Julie Carden, Infant Feeding Specialist, Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Tongue Tie Practitioner at Carmenta Life has written this guide to help you on your journey to successful breastfeeding. Here Julie presents top tips for getting your baby to latch on correctly, positioning your baby and having a satisfying feed for both baby and reassurance for you.
We all know about the benefits of breastfeeding – increasing the efficiency of the immune system, the need to reduce the possibility of obesity and the cost effectiveness of using free human milk. Yet only 3 per cent of mums in the UK still exclusively breastfeed their babies at six months. (WHO recommendations 2011). And what happens when we start off so hopefully, with up to 81 per cent of new mothers initially breastfeeding? (Early results from the UNICEF 2010 survey).
Of course, there are many cultural, medical and social reasons which effect choosing to breastfeed or maintaining breastfeeding. But, still, many of us seem to stop because there are too many obstacles along this challenging and uncertain journey, with inefficient guidance along the way. Common problems may be sore nipples, mastitis, or perceived low milk supply. Or, we may feel that our babies don’t want to go to the breast, or that they feed too frequently.
The good news is that these are all preventable problems, and most often due to a poor latch.
I often think that a baby learning to breastfeed is similar to a child learning to walk. Some can run straightaway, whilst others seem to have no balance at all! Yet they all get there in their own time. And as mums we tend to have very high expectations of ourselves in our quest to have a thriving and happy baby, whilst being surrounded by lots of very helpful folk – each with a different view on how to do it!
In order to understand how to breastfeed and what our baby needs, it’s useful to understand some of the physiology. For the first three days approximately, a baby receives colostrum which is packed with essential nutrients and antibodies. A newborn’s stomach is tiny – about the size of a walnut, so a teaspoonful or so is a good feed. This is easily digested and needed frequently. Our baby will need to feed at least six to eight times in 24 hours, probably more, for the first few weeks. Plenty of skin to skin contact, and watching for our baby’s hunger cues, and feeding whenever baby asks for it will help towards successful breastfeeding.
The colostrum will change to milk which will continue to provide all your baby’s nutritional needs throughout your breastfeeding experience. It is easy for baby to drink the watery (fore) milk at the start of a feed. As the fatty (hind) milk comes through it is harder for baby to draw out, and while learning, many tend to ‘tune out’ and go to sleep or start fussing. The fatty milk is important for baby to feel full, gain weight and aid digestion – thus preventing excess wind and discomfort. Therefore, we need to make sure our baby is suckling strongly throughout the feed.
For the art of a good latch and reassurance of a satisfying breastfeed, here’s my checklist of what to look out for.
- Ensure you are is sitting in a comfortable position to start
- Knees may need to be higher than hips with use of a footstool to prevent back and shoulder discomfort and plenty of pillows/cushions as required to enable holding baby comfortably
- Line baby up ‘nose to nipple’
- Tuck baby in close to your body with baby’s ears, shoulders and hips aligned
- Support baby’s shoulders, back and bottom snug into your body with no twisting or stretching
How to achieve a good attachment
- Support baby’s shoulders to keep chin tucked in close, touching the breast, and keep the nose clear
- Await a wide open gape, expressing some milk onto the nipple and moving baby’s nose against the nipple to help
- As baby opens mouth wide, quickly bring baby’s shoulders in closer, so the chin is leading
- Ensure the nipple stays pointing to the roof of baby’s mouth
- Aim to keep the chin tucked in close, with plenty of breast between baby’s lower lip and the nipple
- Always bring baby to breast and keep the breast in it’s natural position
- A deep latch will be asymmetrical with more areola by the top of baby’s mouth and plenty of breast in baby’s mouth – this allows the nipple to reach far back to the soft part of baby’s palate
- Your babies cheeks will be full and round and close into the breast
- Baby’s lips will be flanged outward, and not curling inward
- Try reclining to help maintain a deeper latch
How to look out for good milk transfer
- Initially baby’s suckling pattern will be quick sucks to encourage milk let down
- The sucking will change to become longer and deeper with lots of swallows and some pauses
- Baby will have deep, strong and rhythmical jaw movements
- Mum will feel strong, drawing sucks (not pinching!) which should last throughout the feed
- When baby has finished he/she will release the breast and appear satisfied
- If baby is sucking on the nipple only, or if it is painful, or if the suckling is noisy with ‘clicking’ this usually means the latch is not great and it will be more difficult for baby to feed well
- If baby does not have a good latch, place a clean finger in the mouth between the cheek and the breast to gently release the suction, and relatch
- If baby becomes sleepy, wake and relatch, or try compression (squeezing the breast)
- Ensure 1st side is drained as much as possible, and feels soft, before offering the 2nd side
- The fatty milk (hind milk) toward the end of a feed is important for baby to feel full, gain weight and aid digestion – thus preventing excess wind and discomfort
- Good draining of the breast is important for hormonal feedback to produce more milk -‘supply and demand’
Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and relaxing – a precious time to bond with your baby, with the knowledge that you are giving your baby and yourself the very best chance for a healthy future.
However it can be a struggle for many and here at Carmenta Life Lactation Consultants Julie and Cathy Johnson (who are both also registered midwives) have empathy and a ton of experience to provide you with. For many New Mothers the stress of breastfeeding issues have been resolved with their help and support via our Breastfeeding Support Clinic in Berkhamsted and Breastfeeding Home Visits in Berkhamsted and Hertfordshire. So don’t go it alone, get in touch.
Drop-in, no need to book:
Free Breastfeeding Clinic and Tongue Tie Clinic with Free Assessment.
For help and support on Breastfeeding and to ‘show you how’
PLUS a Free Assessment for your Baby for Tongue Tie on Thursdays at 1-3pm at Carmenta Life.
One to one support:
Home Visits and Private Consultations for Breastfeeding support or Tongue Tie Assessment and Consultations at a time to suit you.
Held at your home or Carmenta Life.
For more information, contact:
Julie Carden – 07702 669558
Cathy Johnson – 07899 995622