Breastfeeding – getting started

Congratulations!

You’re a mother…

…a new life, a new little bundle of potential, a new beginning for you, your partner and your baby!  I’m Ellie, a passionate advocate for the art of breastfeeding and I look forward to meeting you and your little one as we take this amazing journey together.  OK – let’s begin…

Breastfeeding baby

 

Let’s get you started breastfeeding your new baby

You’ve got a new baby!  It’s kind of scary, right?  All of a sudden, this demanding little presence with a set of vocal cords that would win X-Factor, a temper to match and a never-ending appetite is YOUR responsibility.  It’s squirmy, it’s sometimes smelly, it isn’t being automatically fed, washed and changed while you go about your day.  Now you have to do all that.  And function in the real world as well.

Newborn

Minutes old and already looking for a feed

Add to that, a daddy who is probably just a little bit lost, sleepless nights for both of you, and you are tired – so tired.  Hang in there!  Ellie is here and it’s my pleasure to help you through these first few weeks and emerge victorious on the other side.  Well – perhaps it isn’t quite as easy as that.  Motherhood is an endless journey.  It’s sometimes exhausting.  It’s sometimes boring.  It’s sometimes amazing.  It’s always entertaining!  You’ve come here for some straightforward simple, no nonsense advice about breastfeeding.  So girls – let’s get started!


First off – take courage…

…there’s currently about 2 billion of them…

Babies in flowerpots

   If only it was this easy!

One thing you need to remember is that humans are awfully tough.  Just look how many there are! And for thousands of years, they all survived the first few weeks, months and sometimes years of their lives on nothing but human breast milk.

You will be giving your baby the very best start in life, even if it takes you a little while to ‘get the hang’ of breastfeeding. Your little one isn’t going to break if you don’t succeed straight away because it takes persistence, practice and patience.


Get comfy

Since you are going to spending quite a bit of time feeding your baby – especially in the early weeks with your newborn – make sure you are comfortable before you start nursing.  If you are sitting, either in bed or in a chair, make sure your back and arms are supported, because a baby, even a tiny one, gets very heavy after a few minutes.  If you can afford one, a rocking chair is wonderful and later on, when baby is bigger, both of you will find it your most favourite place to be!  A footstool is an excellent way of raising your lap, so your baby is in easy reach of your nipples and it will take some strain off your back.  There are special nursing pillows available, put any ordinary pillow that raises your baby to the level of your nipples is fine.

Worth its weight in gold!

           Worth its weight in gold – seriously!

 

 

 

 

My youngest was at least 6 or 7 before she stopped asking me to “Rock with me, Mum!” If she was sick or grumpy or couldn’t sleep, we’d both rock until she was “feeling better now”!  I suspect that she was pretty wise to the fact that Mum was only too happy to ‘take a load off’ and ‘rock’.  Catnapping while your baby feeds is one of the nicest ways to catch up on your rest – especially when baby is tiny.  But toddlers can be exhausting too and a rocking chair is a blessing any time that you have a sick child.

 

 


Breastfeeding Positions

Cradle your baby in the way that feels most natural and comfortable.   The two most common ‘positions’ are the ‘football’ hold and the ‘cross chest’ hold, but there are many others.  See below:

Breastfeeding position

Make sure you are both comfortable and you have plenty of good support, with no strain on your back. This mother has the baby ‘propped’ on a pillow giving support to her arm so she doesn’t tire too quickly. This is the ‘cross chest’ hold.

Later on, when you’ve got the hang of it, you will likely try out all sorts of different ‘holds’ and ‘positions’ (see here for some different ones), but for now, once you and baby are comfortably settled…

 

Rule Number 1 – You CAN breastfeed

One of the first things you really need to understand is that YOU CAN FEED YOUR BABY!  With very few exceptions, (and I’ll cover these later – see here) every woman is born with the necessary equipment – breasts!  Perfectly adapted and created for the job of providing your baby with everything it needs, nutritionally, for the first 6 months of it’s life.  If you have breasts, you can feed a baby!

Rule Number 2 – Your baby, your breasts, your business!

Disapproving woman

Aunt Ruby just might NOT know what’s best for you and baby!

