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8 Top Breastfeeding Tips

October 24, 2022 7 min read

8 Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

 

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, knowing some key tips to help your feeding journey is critical. Every mama will experience a different breastfeeding journey and have ups and downs, which may involve under or oversupply, pumping, bottle-feeding or using donor breastmilk. Gaining knowledge around breastfeeding, knowing what can help when facing challenges, and getting support can all assist your experience. For many mothers, it is a learnt skill, not a natural skill. The Australian Breastfeeding Association state it can take 6-8 weeks for the breastfeeding dance between mama and baby to find its rhythm. Each baby and mother are unique with different patterns, so try not to compare yourself or your baby to others. These tips below may help to increase your chance of successfully breastfeeding.

 

Antenatal education and hand expressing

The first step when planning to breastfeed is to begin researching information during pregnancy. Accessing resources, chatting to your midwife and learning the basics regarding breastfeeding and milk supply will empower you when bub is born and make you more likely to identify problems early. Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is a great place to start with easy-to-understand information sheets available online, as well as tips on how your partner can best support you through your breastfeeding journey. Good support from those around you will impact your experience and persistence with breastfeeding.

Education in the antenatal period should include learning about colostrum and the process of how your breastmilk is made after your baby is born. If cleared by your healthcare provider, you can undertake antenatal expressing of colostrum from 36-37 weeks pregnant. Expressing colostrum before bub is born can help familiarize yourself with your breasts and the technique of hand expressing. Having colostrum already expressed and available to give bub after birth is super convenient and ensures bub has milk to consume if they have difficulty attaching to the breast. If your baby requires more milk in the postnatal period and your preference is to exclusively breastfeed, expressing and having colostrum stored and ready will decrease the chance of your baby needing formula. Expressing can assist in the likelihood of a successful, exclusive breastfeeding journey which promotes good gut bacteria for your baby. Expressing colostrum also leads to a quicker increase in supply once your baby is born, which means your breasts will generally fill faster with milk. Applying heat with BodyICE woman heat packs to your breasts before antenatal expressing can be helpful.

 BodyICE Woman breast pads

Skin to skin and room in together

Having skin-to-skin with your baby is one of the most simple and effective ways to promote positive breastfeeding behaviours in the early days. Your baby is usually placed on your chest at birth, where they should ideally stay for 1-2 hours of uninterrupted skin-to-skin. It is also encouraged to have as much skin-to-skin as possible in that first week and during the fourth trimester. The benefits of this include; helping bub transition to the outside world, relaxing mum and baby, regulating baby’s temperature, breathing and heart rate, and, importantly, encouraging breastfeeding, self-attachment to the breast and release of the oxytocin hormone.

Rooming in is also encouraged for successful breastfeeding. Rooming in or having your baby sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 months is the gold standard recommendation. Rooming in will encourage a strong hormonal response linked to breastfeeding, promotes feeding on demand, comforts bub due to close proximity and reduces sudden infant death syndrome. You can also learn your baby’s cues (hunger, tired and discomfort) when they need something and attend to their needs quickly when you are in the same room.

 

Initiate early breastfeeding from birth

Ideally, breastfeeding should occur within the first hour or so after birth if your baby is ready. Early and frequent breastfeeds for your baby in the first few days of life results in your milk coming in promptly and gives your baby more opportunities to work on their attachment. The more stimulation for your breast in the early days, the more prolactin and oxytocin are produced, two essential hormones for breastfeeding. The quicker your breastmilk comes in, the more likely your baby will have minimal weight loss on day 3, better feeding behaviours, and overall be more settled.

