Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural experience, but it’s not always an easy option for mums and newborn babies. To make sure you’re clued up on all things boob, here are some of the breastfeeding matters you should take into consideration.
Once you’ve given birth to your baby there is nothing more natural then breastfeeding. We’ve all got this lovely image of the beautiful baby immediately latching on and the mum peacefully knowing exactly what to do. However, like with most things the reality is slightly different. But, fear not, we’re here to help with all your breastfeeding matters.
We are always hearing in the news about the benefits to breastfeeding but when it comes to knowing how to breastfeed, mums are often expected to get on with it. And while for some breastfeeding does come naturally, for many the first few days can be a struggle to say the least. How do I know my baby has latched on correctly? What foods can I eat? How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
These are just a few of the questions that mothers are faced with when starting their breastfeeding journey. So with the help of our favourite experts we want to give you the complete guide to breastfeeding with helpful advice on what to do when you start, our recommended breastfeeding must haves and information on how breastfeeding can benefit you and your baby.
For more information on everything you need to know about feeding and pumping, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Why should you breastfeed?
There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your little one but probably the most well known one is boosting your baby’s immune system. When a mother breast-feeds their child they are passing on their own immunities to their little ones. Researchers have found that there is a specific protein called soluble CD14 in breast milk that will start a baby’s immune system providing active protection to the baby. The protein develops B cells, which are immune cells that are instrumental to the production of antibodies.
As well as improving the health of your baby, breastfeeding has also been found to improve mums’ health in later life by reducing the risk of Osteoporosis. This is because bone density decreases in life in both sexes, but post-menopausal women are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis, because oestrogen protect against bone loss. A study of women aged 65 years and over suggested that breastfeeding protected against hip fracture in old age, with a dose-response relationship between average duration of breastfeeding per child and risk of hip fracture.
Breastfeeding can also increase your baby’s IQ. While this may sound like an old wives’ tale, research has found that the brain is only 1/3 formed at birth, and that breast milk has been evolutionarily honed over millions of years to complete building the brain during the first two years of life leading to a higher IQ.
Another massive benefit of breastfeeding is the time and money it will save you. Not only is breast milk free but also it is sterile and is just the right temperature for your baby. This is perfect for when you have those feeds in the middle of the night and the last thing you want to be doing is hunting around for bottles and worrying if the formula is too hot.
“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
What to do if you’re having trouble breastfeeding
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.
Read More: Why Breastfeeding Mums Should Eat More Eggs
Top Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
“Breastfeeding can present some challenges as both you and your baby learn this new skill, it can be easy to feel like you have failed or to give up when you wanted to breastfeed for longe,” says Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife.
“But many breastfeeding difficulties such as baby not latching effectively, feeding very frequently or not gaining weight quickly enough are short lived and are just periods of time where you need extra input and advice to provide you with a plan to help you resolve them.”
There are resources and support systems our there, some of which are available 24 hours a day. Some examples of breastfeeding support include:
When it comes to things you can do at home to make breastfeeding feel more comfortable, Lesley suggests loose thinking carefully about what you’re wearing.
“Some women who breastfeed might find themselves frequently suffering with issues like blocked milk ducts or mastitis, so it can be helpful to find a well-fitting nursing bra as this can help to prevent these kinds of issues,” she explains.
“An ill-fitting nursing bra can restrict milk flow and cause discomfort, or even contribute to mastitis. It’s also worth considering loose fitting, comfortable clothes made from natural fibres, such as cotton, wool or silk, which can also help by being less restrictive and allowing your body to breathe.”
Read More: What is Dream Feeding?
Feeling empowered is also a big step towards successful breastfeeding.
Lesley says,”It’s also vital that you feel empowered to say “no” to visitors, (of course only if you want to), during these early days with your new baby if you don’t feel comfortable or ready to have guests.
“The first few weeks following birth can be stressful and tiring, it’s therefore vital that you give yourself and your baby time to bond and establish breastfeeding if that’s how you’re choosing to feed your baby. Constant visitors can be tiring and can put new mums off breastfeeding frequently whilst they have people coming to see them.”