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Breastfeeding 101: all your questions answered

Breastfeeding is one of the biggest worries many mums face and whilst it’s natural to have concerns, there’s plenty you can do to ease those nerves. We asked midwife Martha Clayton from Genesis Perinatal Clinic to answer a few questions.

Can I prepare for breastfeeding before the birth?                 

Physically speaking, there isn’t anything you can do beforehand as the natural hormonal changes in pregnancy prepare your breasts for you. However, reading up and doing your research is always a good idea. Attend a prenatal class on the topic of breastfeeding to understand some of the challenges you may face. The class will also cover things like global recommendations, early initiation, good positioning and attachment techniques, as well as the benefits of breastfeeding for mother, baby, and family.

Why does the World Health Organisation recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age?

The WHO recommendation is based on the latest medical evidence and designed to achieve the optimal growth, development, and health for your baby. Up to the 6-month mark, breast milk is all a baby needs and it’s dynamic, meaning the composition changes to meet their nutritional requirements as baby grows.

What can I do after the birth?

Successful breastfeeding starts with following international best practices in the labour ward and operating room. Aim for immediate uninterrupted and unhurried skin-to-skin contact as soon as you can and feed within that first “Golden Hour”. Look for the signs of baby rooting and looking for the breast and let them do the breast crawl and self-latch if possible. When assistance is required by staff, correct latching and positioning are super-important to build confidence and ensure success.

How often should I feed in the first few weeks?

It’s best to go with the flow and feed babies on demand in the first few weeks – this can be anything from every 1.5 to 3 hours and they will take what they need. During a growth spurt, they will require feeding more often, however, you’ll know when they’re hungry! Wait until after 6 weeks when the baby is bigger and you feel comfortable before you worry about establishing a routine.

What are the best ways to increase milk supply?

Feeding and feeding again when the baby requests it. At times, this might mean cluster feeding (with lots of short feeds over a few hours). You can start expressing 15 to 20 minutes after every feed to give extra stimulation. Once the baby is bigger, try power pumping or have a nursing vacation where you spend at least 36 hours relaxed, cuddling, and feeding. There is no quick fix to increase breast milk supply, it can take 3 to 5 days to see a difference and your body is unique!

How important are my hydration and nutrition?

Breastfeeding takes a lot from you as a mum and you’ll lose around 500 kilojules per day, which is why it’s so important to keep well hydrated and have balanced meals. Try having smaller meals with healthy snacks in between to keep your energy levels up.

Should I wake my newborn to feed during the day and/or night?

To establish and maintain a good milk supply it is important to breastfeed regularly. In the first 6 weeks, babies need to feed at least every 3-4 hours so they gain weight and stay healthy. If they don’t wake up, you need to wake them day and night to keep a regular schedule. After 6 weeks, babies can be left to sleep for up to 5 hours. Remember, if a newborn doesn’t feed regularly in the first 2 weeks, they might develop jaundice and require supplementary feeding to maintain a good fluid balance.

How do you know if baby is getting enough milk?

After feeding, you should be able to feel that the breast is much softer. The baby will become calm and satisfied during the feed, their hands will open as they relax and they will often de-latch once they’ve finished and fall asleep. They will grow steadily and gain weight and a good rule of thumb is at least 6-8 wet nappies and 4 poos a day.

What if I find it painful or very difficult to breastfeed?

Ask for assistance as soon as possible. If you’re still in the hospital, let the staff observe the positioning and latching and if you have already been discharged then reach out to a clinic for support. Don’t just keep going hoping it will get better! See an IBCLC Lactation Consultant who will work on a plan to support you and build confidence.

What if I’m expecting multiples?

KEEP BREATHING you will be fine!! Plan and organize in advance and most importantly be ready to ask and accept help. If you’re breastfeeding twins together you’ll all need plenty of rest and the breast will produce what the babies need.

Any other tips and advice?

Breastfeeding is a dynamic process; what worked today might not work tomorrow and the baby might not want to latch the same way so try new ways of positioning if you need to. Nipples that were healthy might suddenly become sensitive but stay calm and adjust, as long as you’re both happy and working together as a team. Never be afraid to ask for help and see a Lactation Consultant earlier sooner than later and enjoy this precious part of parenthood!


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