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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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 email@example.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!
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…
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…
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?
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:
- sticking tongue out
- turning head from side to side
- finding and grasping the nipple
- latching-on to the breast
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
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!
OK girls – we’re off to a great start!
Please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.