It’s simple really – don’t let ANYONE – doctor, nurse, paediatrician, mother, mother-in-law, Aunt Ruby,  sisters, friends or assorted relatives and even your husband/partner – tell you that you CAN’T FEED YOUR BABY!!!  Because you can.  The only reason you may not be allowed to breastfeed, medically speaking, is if you are taking certain drugs or having specialist treatment for some conditions.  Again – I will address these anomalies later. (See here)

Rule Number 3 – Need help? ASK!

And by that I mean helpful help!

So let’s assume, just for starters, that you are a normal, healthy woman (yeah I know – you are probably tired and a bit teary and emotional – but that’s normal too!) and you have a normal, healthy baby.  Hopefully you had a reasonably normal birth and came home from hospital in pretty good shape. Chances are that you are breastfeeding your baby.  The trick now is to continue, because the benefits are huge.

So if you and bub don’t seem to have quite got the hang of things…firstly, see Rule Number One!  Don’t stress.  Don’t panic.  Don’t give up!  I’m happy to answer any questions you may have – email me if need be at wa.ellie63@gmail.com  Call your infant health nurse, call your doctor for the name of a local midwife, call the hospital or birthing centre where your baby was born, speak to another nursing mother.    The La Leche League has chapters in many countries around the world and they may have a nurse or nursing mother close by who can advise you. Don’t just try to battle along on your own.  That’s a sure recipe for disaster!

Auntie doing the ironing

All help gratefully accepted, but hold the advice, Auntie!

AND…if Aunt Ruby calls in with her Famous Beef Casserole and starts to offer breastfeeding advice that begins with “That child is starving!” and ends with “Where’s the bottle?”, then thank her for the casserole, tell her you are under expert medical care and show her the pile of ironing that needs to be done.  Chances are she will find something else that she needs to be doing very quickly!   Of course, if Aunt Ruby stays and does the ironing, puts the casserole on to heat and tucks you into bed with a nice cup of tea – then count your lucky stars and explain to her all the wonderful advantages of breastfeeding.  She’ll go home wishing she’d known all that when cousins Steve and Jane were babies!!!


 The very basic basics…

Baby sucking

     Psst! Mum – you got any chocolate flavoured?

So let’s step back just a little and begin at the very beginning.  Nature provided us with the perfect equipment for the job…my husband used to call them ‘quaint little containers! – not that mine were particularly small :-)

When YOU were still ‘in utero’, your breasts were already preparing for their specific role…isn’t that totally mind-blowing?  Before we women even leave the womb, our bodies have everything ready to create another generation!  During our pubescent years, the ‘immature’  breast tissue begins to change and grow until we have fully-functional breasts. Then further changes occur during pregnancy until, just prior to the birth of your baby, everything is in place and ready to flow.  All it requires is the sucking action of your baby…

Breast tissue changes

  Changes to breast tissue during lactation

OK – that’s a really, really simplistic explanation for a process that is quite incredibly complicated, involving hundreds of tiny changes within the breast tissue and complex chemical and hormonal balances that even scientists don’t really understand.  But this isn’t meant to be a scientific treatise – if you’d like more information on how our breasts grow and change, I have added some links on the Review page, but for now, that is probably all you need to know!

So now we’ve covered all the scientific bits, let’s move on to the next three most important things…

  • Holding your baby while breastfeeding
  • How does baby latch on to the breast? and
  • Correct attachment to the breast

How does a baby attach (latch on) to the breast?

Newborn on mother's chest

Baby is placed on your chest straight after birth and feeding usually happens very naturally

More than likely, soon after your baby was born, he or she was placed on your chest and nature took over.  When the nipple is near the baby’s mouth, it starts to suck.  It’s a reflex action which the baby was practising even before it was born.  Occasionally, there’s a sleepy one who needs some encouragement and sometimes there’s a very tiny one who needs some help getting attached. Your baby is born hard-wired to breastfeed.  However, it is a skill that needs to be nurtured and perfected in both you and your baby.  Most babies – even right after birth – exhibit ‘nursing’ instincts.  These instinctive actions include:

Breastfeeding newborn

Minutes old and breastfeeding is off to a good start!

