Those breastfeeding parents you've seen make it look so simple. They open a button and latch on a baby without missing a beat of conversation or a bite of food, as if breastfeeding was the most natural process on the planet. While the source may be natural, it does not always come readily.
There's a lot to learn whether your first time is a breeze, a struggle, or somewhere in the between. So the more you understand about technique (how to position a baby), mechanics (how to tell if baby is getting enough milk), and logistics (when one meal is over and it's time for another), the more confident and empowered you will feel.
Nursing becomes one of motherhood's most satisfying responsibilities once you get over the initial trial-and-error days of finding the perfect system for you. Breastfeeding has numerous advantages for both you and your baby, providing you and your baby with a head start on a healthy future.
When your milk comes in
There are three stages to the delivery of breast milk. Each is tailored to your baby's age, making it the ideal nourishment from the first day and beyond:
- Colostrum: Colostrum is the thick, yellowy (but occasionally clear) liquid you make, which may have leaked from your breasts during pregnancy. This essential combination of protein, vitamins, and minerals may also aid in the defence against hazardous germs and viruses, as well as boost the production of antibodies in newborns. It also protects the inside of a baby's intestines, protecting their developing immune system as well as protecting against allergies and digestive trouble. It also encourages the baby's first bowel movement and minimises the risk of jaundice.
- Transitional milk: Your body will start producing transitional milk usually around the third or fourth day. It looks like milk blended with orange juice, but tastes far better to your baby, and it occurs when your milk first "comes in." It has less immunoglobulins and proteins than colostrum, but it has more lactose, fat, and calories. Don't panic if you don't seem to be making much milk; a baby's stomach is only the size of a walnut on day three.
- Mature milk: Mature milk is thin and white, with a slight bluish tint, and arrives between day 10 and two weeks after delivery. It may appear to be watery skimmed milk, but it contains all of the fat and other nutrients that growing babies require.
Latching baby onto your breast
It may take a few tries to get your baby into the correct position at first, but keep trying.
First and foremost, knowing how to latch is critical, as poor latching is the leading source of breast discomfort. Baby's mouth should cover both your nipple and the areola, so they are massaging milk out of your milk glands with the tongue and lips. Sucking on just the nipple will not only leave your baby hungry because the milk-secreting glands will not be compressed, but it will also cause your nipples to get uncomfortable and cracked.
How long to breastfeed
While you may have heard that brief feeds help avoid pain and cracking, this is usually caused by getting into a less-than-ideal position; not by feeding too long. So, rather than establishing time limitations for each feed, let your baby take their time at the breast — and expect extended feedings at first.
Sessions are usually 20 to 30 minutes long. However, keep in mind that this is an average. In the beginning and during growth spurts, your baby may take less time to eat or they may need to eat for longer periods of time.
At each feeding, at least one breast should be well-drained. Because hind milk (the last of the mature milk that a baby consumes) is richer in fats and calories and is more crucial than ensuring that your baby feeds from both breasts. Instead, wait until your baby appears to be finished with breast one before offering, but not forcing, breast two. Start with the other breast at the following feeding if your baby drains one breast and doesn't want any more.
Wait for your baby to let go of the nipple to end the feeding. If your baby doesn't, you'll know it's time to stop feeding when the suck-swallow pattern reduces to four sucks per one swallow. Your baby will usually fall asleep toward the end of the first breast and either wake up to nurse from the second or sleep until the following feeding. Unlatch by pressing on your breast near your baby's mouth or gently placing a clean finger into the corner of your baby's mouth.
Signs baby’s hungry
Nursing when your baby appears hungry is an excellent method to master the proper breastfeeding balance. Don't wait for tears; your child may be painfully hungry by then, especially if they scream for a long time. Your baby may be small, but they’ll let you know what they need by:
- Nuzzling against your breasts
- Frantically sucking on that little baby hand (or your shirt, or arm)
- Opening their mouth
- Making smacking sounds with their lips
- When a newborn has a rooting reflex, they will open their lips and move their head to the side with their mouth open to find a food source, usually after being stroked on the cheek.
- Sucking on their lip or tongue, giving the impression that they are putting their tongue out.
How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
Many new breastfeeding mothers worry at some point that their baby isn't eating enough. Because your breasts aren't calibrated on the outside, you have no idea how much milk you're producing or how much milk your baby is consuming. If you're worried, there are a few signs that your baby is getting enough to eat:
- If your baby appears pleased and calm after most feedings, they are most likely a satisfied client who is receiving adequate milk. Your little one might still be hungry if they are crying and fussing or sucking on their fingers frantically after a full feeding (though these can also be signs of gas or infant colic).
- After three or four days, your baby should be producing at least six and up to twelve clear to very pale yellow diapers and three or four soft, yellow bowel movements over a 24-hour period. It's a good idea to keep a written record of nursing frequency and diaper output for the first few weeks, which you may bring to your pediatrician's office at each appointment.
- From the second week on, infants should gain weight consistently every week; 4 to 7 ounces per week is usual for newborns, but weight gain varies based on age and other factors. If your baby's growth is on pace, your paediatrician will let you know.