For many new mums, breastfeeding is a hotly discussed topic, bursting with opinions and false information. So, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions and facts.
Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most natural things in the world, but when it comes to knowing how to breastfeed, mums are often expected to just get on with it. While for some breastfeeding does come naturally, for many the first few days can be a struggle to say the least. We round up some of the most commonly asked questions about breastfeeding and breast milk, and delve into the leading advice from midwives.
Breastfeeding Common Questions: Everything you Need to Know
Is there a reason one breast may produce more milk than the other?
Mums often find that one breast can produce more milk than the other and if you’re expressing, this becomes more apparent. There are several reasons why this might happen. For example, in the early weeks after birth when your breasts’ cells are primed for feeding, this is when storage capacity is determined, and is dependent on feeding patterns at the time. As long as your little one is content, steadily growing and you’re meeting their needs, there is nothing to worry about.
How do I know my baby has the right latch?
The early days are vital to get breastfeeding established and milk production initiated. First of all, find a position that you are comfortable sitting in. The principles of nursing for any baby is a good latch – chin to breast, nipple to nose, nipple falls deep into the mouth, the lower lip curls out under the nipple and the upper lip thins and curls up a little. The suck will feel a little tender for the first few days on the nipple, listen and watch for a burst of sucks and the swallowing of milk. Also look at what is going on in your baby’s nappies, as this indicates the volume of milk going through their system, too.
How long should I wait after baby is born to start expressing?
I would advise you take some time to get breastfeeding established before expressing. The early weeks with baby help you to initiate feeding, build your supply and get lots of practice. However, if you’re experiencing difficulties, your midwife may suggest you begin expressing to help initiate your supply.
What’s the best way to deal with biting during breastfeeding?
This is a tough one, as your baby is exploring how to move her tongue. Make sure the latch is deep – when she is sucking her tongue should come over her lower gum. It is usual to have a nip as they slip off the breast or get frustrated as the milk flow slows. Watch your baby and see when she does nip; anticipate this and take her off before she bites. Try to minimise your reaction as baby may interpret the shock as being pushed away, and the bite will stop your milk flow because the reflex will react to the pain.
Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, adds: “Biting usually occurs with older babies and may indicate that another problem is present. This could be general teething discomfort, an ear infection or that your baby isn’t comfortable.
“If you find that your baby is biting during breastfeeding, it’s important going forward that you ensure you and your baby are comfortable and your baby is positioned at the right angle for breastfeeding, so your baby is latching on correctly, as being in a difficult position could be a contributing factor.
“If you think your baby may be teething you can offer them a cooled teether or use an ice cube wrapped in a muslin cloth to ease their discomfort.”
What are the benefits of breast milk?
“Breastmilk has many benefits for both mums and babies,” explains Lesley from My Expert Midwife.
“firstly it can help to provide your baby with all the key nutrients it needs until your baby is big enough to eat solid foods, whilst also helping to build their immune system. Breastfeeding can also help to establish a bond between mother and baby, during those early weeks after your baby has just been born. Your breastmilk has the ability to change and tailor exactly to your baby’s needs, such as producing antibodies to protect your baby from infections and diseases.”
Ahead of the International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium, Medela quizzed leading experts on all thing breastfeeding and breast milk to come up with some interesting new facts.
- When breastmilk passes from mother to baby, a tiny element from the mum’s gut is transferred, which means the milk is truly one of a kind and personally tailored for each baby.
- It has been confirmed that hormones in the milk tell breastfed babies exactly how much fat to lean tissue they need. This means breastfed babies start off with the good fat they need and then naturally slim down as they turn into toddlers.
- Most recently it has been found to contain new probiotic and fungi such as penicillium, as well as other gut protectors.
- Each baby regulates the amount of hormones and nutrients in its own mother’s milk. So, as long as babies are healthy, mums can follow their babies’ cues with confidence.
- For the first two weeks mums must have confidence that their most important job is to eat, sleep and breastfeed – plan on being topless, comfortable and warm with your baby skin-to-skin, and focus on breastfeeding – not a bad way to start motherhood.
Breastfeeding tips and tricks
- Having a supportive, reassuring and caring network of friends and family around you is vital, if not essential. Try to find a local breastfeeding group with peer supporters.
- Chatting with other breastfeeding mothers is a brilliant way to get advice and learn some new tips from those who have experienced breastfeeding and expressing first hand. In fact, in a survey by breastfeeding brand Medela, it was found that 76% of mums believed attending a breastfeeding group help to support them.
- Know what to expect and have realistic expectations; you and your baby are both new to this and it will take time to get the hang of it.
- Believe in yourself! The human body is amazing, so believing in your ability to grow a baby, give birth and feed your baby is key.
What are the common breastfeeding problems?
“There are quite a few common problems that women who are breastfeeding may experience, which can cause them pain and discomfort or simply make breastfeeding harder than it should be,” says Eilis Mackie, Lead for Lactation and Infant Feeding at The Portland Hospital, part of HCA UK, “It’s vital to be aware of these common issues so you know when to seek help from a lactation specialist or doctor.”
Some common breastfeeding problems include:
- A blocked milk duct (this can lead to Mastitis)
- Sore or cracked nipples
A blocked milk duct – A blocked milk duct can cause some discomfort whilst breastfeeding. It is a common issue women who are breast feeding will have and one that usually comes from breast engorgement – where your breasts may become too full of milk, causing pain and discomfort.
A blocked milk duct can lead to you feeling a small lump in your breast that can be painful to touch. However, continuing to feed your baby whilst suffering from a blocked milk duct is important, as this can help to relieve the blocked milk duct so try to continue feeding from that breast.
It should relieve over time, if left it can turn into mastitis which can result in breast pain, swelling, warmth, redness and potentially flu-like symptoms.
Sore or cracked nipples – Some women will experience sore nipples as a result of the baby not being latched on correctly, which can cause discomfort, it is therefore advised to seek advice on the correct way to get your baby to latch on, to minimise any pain.
Some new mums may experience pain as they start to breastfeed; however, do continue to persevere if you can, as with time it should become a bit easier.
If you are experiencing cracked nipples, a good nipple balm or cream can often help to moisturise the area which could reduce pain and tenderness in the long run. Some nipple creams will also be safe for your baby to breastfeed with, although ensure you do check the product to confirm this before using.
If you are experiencing severe pain or cracked nipples do get help from your lactation specialist or midwife to seek advice.
Tongue-tie – Some babies will experience tongue-tie, which is when the bit of skin underneath the tongue is shorter. This is a condition that is usually easily treated, but not always easy to diagnose.
Breastfeeding can be painful if your baby is suffering with tongue-tie, as their mouth cannot open wide enough to breastfeed properly. Therefore, if you notice issues like sore nipples or frequent mastitis, or if you baby looks like they have difficult breastfeeding, are sticking their tongue out or are underweight, it is worth checking this with your health visitor.