Top breastfeeding tips

The statistics tell us that most mothers in South Africa start off breastfeeding their babies.  However, further down the line, many moms who desperately wanted to breastfeed have changed to bottle feeding.  Are there things moms can do to get breastfeeding off to a good start?

Yes, there are.  We live in a society where we don’t see babies being breastfed all the time, where we haven’t necessarily watched our younger siblings being breastfed, and we don’t always have an aunt or sister or mom to help.  Seeking evidence based information through a support group or someone with a qualification in human lactation can go a long way towards helping us to know what to expect.  

When Claire had her baby, she kept being told that baby wasn’t getting enough as she wanted to feed so often.  Claire eventually gave up as she felt she didn’t have enough milk.  

How is milk made?

Human breasts make milk by being emptied often –so the more frequently baby gets fed, the more milk baby gets and the more milk the breasts make. Whatever is removed gets replaced.  

Demand or routine?

It’s not really a choice between feeding baby on cue or feeding on a schedule. Human milk production works by very frequent feeding. Although some babies cope fine on a schedule as they would have naturally fed every 3 or 4 hours anyway, some mothers find that such a schedule leaves them with a crying hungry baby.  Human milk is also digested quite fast (in about 90 minutes), so a baby might want to feed almost constantly in the first few days or weeks.  Other babies are happy enough to feed only every two or three or four hours. 

However, to ensure baby gets enough milk, most babies need to feed at least 8-12 times a day – sometimes more – especially during growth spurts when they take in more by feeding more often rather than taking in larger amounts per feed.  

Feeding cues

A new born baby indicates the need to feed by sucking on their fingers and rooting for the breast.  It’s often easier to get baby latched on well if they’re calm and not crying.  If baby is already crying, it can help to calm them first before trying to latch.  

Having baby with you, skin-to-skin can help with all this frequent feeding and with latching as baby will latch on calmly. You’re recovering from baby’s arrival, so lying in bed together or laid back on your couch with books or magazines, the TV remote, some snacks and water to drink and nappy changing supplies is restful for you and baby, as you just feed and sleep. 

If you have older children, they may wish to join you with a good book or DVD.  Even if you can only manage an hour or two of this a day, it at least gives you a chance to rest and as baby is feeding frequently, helps build your milk supply.

How long should baby feed for?

How long a feed lasts doesn’t tell you how much milk baby is getting, all it tells you is whether your milk flows fast or more sedately.  Letting baby feed as long as they want to and then coming off the breast themselves and you then change baby and offer them the other breast for as long or as short as they want (if they want it at all) means baby gets what they need.

A feed of anywhere between about 5 to 45 minutes or even an hour would be quite normal. Baby might fall asleep or de-latch themselves, or change to little butterfly sucks – you can leave baby to comfort suck, or you could de-latch with your pinkie at that point.   

Finding out about the normal course of breastfeeding while you’re still pregnant can go a long way towards breastfeeding success. 

Do you have any breastfeeding tips for new moms?
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