  • sticking tongue out
  • turning head from side to side
  • wriggling
  • finding and grasping the nipple
  • latching-on to the breast
  • suckling

Left to it’s own devices in a process that is called ‘baby led attachment’, a calm baby can apparently find and attach itself to the breast.  Quite frankly, my experience with hungry babies is that they want that breast right now thankyou, and no stuffing around making me look for it!!!  Few very hungry little ones are ‘calm enough’ to search around and find mummy’s booby.  So give them a little help please…this is how it’s done…

…a little technique that is VERY important!

So PLEASE take note and read carefully…

See the dark part around your nipple?  It’s proper name is ‘areola’ – it just means ‘a small circular area’ – in particular, surrounding a nipple.  Your baby needs to take most of that dark area into his mouth.

The reason for this is that just

Areola

Areola is the dark area around the nipple

being attached to the nipple will create most of your breastfeeding problems.  I’m going to stress that, because even though I deliberately try to be as unscientific and natural as possible, this is going to the single most important thing you can learn.  The secret to successful breastfeeding is to get your baby properly attached to the breast.

Incorrect attachment causes most breastfeeding problems

So – if it seems like your little one is just ‘chomping on your nipple’…stop.  Gently remove your nipple from the baby’s mouth by slipping your finger between the nipple and the baby’s lips and breaking the suction.  Don’t just yank the nipple away – it will hurt and could cause some nasty painful cracks!

I found it easiest to squish my nipple including the areola, kind of ‘flatish’, then guide the baby’s mouth around the squished area and let him suck again.  You will very quickly learn the difference between correctly attached and incorrectly attached!  For one thing – if your baby is properly attached, there will be no pain.  The nipple itself can be quite tender and if you have been feeding incorrectly, you could have cracked nipples – sometimes even cracked and bleeding nipples.  They can be creased and red and sore – your baby has been ‘chomping’ not sucking or just sucking on the end of the nipple!  And most importantly – if your baby is correctly attached, he will feed much better.  Your milk will flow properly, your breast will empty properly and your baby will be satisfied much more quickly.

However, if you have tried and you still think your baby is not correctly attached, then please – get some help – sooner than later!

 

Breastfeeding technique

                                       Excellent breastfeeding ‘technique’


 OK girls – we’re off to a great start!

Please feel free to drop me a line at wa.ellie63@gmail.com  I’m really interested to hear your stories, answer your questions or find out what you’d like me to review, comment on or add to this site.  There is a lot to the ‘Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ and yet – it is so beautifully, wonderfully simple!  Here’s to your success breastfeeding your precious little one, for as long as you possibly can – be it 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years!  I’m here to support you for every one of those days, however long or short they may be.

Warmly

Ellie

 

 

 

 

 

25 Comments

  1. What an informational article! You are very sweet, jovial and conversational as you present such important information! There are going to be many new moms that benefit from this particular page on the art of breastfeeding, as well as your whole website! You have a great niche with lots of potential. Great article and beautiful website – keep up the good work!

    • Hello Rachel Louise – thank you so much for your kind comments. I’m passionate about teaching mothers to breastfeed, so I certainly hope that I can reach many of them over the next few years!

      Warmly

      Ellie

  2. Ellie, I just stopped by your website and found this page extremely informative, detailed and well written. As far as babies I’m 62 so that horse has left the barn, however, I have 7 kids and 20 grandchildren that do, or will be needing this information. Keep up the good service

    • Hi Robert

      Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you have plenty of experience anyway! We are just starting with the grandkids – got 3 and hoping for more! I have much more work to do on this site, but I’m really glad that you and so many others are finding it useful! Viva la Breastfeeding!

