Since becoming a breastfeeding support worker I have heard so many misconceptions and been asked frequent questions about the same subjects in relation to breastfeeding. I thought I'd share with you my best advice in the hope that it offers you some support; it's all too often, there are no community support workers that can give 'at home' care to mothers and babies out there that need it the most.

Breastfeeding is not always easy; but that doesn't mean it never will be.

It may be the most natural, instinctual thing you will ever do for your baby but that doesn't mean it is easy. Lots of things factor into your breastfeeding journey; the type of delivery you have, skin to skin, early latch, post-partum haemorrhage. Things that are out of your control may mean that your baby does not feed within the first hour or may initially stunt your supply which could lead to initial feeding issues. This does not mean that you've failed and that they will never feed; it takes a little perseverance and support of course, so don't give up!

'10 minutes on each side'.

Back in the day, the advice given to mothers about feeding their baby was to switch sides every 10 minutes. This is, in fact, the wrong information! For baby to get all the goodness of the milk, fore and hind milk, it is important that you allow your baby to feed on one side for the entire feed, allowing them to come off the breast when they have finished. There is lots of information out there about the content of your milk changing throughout the feed instead of what we've been previously told; fore milk comes first, hind milk comes last as if there are two levels, however during a feed it could be a mix of the two! So really just feed feed feed until baby is full!

Positioning and attachment is extremely important.

The key factors of good positioning will lead to a good latch.

Nose to nipple.
Bring baby to the breast, not breast to the baby.
Hold shoulders rather than head as this allows baby to open mouth wide.
Baby needs to take as much of the breast into their mouth so that the breast hits the soft palate. If it hurts, baby is not latched properly. (You may feel an initial latching pain which could last for 40-60secs)
Full cheeks, no clicking sounds.
Suck, suck, swallow.
Nose should be pressed up close to the breast.

'Not enough milk.'

When it comes to breastfeeding I hear this so often. "My baby is extremely unsettled, it must mean I don't have enough milk". It's very unlikely that you have a problem with your milk supply and more than likely that the baby is not able to extract the milk from your breasts. This again leads back to the latch, your milk ducts are in certain places (we don't know by the way, it differs from woman to woman!) therefore baby needs to be latched correctly to massage the milk out of the breast. It's extremely important to throw routine out the window and breastfeed on demand. This will help with the consistency of your supply and will encourage your breasts to make exactly what baby needs. Signs to look out for when considering a poor latch are:

Baby is feeding for long periods and still unsettled.
Pain that lasts the entire feed.
Baby's cheeks suck in.
Baby is sucking just on the nipple.
Clicking noises.
Crying at the breast.

"Never wake a sleeping baby".

I cannot stress further the importance of waking your baby when breast or bottle feeding. Although I have said that routine goes out the window, that does not mean that you leave your baby more than 4 hours without a feed. In the early days, 2 hourly during the day and then 3 hourly at night. Sometimes, if a baby is not getting enough milk they become sleepy therefore will not wake regularly in search for food. That doesn't mean they're not hungry; it means they're too exhausted to think about food! In order for them to become more alert and to ask to be fed, they must be woken. This will avoid unnecessary weight loss, dehydration and trips to the hospital. If baby cannot be woken then you must hand express or pump and syringe/cup feed!

"I'm worried that I don't know how much my baby is getting".

Your baby will determine how much is enough food. All too often there are babies out there that are over fed on formula. I don't think there is any issues with giving formula by the way (as Theo did go onto formula) but it's key that you recognise the difference between hunger in comparison to over-tiredness or even a wet nappy! Breast fed babies (that are latched and established in their feeding) will dictate when they want to eat. Some days they will graze, other days they will feed for longer. As long as they are settled and satisfied post feed there is no need to be concerned about the amounts they are getting. Once they get older and further along in there breast feeding journey, a feed that may have taken them 45 minutes in the newborn stage will only take them 20 minutes. They are so much better at extracting milk than our hands, pumps ever could be!

Hormones play a huge part.

It's crucial that you determine whether you actually want to breastfeed. In order for your body to produce milk effectively (with all the above factors included) you must be as stress free and relaxed as possible. Skin to skin with your baby can encourage the relevant hormones and will help immensely! In the same breath, there is nothing wrong with deciding that breastfeeding isn't for you - happy mum, happy baby!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to breastfeeding but I hope that some of this information has been helpful. Please don't hesitate to comment or email me with questions, if you'd like me to blog about any other specific areas of breastfeeding then let me know - I'd love to help!


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