Breastfeeding — How to get started

The thought of breastfeeding your new arrival can feel daunting. How do you start breastfeeding? how often should you feed your newborn? and what if your baby struggles to ‘latch on’? We talk all things breastfeeding with lactation specialist Lynne McKensey-Hall..

1. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR BABY TO LATCH ON?

The ideal way to start breastfeeding is with skin to skin attachment of the baby on the mother’s chest immediately after birth (if possible). However with subsequent feeds when skin to skin is no longer appropriate or wanted (for example when feeding in a cafe) follow these steps:

  • lean back comfortably with the baby’s head tucked comfortably in your elbow
  • have baby’s tummy lying diagonally across your body with her bottom close & tucked around your body.
  • turn her face into the breast with the mouth directly in front of the nipple & gently roll the baby onto your nipple
  • with your free hand, you may need to draw your breast up a little to hold the nipple still for her to attach as you roll her in

2. SO, BREASTFEEDING HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED AND IS GOING PRETTY WELL BUT THEN IT STARTS TO BECOME CHALLENGING OR THE BABY SEEMS TO HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO LATCH ON. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A MUM HERE?

The easiest way to help a baby reattach or ‘stress less at the breast’ if things are not going well is to lean back and gently place her back in between your bare breasts & let her reattach by herself again. This tends to work even weeks after breastfeeding has been established.

Also, try it again in a calm environment and make sure you are feeling comfortable and are not too hot or flustered.

3. LASTLY, ARE THERE ANY MYTHS OR BAD ADVICE YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT BREASTFEEDING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISPROVE?

Yes, a few! The first is that it’s painful. The most common misguided piece of advice I hear is “breastfeeding is meant to hurt”. It is not meant to hurt! If a mother feels pain when breastfeeding it generally means the positioning and attachment are not correct and so these would need to be looked at.

Watching a feed & telling a mother the attachment looks fine is not enough — it’s critical to ask how comfortable she feels while the baby is sucking. There are so many strategies & solutions to resolve the issues related to painful breastfeeding.

The second is that feeds should be timed. New mums are often told to time feeds and this is simply wrong! Why? Because new babies fall asleep very quickly from the transfer of oxytocin through the breast milk (the hormone that is designed to help sleep). Timing a feed might mean the baby is on the breast for an hour but may have only ‘swallowed’ for 10 mins of that time which in fact means the baby has not fed ‘effectively! Mothers are still being told that babies should have three or four hours between feeds. This is ridiculous because adults often eat & drink at least seventeen to twenty times a day. Breast milk is very high in lactose which is essential for baby brain development. Babies generally need to feed at least eight to nine times in a twenty- four hour period. The good news is that as babies grow, the breastfeeds may still be quite frequent but, the feeds are generally very much quicker than feeds in the early weeks after birth as the baby has become more effective at feeding.

Lastly, the misguided belief that babies can be trained to eat and sleep to a routine is just not accurate. It undermines a baby’s need to physiologically adapt to her external environment as she grows and develops physically, emotionally and neurologically. Just as importantly, it also undermines a mothers’ ability to read her baby’s cues. This overrides the opportunity for mothers and babies to ‘sync’ into a cue-based pattern that supports a more positive relationship for them both.

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Lynne McKensey-Hall is a private lactation consultant and endorsed Midwife specialising in antenatal & breastfeeding support and birth classes. She is based in Sydney, Australia and runs Better Beginnings

Lynne is internationally certified as a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and offers a holistic approach to breastfeeding and caring for your baby. Her role is to support your transition into parenthood by providing the tools, knowledge and confidence you need to breastfeed and care for your baby.