Getting Breastfeeding off to a Good Start

Breastfeeding has huge benefits for both mum and baby, but it does take time and practice to get established. The following points will help you to get breastfeeding off to a good start, but it is very important to get hands on help in the early days and weeks. Although the midwives will provide breastfeeding support, be sure to ask for the lactation consultant in your maternity hospital during your stay, as she will give you the time you need before you are discharged home.

  • Skin to skin contact. The more skin to skin contact in the early days and weeks the better, the first 18 hours being crucial. So spend time with your baby lying on your chest skin to skin. Your chest is 2 degrees warmer than the rest of your body at this stage so an ideal place to warm your baby. Your baby has a heightened sense of smell and will make her way to the breast by her sense of smell!!

You will initially produce colostrum, which is your highly nutritious first milk even though the amount seems little!  Your milk will ‘come in’ around day 3, meaning that the breast milk will be more like the colour of milk and you will feel fuller.

  • Watch for your baby’s Feeding Cues; such as eyes fluttering before she awakes, smacking her lips and mouth movements, hands to the mouth, turning head towards the breast (rooting)
  • Comfortable position for you and baby. Hold your baby close, supporting head shoulders and baby’s feet. You can choose whatever position you like most: cradle hold, rugby hold, upright or laid back position. Just ensure that your baby can tilt her head back easily to allow her to lift her chin and latch on to the breast. And also have her positioned in such a way that she does not have to twist her head to reach the breast. A chest to chest position usually enables this.
  • Attaching your baby to the breast Position your baby nose to nipple to allow your baby to tilt her head to reach the breast. (Remember if you want to take a drink yourself you would tilt your head back!) When your baby tilts back her top lip will brush off your nipple stimulating her to open her mouth wide. When she opens wide, bring her closer to the breast allowing her to take your nipple and surrounding areola deep into her mouth, leading with her chin. To help her, guide your nipple towards the roof of her mouth. (You need a deep latch to avoid your nipple being pinched by the ridge along your baby’s hard pallet. The tip of the nipple needs to extend beyond this point!)
  • Checking the latch Check your baby is latched on well and ask the following questions.
    • Mouth open wide
    • A large portion of areola in her mouth especially near her chin with a little visible above her upper lip?
    • Lower lip flanged out
    • Nose clear of breast
    • Head tilted back
    • No continuous pain after initial pinch
    • Sucking quickly at first but now slowing to longer sucks and pauses allowing her to swallow ( you may hear her swallowing when her chin drops)
    • Jaw is moving up near the ears while sucking
    • Cheeks are rounded
    • No clicking or smacking sounds
    • If your baby does not appear to be latched on correctly, take her off the breast by placing a clean finger into the side of her mouth to break the ‘suction’ and start over.
  • Your baby will come off the breast herself when she has had enough. Although we do not time feeds as such, 20 to 40 minutes is a rough guide as to how long your newborn baby should be feeding. You can offer the second breast if you feel she is not satisfied. She may only take a little but you can start with that breast on the next feed.
  • Feed on demand. Your baby will need 8 to 12 feeds in the 24 hours. Sometimes newborn babies ‘cluster feed’ at some stage during the day where they will feed several times over a few hours. Feed on demand and let your baby take the lead.
  • Relax while feeding. It is important to make yourself comfortable while feeding, as this helps your ‘let down reflex’, allowing your milk to flow. Breastfeeding triggers excessive thirst while feeding. Try keeping your shoulders down and relaxed (your partner could also give you a shoulder massage!!), having a glass of water and a good book or the TV remote to hand!!
  • It takes 3 to 4 weeks to get established at breastfeeding. It’s important to prioritise breastfeeding in the first few weeks, to give yourself and your baby time to learn this new skill. Once established, breastfeeding will become so easy and convenient.
  • Note your baby’s wet and dirty nappies.
    • Day 1 to 2 Wet: 1-2                   Dirty: 1 or more Black tarry meconium
    • Day 3 to 4 Wet: 3 or more       Dirty: 2 or more greenish stool
    • Day 5 Wet: 5-6 or more    Dirty: 2 or more yellow seedy
    • Day 7+ Wet: 6 or more       Dirty: 2 or more yellow seedy
  • Positive breastfeeding support is vital. One to one support from lactation consultants and your PHN should be available to you in the early days. Check out details before you leave the maternity hospital. Join a breastfeeding support group near you and/or join a breastfeeding Facebook support group, where you will get the much needed mother to mother support and some expert advice also. hosts a breastfeeding support morning in order for parents to meet other parents that breastfeed. Breastfeeding Counsellors are also in attendance. Limerick’s support morning runs 1st Friday of every month 10 am – 12 pm in Limerick University Maternity Hospital (Prefab at the back of the hospital). All are welcome to attend. For more information contact MaryAnne 087 774 9223.

For other support groups in Limerick click Here

Provided by Marie Boyle Community Wraparound Coordinator, ABC Start Right. Marie, mum of four, is a midwife, practicing Public Health Nurse and reflexologist, with a passion for supporting parents on their journey into parenthood. She provides one day antenatal classes and also specialises in pregnancy and baby reflexology. For her Blog click here for Facebook click here.