Getting Breastfeeding Off To A Great Start
Choosing to breastfeed your newborn baby is a huge decision and a great one too! Though preparation ahead of your journey is great to get things off to a great start. Being armed with a foundation of knowledge and where to look for support, advice and assistance will stand you in good stead for success. It is recommended to have a look at this information beforehand, so that you aren’t feeling overwhelmed when your newborn arrives.
Attending Parent Craft classes and Antenatal Education groups is worthwhile. Usually these birth preparation sessions are provided by midwives or specialist NCT (National Childbirth Trust) trainers. Typically they take on parents from about 30 weeks onwards and discuss everything you would want to know about birth and the immediate postnatal period. They will discuss infant feeding and sometimes even have classes dedicated just to breastfeeding. Enquire with your midwife to find out what is available in your area. Private midwives can also offer this education for an attractive price, offering a more personal approach, smaller groups and also enables you to build a relationship with them. There are brilliant online resources to look to, such as Le Leche League International, NCT and the RCM (Royal College of Midwives).
How Can I Encourage My Newborn Baby?
Before Your Baby Is Born – Your body will already be preparing for breastfeeding and you may even notice colostrum leaking from around the middle of your second trimester. But don’t worry if not! This liquid gold is very sweet to your baby, very calorific and it’s role is to help maintain your baby’s blood sugars and acts as a laxative. There is a large body of evidence and research to support this, you can read these here.
Once Your Baby Is Born – All being well with their arrival earthside, you can have your baby placed skin to skin and this has a plethora of benefits. Ideally, your baby should remain on your chest for at least an hour, or until you are ready for the inital examinations by your midwife to take place. You and your newborn baby will be covered with a blanket to keep you both warm. This is exceptionally comforting for your newborn and is known as ‘kangaroo-care’ in many neonatal units, so if you aren’t able to experience this immediately, there are still some fantastic benefits. This method calms your baby and helps to regulate their temperature, breathing and heart rate. This supports them with the transition to life outside of the womb. Keeping them close to you stimulates their desire to feed and initiates digestion. Your newborn baby has come from a very sterile environment and having them on your skin means that the good bacteria from you will be on them too, this will help fight off infections. Your body will also add antibodies to your colostrum and milk which will strengthen your newborn baby’s immune system. Having baby so close to you stimulates the release of oxytocin, known as the ‘love’ hormone and helps with bonding as well as breastfeeding.
If your baby is on the neonatal unit receiving specialist newborn care, then there are additional benefits too, like improving their oxygen levels. They may need to undergo a number of tests which can be uncomfortable and so skin to skin will reduce their levels of stress. Their growth is improved and there is a possibility of reduced stays in hospital. Keeping your baby close whilst on the unit will also help you continue to increase your breastmilk supply.
There is a brilliant video that shows you what happens during skin to skin and the moments leading up to the first breastfeed. You can watch it here.
It is important to remember to be kind to yourself, you are both learning more and more about each other everyday and breastfeeding can be challenging. There are little signs to look out for, to be more sure of the success of your breastfeeding relationship. It may come as a surprise but babies feed, a LOT. By the time your baby is 2-3 days old, you will notice a change in your breastmilk too as your ‘milk comes in’ (this can sometimes be delayed due to the type of birth or if you had any complications) and your milk will look different to the colostrum. This is totally normal.
With a tiny stomach and breastmilk being so easy to digest, you can expect to be feeding your baby 8-12 times in 24 hours. This is positive, it helps to build your supply and helps them to learn more about what to do. You may notice that your newborn wants to feed more at night time and your hormones are at their peak between 2am and 4am. But if you are feeling uncomfortable, pain or concerned at any point, do seek early advice and support from your midwife, health visitor or GP. It is easier to feed your baby when they are calm, so try to recognise early feeding cues such as wakefulness and becoming alert, batting their arms and legs, smacking their lips or trying to suck their fingers and turning their heads to either side.
Most babies lose weight in the first few days, so try not to worry too much as they normally are back up to their birth weight by 14 days old. Your midwife and health visitor will be keeping a record and you can discuss this with them.
How much your baby weighs is only one metric to managing how breastfeeding is going. For example, a healthy baby has good skin colour, is alert when awake, makes signs when they are hungry and is usually satisfied and restful after a feed. The contents of your newborn baby’s nappies are really good indicators of health.
Wet and dirty nappies should be plentiful, they start off as black meconium and slowly change over to green; then yellow and sometimes can have what looks like seedy deposits – these are just globules of excess fat from your breastmilk.
Breastfeeding provides so many benefits for you and your baby, including reducing the risks of some cancers and diabetes later in life. Your baby is likely to have increased gut health and a lower risk of ear and chest infections.
Do try to find out what Breastfeeding Support you have in your local area. It is paramount that you know where you can go for expert advice and support by means of telephone calls, home visits and drop in clinics or even play groups. There is always someone on hand to ensure you and your newborn baby have a great breastfeeding relationship. Equally, if you have a partner, then it is great to have them join the journey with you, providing encouragement, support and learning about breastfeeding together. As your baby grows and you decide to bottle feed with your milk, then your partner can do this too. It can be intense for the first 4-6 weeks so having some great support from even your family or friends will help you manage that period.
Breastfeeding offers you both much more than just food for your baby, it encourages bonding and provides a safe, comforting space for your baby to want to be. So it is important that if you aren’t happy that you seek early support as breastfeeding challenges can inadvertedly disrupt the relationship with your baby and you may feel negative about breastfeeding. However, it is equally important to be sure that you are happy to continue, or not. It is entirely your decision and you should not feel under pressure to do either.
If you wish to, you can look at options for support such as a postnatal and breastfeeding doula or private midwife to give you immediate support with any challenges you may face. To find out more, speak to Linda Lilwall – From Bumps to Babies, an expert and private midwife with significant NHS and Private experience who can be hired for your convenience to ensure you continue on your breastfeeding journey.
The photograph above was taken during The Newborn Experience photography package, to find out more, click here or complete the enquiry form below.