Breastfeeding Basics For New Moms

From the minute your baby is born, your body starts producing the ideal mix of nutrients for your baby in the form of breast milk. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 month of a baby’s life. All moms want to give their babies the best start by breastfeeding, but many can find it difficult in the beginning. In these cases, all you might need is a little extra guidance.

What can I expect from my breastmilk?
At birth, your first milk is colostrum, a thick, yellowish pre-milk that’s high in  fats and antibodies and easy to digest. As soon as your little one is born, you can start the feeding process. This first hour after birth is referred to as the ‘magic hour’ for the first feed, setting the foundations for successful feeding in the future and kickstarting your milk production.

At 2-5 days after birth, your milk will “come in”, meaning production will be established. This milk is thinner than colostrum but more plentiful, and higher in lactose and fat, which helps in your baby’s development.

How to start breastfeeding

  1. Make sure you’re comfortable and in a position that you could stay in for a while. You can either recline at a 45 degree angle, or sit upright with your feet up – determine what’s more comfortable for you. Ensure you have something to drink within reach as breastfeeding works up quite a thirst.
  2. Once you’ve positioned your baby comfortably and correctly (see positions below), tickle their upper lip with your nipple until they open their mouth wide, then pull their chin in so that they place their bottom lip near or on the base of your areola. Once they smell the colostrum, they’ll naturally latch on.
  3. Your baby is latching well if you feel a pulling or tugging sensation on your breast and they are swallowing, which can be indicated by a slight wiggle in their ears and moving of the jaw. Ensure that your baby’s mouth is around the areola and not just the nipple. Ideally, your baby’s lips will be flared out around areola, not tucked under, which could hurt your nipples.

A good latch early on can prevent nipple pain, and will ensure your baby gets sufficient milk, but don’t worry if the latch or positioning isn’t perfect in the beginning – this doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Focus on perfecting the latching over the next few feeds, and get a lactation specialist to help if necessary.

Breastfeeding positions
There are several breastfeeding positions, and you’ll figure out what works best for you as you go along.

Sit with baby lengthwise across your abdomen with your elbow supporting their head and your hand supporting their bottom. Your other hand supports the breast.

Lay baby on their side, well supported and touching you. If you’re feeding on your left breast, use your right arm to support baby’s body and your right hand to support their head. Your fingers guide the left breast.

To feed on the left breast, lie on your left side with your back supported. Lay baby on their side facing you, their chest against yours. Your right arm will support their body, and your right hand will support their head, bringing them toward your breast.

Hold baby at your side face up and lengthwise, supported by pillows. If nursing on your right side, use your right arm to support baby at your side, and guide their head to your breast.

How much to feed
Your baby’s appetite will change according to their needs, and your milk quantity will adjust accordingly. During the first few weeks, your baby might feed as often as every hour, and once a routine is established, newborns will eat every 2-3 hours during the day, and about every 4 hours at night. Your baby should have between 8-12 feeds a day.

They’ll be hungrier during growth spurts, which happens around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. From 6 months, you might start introducing solids to your baby, in which case they’ll need slightly less breast milk.

When to get help
If your baby isn’t putting on weight, or if your nipples are sore, cracked or bleeding, consult with a lactation specialist. If you suffer from mastitis, thrush or blocked milk ducts, chat to your specialist or doctor.

Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is best for babies. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. PURITY fully supports this with continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary food as advised by healthcare professionals.