 Breastfeeding Mumma

Ensure correct latch and attachment

The very first week after birth is the best time for you and your baby to learn how to breastfeed and what a correct latch looks and feels like, although sometimes it takes up to 6 weeks. If you have had a hospital birth and are staying for a few days, use the midwives as much as you can to help you ensure your baby is attaching correctly. Correct attachment will set you up for a smoother feeding journey and decrease the likelihood of sore nipples or damage caused by an incorrect latch. Midwives may suggest baby-led attachment if you can, where your baby follows their instincts, finds the breast, and attaches on their own. When checking bubs latch, ensure; sucking is not painful (can be uncomfortable), baby has a deep latch taking in your nipple and most of the areola, lips are flanged or turned outwards, and the nipple is not misshaped or damaged after a feed. Also, get your midwife or lactation consultant to show you different breastfeeding positions, such as side lying, cross-cradle and football hold. You may find one position that works better for you and your baby, but it’s beneficial to learn as many as possible.

 

Breastfeed regularly on demand (especially in first 6 weeks)

It cannot be stressed enough how vital feeding on demand is for your baby and your breastmilk supply. Feeding on demand is just that; offer them the breast whenever your baby shows hunger cues. It is best to put bub to the breast when you recognise early feeding cues; licking, sucking hand, opening their mouth. While establishing breastfeeding in the first few weeks, it is really important to breastfeed on demand or at least 8-12 times in 24 hours (every 2-3 hours). This may seem time-consuming, but this is how your breastmilk supply regulates to your baby’s needs. It does take up to 6 weeks to build and regulate your breastmilk supply, and once your supply is established bub may stretch out their feeds. Every mama will produce different volumes of breastmilk, and every baby will need different amounts of breastmilk; this is why demand feeding is recommended as it is individual and so your baby tells you when they are hungry. Breastfeeding should also be unrestricted time at the breast, your baby will indicate to you when they are finished and come off.

 

Get to know your breasts and milk supply

Massaging your breasts and getting to know how they feel is a good habit. Even before your baby is born, having a breast examination by your GP or undertaking one yourself at home is recommended to ensure no lumps or bumps in the breast before you begin breastfeeding. Once your breasts fill with milk, they will become firm and engorged and at this time, you must massage your breasts before and during every feed to help release breastmilk from any full ducts. Massaging your breasts before and after a feed can help you determine how soft they are post-feed, to indicate how much milk your baby has drained. If you feel any lumps in the breasts, massage them during the feed or use a lactation massager. If you have a lump or blocked milk duct that isn’t going away, you need to monitor it closely and watch for signs of mastitis. You can also use BodyICE cold packs if you feel engorged or sore.  Maintaining a good breastmilk supply depends on your baby breastfeeding frequently, as supply= demand, but also influenced by staying hydrated, consuming a healthy balanced diet, getting rest and avoiding stress.

 Breast anatomy

Avoid dummies and teats

For breastfeeding babies, it is recommended to avoid teats/ bottles and dummies until breastfeeding is established, including a good attachment at the breast and an established milk supply. If given a teat or dummy before the 4- 6 week mark, there is a chance that your baby will get confused and result in a poor latch at the breast or breast refusal, which can pose challenges for you. A dummy shouldn’t be used when baby is displaying hunger cues as then their feed will be delayed, ensure to only give a dummy after a full feed or if bub uses it to re-settle. A dummy does help some babies to settle to sleep, but you will find other babies won’t take a dummy at all. Always be aware of the pros and cons, and then decide on what is best for you and your baby.

 

Ask for help and access resources

Most importantly, if you are struggling or need support or someone to talk to, please ensure you ask for help. Chat with your partner, family and friends, especially those that are breastfeeding or have breastfed before for advice and support. You can even ask your family to support you in other ways, such as cooking meals, doing some housework or looking after other children so you can focus time and effort into breastfeeding your newborn and resting in between feeds.

If you need professional help, consult your GP for local resources, your midwife, child health nurse, lactation consultant or paediatrician. Online resources are also fantastic; ABA website and hotline, Raising Children’s website, 13HEALTH, PANDA, Breastfeeding Guide.

 

A point to remember, be patient with yourself, your little one and your breastfeeding journey. Like anything new, it will take time and patience to get easier and more enjoyable. If you feel that you are getting frustrated while trying to breastfeed, give baby to someone else and try again in a little while, being relaxed while feeding is important for you and your baby.

 

This blog is written by midwife Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub. This is general advice only and does not replace the need for medical advice.

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