Breastfeeding your Newborn
Breastfeeding is completely natural, and gives your baby the very best start in life by providing your baby with antibodies via the colostrum produced in the early days after birth. Although it is an entirely natural process it can be very difficult to get right, this can be a very emotional time for a new mother and having the right support around you is crucial to successful breastfeeding. It can take a few weeks for you and your baby to get the hang of it, but as time goes by it gets a lot easier
What you need to know
- Breast milk has all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop for the first six months. It's been shown to support vital brain development and to give long-term health benefits
- Breast milk contains antibodies which help protect your baby against infections, including tummy upsets and ear infections
- Breast-fed babies are less likely to develop conditions such as eczema, asthma and diabetes
- The WHO recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age
A Guide to Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is new to your baby as well as to you, and you may both need lots of practice before you feel you've got it right Your baby's first feed can take place straight after birth, if everything's fine. You both need to be comfortable and remember, getting your baby 'latched on' right means you will stay comfortable, and he will get a good feed:
- Your baby should have his nose near the nipple, his stomach to yours.
- You may need to support your breast from underneath with your hand, but don't have your fingers near your nipple or areola as you could prevent your baby getting a good mouthful of breast.
- You shouldn't try to push your nipple into your baby's mouth - it's 'baby to breast' not 'breast to baby', so bring him on when his mouth is wide open
- When your baby feels your nipple with his tongue, his lips will close over the areola and nipple and form a seal; both lips should be rolled outwards. You will feel your baby suckling gently at first and then deeply and rhythmically, one or two sucks per swallow, with little pauses to rest
One or both breasts?
Follow what your baby wants to do. Some babies want both breasts at each feed, and you can offer the second when your baby seems to take a break. If he doesn't want it, just offer the 'unused' breast next time.
You already have colostrum, and some time between days two and five, the milk 'comes in' under the influence of the hormone prolactin. Women who have had a general anaesthetic may experience a slight delay in their milk "coming in".
If you don't breastfeed, your milk production gradually stops. You only continue producing milk if it is being removed from the breast. In fact your baby determines your milk production. The more he demands the greater your supply will be.
When your baby feeds
- He takes your breast in his open mouth, and draws the nipple to the very back of his mouth. His uses his tongue and jaw to get the milk out
- He gets some foremilk, the lower-calorie milk in the reservoirs behind the nipple
- The hormone oxytocin is released into your blood, and as a result the tiny muscles surrounding the milk-storage cells of the breast push the fattier hind milk into the ducts - this is the let-down reflex or the milk-ejection reflex
- The milk goes down the ducts, and out into the baby's mouth
- Your baby adopts a suck-swallow rhythm, using his tongue and jaw to have an effective, satisfying feed
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