  3. Hey Ellie,
    What a wonderful straightforward site! I like Rule 3 the best – “Ask for help”. It is sad that in this information age that so many mums miss out on breastfeeding due to pure mis-information.Being a new mum is so scary & everyone has an opinion. Mums need to make an “informed” decision on what is best for them. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi there Myra – thank you so much for your kind comment. I sometimes think it’s the hardest thing of all – to ask for help when we need it! My daughter who has just had a baby boy was so determined to do everything herself, because, she said otherwise it looked like she couldn’t cope. Well some mothers just can’t cope and there is always someone around to ask for advice. And then – as you say – make an informed opinion based on good advice. Thank you for your input.
      Cheers
      Ellie

  4. Awesome and very informative site! The health benefits of breastfeeding feeding are amazing. Science still can’t beat out nature after all these years! I truly didn’t think that there ways so much to know about breastfeeding! Where did you get the idea for this site? Did you work in a neonatal related profession?

    • Hi Brandon – I’m a mum of 5, a grandma of 3 and I’ve helped dozens of women over the years to successfully breastfeed their babies. I’m not a professional – just a staunch advocate for breastfeeding. I have also done hours of research and study to ensure that the advice I give is up-to-date and correct.

      Thanks for your kind comment – I really appreciate it!

      Ellie

  5. Ellie,
    My mother and I wanted to congratulate you on your website.I usually have to help my mother navigate through the Internet since she is not very computer friendly.We were researching the subject and she was amazed by the quality of information you provide.

    • Hi Juan
      Thank you so much for your kind comments! I’m glad your mum found it interesting and helpful. Please come back sometime as I’m constantly updating my information. I appreciate your feedback and give my regards to your mum!
      Ellie

  6. Hey
    Great site. I know I’m a father so not the normal visitor but came across the site and must congratulate you. Well done. We’ve got 4 kids – all were breastfed – some relatively easy and some were a test and trial – my wife certainly had to persevere.

    During our years of traveling around the world (we were working in Africa for 6 years) – I used to often have to take our baby up to the hospital for feeds between my wife’s operating (she is a general / breast surgeon) – required some perseverance, organisation and commitment for both of us – at times some very loud and unfortunate patience for the baby when it didn’t quite go to plan – but the 4 of them are wonderful children 3,5,7 & 9 years old now.

    Good on you and all the best.

    Richard (a stay at home dad of 4 young ones :))

    • Hi Richard – thank you so much for sharing that! It’s the kind of thing that gives me such encouragement and will do so for my readers. Would you be happy if I shared that in my blog? I’m always on the lookout for interesting ‘anecdotes’. You and your wife were certainly dedicated to making breastfeeding work for your little ones. Are you still the stay at home dad? I see your website is flying with kids…you travel a lot? It’s one thing I learnt very early that travelling with a baby in tow, is so EASY when you are breastfeeding! No bottles to worry about…just pull over, hubby has a sleep while baby has it’s feed, then on you go again!
      Thank you again
      Ellie

  7. Hi Ellie,

    Like you said above, I find it very sad when I hear of mothers who never got the chance to breastfeed because they thought they couldn’t or were “encouraged” to have formula because they think there milk isn’t coming in when in fact, it’s probably more of a latch issue or a tongue/lip tie issue.

    At 15 months my daughter and I are still on our breastfeeding journey – and she shows no signs of stopping any time soon! I love the connection it brings us. Ok, I admit there are somedays when she tugs at my shirt that I think, “enough already!” but she and I have a wonderful connection and she gets all those wonderful antibodies from my breast milk that are just for her!

    I am all for people to make their own choices but I do think there is a lot of misinformation out there – and it’s in the formula companies interest to advertise their products well. This means many women do not realise the benefits and importance of breastfeeding! For me, I wouldn’t go any other way, unless there really was no option!

    • Hi Sarah
      I’m with you all the way! I too, loved the connection that breastfeeding my babies gave! And for me, being a very busy young mother with two toddlers and a baby – it was the perfect time to ‘take a load off’ and relax for a few minutes. Then when my youngest was born, we had 3 teenagers, a 6-year old and the new baby. She had so many ‘mothers’ that I loved the special ‘me and baby’ time that breastfeeding gave us. You can never, ever – no matter how much you try – get that same connection with bottle feeding! And it is just so easy – too easy – to hand the bottle and baby to someone else to feed! Some people have cited that as being a reason FOR bottle feeding – I consider it a drawback!!!
      Thanks for coming by and I look forward to hearing from you regarding a guest post here. I’m sure you have some interesting stories to share!
      Warmly
      Ellie

  8. Great work, Ellie.
    Such an important subject!
    Here in Norway, where I come from it is very comment to breastfeed, and the hospitals do a loot to help new mothers breastfeed. But I hear that in England f.i. most mothers skip the breastfeeding.
    And when we know what benefits breastfeeding gives us, it should def. be a bigger Focus. So, thanks for bringing this webpage out to the people.

