Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby and gives your little one all the nutrition they need. Here's how to get started
Trying to take in all the advice that's thrown at you in the first few days of your baby's life can be overwhelming. Remember, you have to do what's right for you and your baby.
The benefits of breastfeeding
Giving your baby nothing but breast milk is recommended for around the first six months of their life. It helps protect them from infections and means there is less chance of them getting eczema and becoming obese in later life. It's good for you, too. It helps your body return to its pre-pregnancy state naturally (you'll use up to 500 calories a day), and lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer. It's also a great way for you and your baby to bond. And, of course, it's free and on tap, so you don't have the faff of sterilising bottles and preparing feeds.
Don't let it get you down if breastfeeding doesn't work for you initially. It happens more quickly for some of us than others, and is a skill you need to learn and practise.
Your midwife will normally pass your baby to you very soon after the birth, so you can try breastfeeding. If it doesn't work the first time, have a rest and try again later. Follow these tips to help you get started.
Find the right position for breastfeeding
There are lots of positions you can try, so go with what feels comfortable.
• Relax your shoulders and arms
• Hold your baby close to you, facing your breast; they will come to your breast chin first and tilt their head back naturally – it helps them swallow.
• Check your baby's head and body are in a straight line; it helps them swallow more easily.
• Support your baby's neck, shoulders and back.
• Babies have a great sense of smell, so your little one will be aware of your milk. They will want to feed, so will often move towards your nipple.
Five tips for latching on
1. Check your baby's nose is level with your nipple – it encourages them to open their mouth.
2. Wait until they open their mouth really wide with their tongue down, so they can get a big mouthful of breast from beneath your nipple.
3. Stroke their top lip to prompt them to latch on.
4. Bring your baby nearer to your breast.
5. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.
Is your baby getting enough milk?
Many new mums worry about this, but nearly all women can produce the amount of milk their baby needs. Your baby is getting enough milk if they are:
• Content and satisfied after most feeds
• Healthy and gaining weight after the first two weeks
• Having at least six wet nappies a day and doing at least two yellowy poos after the first few days.
Find more help here
Your health visitor or local Children's Centre can help with more breastfeeding advice. Alternatively, try: NHS Choices (nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby); National Childbirth Trust (0300 330 0771; nct.org.uk); National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212; breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk); La Leche League GB Helpline (0845 120 2918; laleche.org.uk).
By Julia Shaw