, where we break down all of the pros and cons of breastfeeding your little one.
How to breastfeed
If you think you’re the only one who’s ever wondered how to breastfeed their baby, then don’t worry, you’re not alone!
This is a question that many new parents want to ask, especially if their first attempt at feeding hasn’t gone so well. So, let’s start with the basics…
- Get comfortable – Use whatever you need to feel relaxed while you hold your little one. If that means a mountain of cushions and 7 mattresses like that fairy tale about the Princess and the pea than go for it!
- Bring your baby to your breast – don’t try to lean forward or sideways to where your baby is to feed. Bring baby to you. This will make both of you more comfortable.
- Hold your baby with their nose level to your nipple – this will give them the best position to get a mouthful of breast.
- Wait until baby opens their mouth wide – Your baby will open their mouth wide with their tongue down when they’re ready to latch onto your breast. If this is taking some time, stroke their top lip to encourage them to open wide.
- Let baby latch on – When your baby is ready to feed they will approach your breast chin-first. Make sure to support their head while they do this so they can get a mouthful of breast with your nipple pointing towards the roof of their mouth.
- Let baby feed – you’re in the position! Now you just need to let your little one feed until they’ve had enough and let your breast go.
That’s a simplified guide to breastfeeding, but don’t worry if things don’t go exactly to plan.
If you’re really having trouble getting your baby to latch on or breastfeed, try talking to your midwife of health visitor.
They’ll have seen any problem that you’re having a thousand times before and will be able to give you good advice about what to do next.
What are the best breastfeeding positions?
Getting yourself and your baby into the best possible position for breastfeeding is important, and there are a few things you can check to be sure that you’re both happy and comfortable.
For starters, make sure baby’s head and body are in a straight line. If their head is tilted or their neck is twisted it can be difficult for them to swallow their milk.
Make sure your baby is properly supported, especially their head and neck, but don’t hold on to the back of baby’s head.
Your little one will need to be able to tilt their head back to latch on properly, so give them the room to do so.
As long as you check that your baby is supported and their neck isn’t twisted, you can position yourself however you like.
Sitting, standing, lying down, standing on your head with your legs in the air (okay, maybe not that last one), as long as your baby is supported in the right position, you’re good to go.
How often should I breastfeed my new born?
Every baby is different, so it’s hard to say exactly how many times you should feed a new born during their first few weeks.
However, the NHS says that a good rule of thumb is to feed your baby at least 8 times every 24 hours for the first few weeks.
You don’t have to stick to a schedule if you don’t want to, although some mums may find that works for them, you can just feed your baby whenever they feel hungry or your breasts feel full.
This will help you to be sure that your baby is feeding enough and that you both feel comfortable.
How do I know my baby is eating enough?
Some breastfeeding parents might worry that their little one isn’t getting enough milk, but there are a few signs you can look out for to be sure that your baby is feeding properly.
For starters, your little one should be gaining weight. If your little one is gaining weight and seems generally healthy and happy, then they’re probably eating enough for them.
You can also check your baby’s nappy for signs that they’re getting enough milk.
After the first few days, a baby who’s eating enough should have at least 6 wet nappies and at least 2 soft yellow poos every day. If in doubt, check the nappy!
How do you store breastmilk?
If you want to feed your baby using a bottle but still want to make sure that they’re getting all of the benefits of breastmilk, you can choose to express milk and store it.
You can express milk by hand or use a breast pump and store the milk in bags to be used later. This can also help to ease your breasts when they’re feeling full and sore.
When you’ve expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days, making sure that it’s kept at 4 degrees Celsius or lower.
If you want to keep your milk for a little longer, you can store it for up to 6 months in the freezer.
To help you to store your milk for the right amount of time, you might want to consider labelling the storage containers or bags with the date you expressed and the date you should use your milk by.
This will help you to keep track of which milk you should and shouldn’t use.
When you want to use milk that has been frozen, put it in the fridge and let it defrost slowly, then use the milk straight away and don’t freeze it again.
Which foods should I avoid when breastfeeding?
It’s important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet while breastfeeding, as all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from your food pass to your baby through your breastmilk.
This is why there are also a couple of foods you should avoid while breastfeeding, as they aren’t the best for your baby.
The NHS recommends that you should eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish every week while you’re breastfeeding. A portion is around 140g, so you shouldn’t eat more than 280g of oily fish a week.
Oily fish means fresh tuna (not canned), sardines, mackerel, and trout. If you’re a fan of shark, swordfish, or marlin, you should limit your portions to once a week.
If you’re a coffee fiend, you’re also going to want to limit your java intake while you’re breastfeeding. Caffeine is a stimulant and it can make your baby restless and keep them awake.
If you want to try to get your sleep while your baby takes a nap, switch to decaf so you can make sure that your baby gets all the sleep they need and don’t touch the energy drinks.
Breastfeeding in public
Breastfeeding in public can be intimidating for first timers, but there’s really nothing to worry about. Your baby needs food and you need to feed them, so go right ahead!
The law is on your side, as it’s illegal to ask a breastfeeding parent to leave a public place in the UK, so let the haters hate and just focus on you and your baby.
There are clothes and bras that are designed to make it easy for breastfeeding mothers to feed their little ones easily, so invest in a new wardrobe of breastfeeding friendly clothes.
If you feel a little self-conscious about exposing your breast in public to feed, then you can pick up a cover up that will wrap or tie around your shoulders, covering your breasts and your baby during feeding time. Whatever makes you and baby feel comfortable and confident.
No matter how shy you feel, don’t head to a public toilet to feed your baby. If you wouldn’t eat in the toilet, then why would your baby want to?
Will breastfeeding ruin my implants?
If you have breast implant, you may be wondering about how this will affect breastfeeding your baby.
Many women who have breast implants find that they have no problems breastfeeding their baby, but others may find that it’s impossible. This is entirely dependant on the kind of surgery you’ve had and your own breasts.
Often, there’s no way to know whether you can breastfeed with your implants until you try it out, unless you know that your breast augmentation surgery involved cutting the milk ducts that connect to your nipples.
This is the same for knowing how your breasts will look after breastfeeding, there’s no way to know how your breasts and implants will look until you’ve tried feeding, so if you want to breastfeed just give it a go!
There’s no way of knowing either way, so what have you got to lose?
Those are all of the breastfeeding FAQs we have for you today, but we know that there are lots of other questions you might have about all things breastfeeding.
If you’ve got another burning question you’d like us to answer then don’t be shy! Drop us a line, pick up the phone, message us on Facebook, send us an email or shout it from the rooftops and hope that we can hear you.
Our Chemist 4 U pharmacists will be happy to answer any of your breastfeeding questions as quickly as we can. Don’t be afraid to get in touch any time – we don’t bite!