Breast milk is the ideal food for your baby. It provides all the food your baby needs for the first months, food that:
- is nutritional and emotional
- is free from allergy producing substances
- provides protection from many diseases
- is the right temperature
- is easily digestible
- is freely available
- is germ free
- keeps changing to meet your baby's changing needs
For your newborn baby there is colostrum which is a creamy colour and lasts for several days. Your milk will then start to come in. Breastfeeding whenever your baby wants a feed (demand feeding) is the best way to establish and maintain your supply of milk. The more often you breastfeed the more milk you make.
At the start breastfeeding may come easily to you both, or it may take some time.
Every baby is different and they will change as they grow. Having contact with other women who are breastfeeding is important - through Parents Centre, La Leche League, or New Mothers Support Groups.
Living with breastfeeding
milk supply and let down can be affected by how you feel - get plenty of sleep and eat well. Have plenty of healthy snacks between meals
talk and share your feelings with someone else
your partner may need to talk with other men about his feelings
contraception - talk to doctor or Natural Family Planning clinic
breasts leaking - use breast pads inside your bra and frequently change
expressing milk - using a breast pump or vacuum method or by hand. Many Parents Centres hire out breast pumps
The questions below are adapted from the leaflet: Answers to Breastfeeding Questions: Ministry of Health, November 1996, Code 4891.
What if my baby is premature?
Premature babies who are too small to suck can be fed your colostrum (first milk) and then your breast milk through a tube.
What if my baby has special needs?
Encouragement and help to latch on is often required, and breastfeeding may take more time.
Can I feed twins?
Yes, your milk supply increases to meet the demand of feeding twins.
Can I still breastfeed if I'm sick?
There are very few illness which make it impossible to continue breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects from any medication you are taking and discuss when is the best time for you to take it.
Can I breastfeed after a caesarean?
What if my baby has a cleft lip and/or palate?
Some babies can be breastfed, others need to be given breast milk with a specially shaped spoon or teat.
What should I eat while I'm breastfeeding?
Go to the link here for Ministry of Health guidelines of nutrition for breastfeeding mothers (click on the downloadable booklet).
In the Parents Centre childbirth education classes and coffee groups you will be able to discuss breastfeeding with other parents and your Childbirth Educator.
For assistance contact someone below:
- Parents Centre (in phone book)
- Lactation Consultant (ask your health professional)
- La Leche League
- Family Doctor
- New Mother Support Groups
- Plunket Nurse (in phone book)
"Breastfeeding: Giving your Baby the best you've got" Booklet, Public Heath Commission 1995
Proper positioning of your baby at your breast is crucial to avoid — and ease — nipple tenderness:
You should be comfortable, with pillows/cushions for support as needed, particularly for your arms. It may help to have a footstool to raise your leg on the side you are feeding from.
Support your breast with your thumb above and hand underneath (avoid a scissor/cigarette hold)
Touch your baby's lower lip with your nipple. When he opens wide, pull him in close with the arm that is supporting him.
Bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby.
Your baby's chin should touch your breast first.
Make a conscious effort to drop your shoulders. This will relax you and assist with the let down or milk-ejection reflex.
Check that your baby's lower lip is not ticked in.
Your baby should latch on with as much of the areola (dark area around the nipple) in his mouth as possible. You can help your baby by ensuring that your breasts are not overly full at the start of a feed. Breast engorgement is a common cause of improper latch-on, so it is important to put your baby to your breast frequently. It may be useful to alleviate engorgement by expressing a little milk before latching baby on — try a gentle massage in the shower or applying warm moist compresses.
If you have a sleepy baby, you may need to wake him to nurse every two hours (with perhaps a longer stretch of four hours at night). This not only overcomes engorgement, but gives your baby vital practise at breastfeeding. As your baby becomes more competent at feeding, your confidence increases — along with your milk supply.
Nipple confusion can be caused by the use of artificial nipples (bottles, dummies or nipple shields), because they require a different sucking technique. This can contribute to nipple soreness, or even cause your baby to refuse your breast entirely, leading to breast engorgement. Let your Lead Maternity Carer, hospital staff and family know that you do not want your baby to use artificial nipples. If you need to offer your baby expressed breast milk, perhaps offer it via a feeding cup or teaspoon.
Continued breastfeeding is important while your sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are healing. Correct latch-on, with your nipple deep in your baby's mouth, will prevent further damage. Continued nursing minimises engorgement, maintains milk supply and ensures your baby is getting enough milk.
Some mothers have tried the following comfort measures while the cause of their sore nipples is being corrected:
Try different nursing positions: cradle hold, football hold, lying down — change the pressure points of your baby's mouth on your breast.
Start nursing before your baby is ravenous — even while he is not fully awake. He may be more patient as you carefully position him, and more able to be shifted into a good latch-on.
Begin to nurse on the least sore side until let-down occurs, then gently switch your baby to your other breast. Use your little finger to break his suction.
Express a little milk or colostrum onto your nipples after nursing, and gently pat them dry. You may like to try using Nipplemed Relief Cream, Naturo Pharm. This product is safe for your baby. Avaliable in many pharmacies and health stores. Generally, sore or cracked nipples are no longer painful once you achieve good positioning and latch-on. You can still feed your baby if there is blood in your milk (milk is made from blood). Contact La Leche League or your health professional if your nipple pain persists after trying these suggestions for a day or two. And congratulate yourself on your persistence thus far!
This article courtesy of Kiwiparent magazine.
For further information on breastfeeding please refer to the tip and information sheets from Philips AVENT - Breastfeeding guide
Are you returning to work and would you like to continue breastfeeding? You will find sound advice here AVENT Tip sheet