The basics of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding mum and baby

If you’re finding breastfeeding challenging or are confused by conflicting advice about how to breastfeed your baby, you’re not alone.

These tips aim to help you understand how breastfeeding works, and how you can navigate the early days and weeks of breastfeeding as smoothly as possible.

When your baby is born, the first milk they receive is called colostrum. Colostrum is small in volume but highly concentrated and perfectly suited to meet a newborn baby’s needs. The onset of your mature milk supply is initiated by your post-birth hormones and usually happens 2-3 days after giving birth. As time goes on, your milk supply is maintained on the principle of supply and demand. This means that your body recognises the amount of milk your baby drinks and replaces the same amount for the next feed.

When you breastfeed your baby, you should offer both sides at every feed, alternating which side you start each feed on. This helps establish your milk supply in both breasts. You should allow your baby to finish feeding from one side before offering the other side. Newborn babies breastfeed anywhere between 8-12 times every 24 hours. Breastfeeding frequently is important in establishing your milk supply.

If you have an abundant supply or oversupply, your baby might be satisfied with feeding from one side per feed.

In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding, while your milk supply is still largely hormonally driven, feeding from only one side per feed might leave you feeling overly full or engorged on the other side.  If this is the case, gently hand express or use the lowest setting on your breast pump to remove a little milk from the side your baby did not feed from. The aim is to get the point where the breast feels comfortable again, but is not fully drained. This helps avoid blocked ducts and mastitis occurring from insufficient removal of milk, at the same time as avoiding stimulating an oversupply of milk.

Once your post birth hormones and milk supply have regulated, your baby might go back to feeding from both sides at each feed.

You will be able to tell that your baby is getting enough milk by watching their sucking patterns while they are feeding, keeping track of the number of wet nappies they have each day, and monitoring their growth and development. If you are unsure if your baby is breastfeeding effectively, or your have concerns about their nappy output, growth or development, talk to a lactation consultant, your maternal and child health nurse, or the team at Willby’s.

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