Megan @oatcakeadventures & @birth-ed 🤰Hypnobirthing & Positive Birth Expert 💪🏽Business Owner, writer & podcaster 👶🏽Talking all things to make your birth better Mama to Otis Lover of Getting Muddy in The Great Outdoors
The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known. Breastfeeding provides a newborn baby with everything they need nutritionally whilst protecting them against allergies and eczema, containing hormones to help comfort them and even bug fighting microbes to support their immune system. But, whilst the benefits of breastfeeding will always remain clear, how to actually establish a successful feeding journey is not! Of those that choose to breastfeed their babies, some mums and babies find it to be a straightforward process; but many find there are difficulties and complexities thrown in. Babies are born with a strong instinct to suckle, but they don’t automatically just ‘know how to breastfeed’ as we are so often told.
So, what can you do to make this journey easier?
Currently pregnant and hoping to breastfeed?
1. Watch a baby breastfeed
Sounds like a silly suggestion, but ask yourself- have you ever actually seen a baby breastfeed? I don’t mean from across the room whilst you try desperately hard to avert your eyes- but actually watched what they do? Most of us don’t really see a baby breastfeed until we have our own wriggly baby bobbing about on our chest. So get yourself to a local breastfeeding support group or even just on YouTube and actually watch a newborn feed from the breast.
2. Find the breastfeeding support now
If you find Most areas have local breastfeeding support groups- write these down now so you know where to go if you need them. It’s also worth getting a name and number for a lactation consultant in case you find you need their support later along the line.
Sitting there with your newborn and struggling with feeding? 3 common problems.
3. Check your positioning
The first most common mistake I see with positioning a baby is holding them too far past the nipple. When you bring your baby to feed at the breast, you want to line their nose up with your nipple. It feels totally counterintuitive at first, but you’ll see them tip their head back, open their mouth wide and that motion means that the nipple sits right at the back of their mouth, on the soft pallet, avoiding nipple damage and ensuring they are getting all the milk they need from the breast and not just suckling on the nipple!
4. Check baby’s Attachment
As mentioned above, it’s key that a baby is free to tip their head back as they go to feed from the breast, in the same way we do when we drink from a bottle (try it and see!). We are often so focused on ‘supporting the baby’s head’ that we hold their head too tightly to feed, or find ourselves supporting
the back of their head with a hand or finger, inadvertently stopping them from tipping their head back and affecting the way they latch on to the breast. This can cause nipple pain or damage and stop them from effectively draining milk from the breast. So keep your hands away from the back of their head, support their shoulders or neck instead.
5. Get checked for Tongue tie
Sometimes breastfeeding difficulties are caused by a tongue tie- meaning the frenulum (tissue that joins the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) comes too far forward. With a tongue tie, a baby doesn’t have the full range of tongue movement that they need to effectively breastfeed. If after plenty of support with positioning and attachment you are still finding breastfeeding to be very painful; that your nipples are damaged; that baby is feeding constantly and not gaining weight, then get them checked for a tongue tie by a qualified tongue tie practitioner.
Prioritising breastfeeding in the early days (Over visitors, getting out and about etc.) and seeking out as much support as you can will make this journey infinitely easier. Get as familiar with breastfeeding as you can whilst you’re pregnant and know that it’s never too early to ask for help!