In many societies, both historically here in New Zealand and presently around the world, children grow up surrounded by the sight of breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but it needs to be learnt and if we do not see successful breastfeeding prior to giving birth, then pregnant women and their support people need to learn the principles in order to prevent problems and to make it a success.
Here are the early cues that your baby is interested in feeding â€“
- Baby makes sucking movements with his mouth
- Baby wiggles his body
- If you touch babyâ€™s face he will turn towards it and open his mouth â€“the rooting reflex
- Baby will put his hand to his mouth, he may also suck his hand
By the time the baby is crying he will be distressed and it will be difficult to calm him so he can feed.
Itâ€™s vital to get comfortable in order to breast feed, as the feed may last anything from a few minutes to an hour and will happen many times each day. Most women feed sitting up, but lying on your side can also be comfortable and promotes rest while the mum is feeding.
Ensure you have been to the toilet recently and that you have a drink of water at hand.
If you have other children include them, invite them onto the sofa with a story and do not attempt to potty train them while you are establishing breast feeding with a newborn baby !! They need to learn that you cannot interrupt your feed, right from the start!
Positioning baby skin to skin will facilitate his instinctive behaviour. So will the smell of the breastmilk, so a bit of expressed milk on the nipple will help to achieve an instinctive latch.
A good position has all of the following features â€“
- The whole of the babyâ€™s body is facing the mother, chest to chest
- The head and neck are in alignment â€“ the neck is not twisted. If baby is uncomfortable the feed will end prematurely.
- The head and shoulders are supported, but by supporting baby gently at the back of the shoulders, not the back of the head.
- The baby has one arm on either side of the breast â€“ his body is symmetrical and in the midline
All positions can achieve these principles â€“ practise with a doll
- Sitting, cradling baby
- Side lying with baby supported by the bed
- A rugby hold under the same arm as the breast you are feeding from
- Babyâ€™s chin is tucked firmly into the breast, the nose is free to allow breathing
- More areola (the brown area around the nipple) is visible above the nipple than below it
- The babyâ€™s mouth is wide open, with the lips flanged/curled outwards
- (Try sucking on the tip of your thumb and compare this with pushing your thumb to the back of your mouth then sucking it. Compare how different it feels.)
- The baby will show deep jaw movements
- After initial quick sucking the sucking will become rhythmic
- Although the suck is deep and it may initially amaze the mother, it should not actually hurt.
- The nipple should immediately go back to its pre-feeding shape after the feed.
- Wet and dirty nappies
- Satisfied and content after most feeds
- Lips are moist showing baby is not dehydrated
- Sucking pattern is normal
- Initially suck â€“ suck â€“ suck, followed by suck â€“ swallow- breath- suck â€“ swallow – breath
When the baby has had enough s/he will stop feeding spontaneously, either looking alert and content or sleepy and full. If baby is searching offer the breast again.
(Some breast fed babies need winding, but many do not.)
Well done! A successful feed!
For information on the advantages and disadvantages of breast feeding and bottle feeding see our Kiwi Families article Breast vs Bottle.
Expressing Your Milk gives invaluable advice about collecting and storing your breast milk for your baby.
Advice from the Ministry of Health NZ on breastfeedingÂ http://www.health.govt.nz/yourhealth-topics/maternity/breastfeeding