    Go go go !
    Best regards Linda :-)

    • Hi Linda – thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment! I’m so interested in stories from other countries regarding breastfeeding. Here in Australia, I believe that it is the ‘norm’, though there is also a ‘yummy mummy’ culture that considers breastfeeding to be degrading for some reason! Hospitals are generally supportive – to a point! It depends entirely on the staff whether a mother gets the help she needs. If she is having difficulties, then a bottle is very handy and would be offered. It is a pity, when all most mothers would need is some support, encouragement and knowledge.
      Please keep in touch!
      Warmly
      Ellie

  9. Thanks Ellie for a very good page on breastfeeding. I think this causes more problems for new moms than almost anything else. I will be sharing this with a young cousin who is just about halfway through her first pregnancy.

    • Hi Debby – thank you for your comment. I found breastfeeding so enjoyable that it always makes me sad when I hear that a young mother has chosen not to breastfeed! The benefits are so huge! Thank you for sharing my site – let your cousin know that she is most welcome to email me if she has any questions and also let her know that the website is quite new – a work in progress!
      Warm regards
      Ellie

    • Hi Debby – not sure if I have replied to your comment or thanked you for coming by. Sorry it’s a bit belated! Thanks for sharing – I do hope to have more content and interesting reviews/products etc in a short while.

  10. Hi Ellie,
    Awesome page! Wish I had read this before my daughter was born 6 years ago. And yes, there were some embarrassing moments with people (who will remain unnamed to protect them) grabbing me. It might have turned a little ugly if I hadn’t been on pain killers at the time!

    I like how matter of fact you are and address the topic openly and without embarrassment. It is also refreshingly non-clinical. Well done!

    If a Mom has to break suction and detach the baby, in your opinion, what is the best method to do that?

    • Hi Tammy

      Thanks for coming by! I’m still in the process of organising everything – which you probably could see! I tend to write and write when I get going and some things are in the wrong places…etc! So thank you for your kind words.

      Regarding ‘detachment’ – the most important thing is not to just ‘yank’ the baby away! Slip a finger gently between the baby’s lips and your nipple to break the suction first. Babies who are well attached have a pretty good grip on the situation! After the suction is broken, it is usually easy enough to encourage the baby to let go for a second, long enough to remove the nipple from the baby’s mouth. Just pulling away will hurt you and could lead to a crack forming in the nipple. Which is horribly painful! Alternatively, you could wait a few seconds until the baby takes a little ‘natural’ break from sucking, which happens quite regularly. But again – gently does it!

      If your baby is incorrectly attached, it is very important not to continue feeding this way, so the sooner you can ‘encourage’ him to let go and re-attach, the better for both of you.

  11. Hey, sent this site to a friend of mine and she loved it. The being is about to be born and they were still not sure how to handle the breastfeeding topic. I think your post about it moved them in the right direction, back to nature!!
    I am happy you wrote this post and could help them!!
    Keep up with this amazing work, also really loved the way you presented the information!
    David

    • Hello David – you have no idea how your comment makes me feel! I’m overwhelmed actually – to think that my little website has helped someone! It encourages me so much to think that I can help someone to do the very best for their little one and breastfeed! Give your friend a message of support from me and tell her to feel free to pop by and ask me anything she wants to know.

      Warm regards

      Ellie

  12. So useful all this information Ellie. I have alot of friends I can pass this information onto and I can use it all myself. A sympathetic site to offer some real advice. Great stuff!

  13. Ellie…where were you 30 years ago when my wife was breast feeding our first baby? As a retired physician I want to complement you on one of the most practical, thorough, humorous, and insightful treatises on breast feeding I have ever read.

    Well done Ellie.

    Regards,
    Jeff

    PS: I bookmarked you.

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