Breastfeeding is the natural way of feeding human babies. Breast milk is designed specifically for us and cannot be equaled in properties and content by any man-made formula. For most women breast feeding works well right from the start. For others, some help is needed to get going.
The most important thing to get right from the start is a good latch. Some babies get it straight away. For others, a little help and patience is needed to get going. A baby who is not latched on well may stay at the breast, appear to be sucking but getting very little milk. This in turn leads on to other problems like poor milk supply, sore nipples and a hungry frustrated baby. Only in very exceptional cases will a mother not have enough milk for her baby. Most mums produce more milk than is needed. To establish a good supply, breast feeding should start right from the beginning. If for some reason baby cannot feed mum can be shown to hand express to get that supply going.
The following are some strategies to help establish breast feeding.
Skin to Skin
This is vital straight after delivery provided mum and baby are well. It helps with bonding, keeps baby warm and helps him adjust to his new and strange environment. In fact, babies should have skin to skin contact as much as possible in the first few weeks of life. This helps mum to relax with baby and helps them both to get to know each other. It gives mum a chance to rest. Studies have been done that show that babies brain development benefits greatly from skin to skin contact in the first few weeks of life.
Mum and baby should be together from birth. Studies have shown that rooming in has led to better breastfeeding rates, contented babies and happy confident mums. A new mum gets to know her baby. She learns his rhythms and responds immediately to his feeding cues. When baby starts to wake and look for a feed, mum wakes too. In this way mum is less tired.
Babies Feeding Cues
Long before baby starts to cry he will demonstrate feeding cues- stretching, changing breathing patterns, wriggling, sucking on his fingers etc. if mum is nearby she will respond to baby, her milk let down reflex will be stimulated and baby will calmly latch on. On the other hand, a crying baby has to be soothed before he can latch. This can lead to delays and frustration.
Non Restriction of Feeding Times and Frequency
In the early days babies can feed often. This is perfectly normal and can come as quite a surprise to some mums! The average amount of feeds can be 10 to 12 feeds in 24 hours. This is nature’s way of establishing a good supply. Once this is established supply will depend on demand. If baby is hungry and feeds a lot more milk will be produced to match baby’s appetite.
If baby is latched on well he will feed well. If he is on for hours at a time check the latch. If the latch is insufficient he may appear to be drinking but not enough milk is being transferred. Get help to check the latch. Other techniques like breast compression can help in the transfer of milk.
Once baby falls asleep at the breast this feed is over. Put baby down. when he needs feeding again he will wake and demonstrate feeding cues and the process starts again.
The Use of Supplements
If feeding is baby led from the start he will get all he wants from the breast whenever he needs it. There shouldn’t be a need for supplements or water. If you think your baby needs to be supplemented get professional help to check that latch and observe baby feeding.
For some mums breastfeeding doesn’t go quite as well as it should do. This can be very frustrating and worrying for parents who only want the best for their baby. It is really important to seek help early.Early discharge, conflicting advice and poor support can lead to stress and worry. Breastfeeding should be a positive experience for both mum and baby. With the right help and advice there is no reason why breastfeeding shouldn’t be a success.