By Gabi Falanga
Breastfeeding for the first time is an experience like no other. For some moms it can be a frustrating and painful experience, while others get into the groove more quickly. It involves patience, perseverance and practise and can turn into a beautiful, relaxing and bonding experience that can be shared between mom and child for many months, or even years!
Create a breastfeeding space: During the first months you’ll probably feel like your baby is permanently attached to your breast. If this is your first-time breastfeeding, it will take some time for you and baby to get used to and master this new skill. Create a comfortable space for yourself for the many hours you’ll be breastfeeding. A good nursing chair (some of them rock) with a foot stool is a fantastic investment. Have a side-table where you can keep a bottle of water for yourself, a burp towel, healthy snacks, a night light, a book or magazine and a cell phone charger. Ideally set this up in your or the baby’s room so that you have a quiet space and some privacy if you want to breastfeed when you have guests over. As you become better at breastfeeding, you’ll become more confident about breastfeeding on the couch, a normal chair, or even standing up!
Getting the correct latch: Getting your baby to latch correctly is essential to a successful breastfeeding journey. If you had your baby in a hospital, clinic or birth unit – don’t be shy to repeatedly ask the nurses or midwives to help you when your baby latches. Breastfeeding should not be painful and if it is, it might be because your baby hasn’t latched correctly. There are a number of easy catch phrases you can learn to help you remember how to get a deep latch. These include ‘tummy to mummy’, ‘nipple to nose’, and ‘mouth open wide’. Remember that this is new to your baby too. After some perseverance you’ll both get the hang of it!
Find a comfortable position: It’s not uncommon to hear new moms complaining about stiff necks, shoulders or backs. Breastfeeding may feel unnatural to begin with and you might find yourself hunched forwards over your baby for hours on end. Get a nursing pillow, or use normal pillows and cushions to prop behind your back, under your arms and under baby to get yourselves into a comfortable position. Sit with your back straight flush against the back of the chair and remind yourself to push your shoulders back. There are also various positions you can hold your baby in including the cradle, cross-cradle and football hold. ‘
Start immediately: The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that your baby be placed naked (or in a diaper only) on your bare chest straight after birth, and for breastfeeding to take place within the first hour. According to their research, this increases the likelihood of a successful breastfeeding relationship that continues beyond four months.
Let baby lead: Feeding on demand is recommended for the baby’s first few months to encourage good milk supply and to make sure that the baby’s nutritional and emotional needs are met. Look out for your new born’s hunger cues like stirring, putting their hands in their mouth and rooting (turning their head towards the breast). Nursing very frequently is completely normal and is not a sign that you don’t have enough milk.
Avoid teats, dummies and top-ups: Offering a baby a dummy (pacifier) or bottle in the first few weeks can cause your baby to feed less at the breast resulting in possible weight loss and a drop in your milk supply. Allow your baby free access to your breasts and establish a good breastfeeding routine – six weeks is the recommended time - before introducing other teats. Top ups with formula are generally unnecessary. They fill baby up, making them drink less from the breast which results in a drop in your milk supply.
Looking after your breasts: Your nipples may be more tender than usual for the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Gently rubbing some breastmilk on them and then letting them air helps with healing. Investing in a Lanolin cream to rub on sore or cracked nipples is also worthwhile. Make sure that your bras or clothing aren’t too tight as this can also cause pain, inflammation and blocked milk ducts. Cold cabbage leaves against your breasts are a great remedy for soothing sore breasts.