Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding is fundamentally important; it covers all your baby’s nutritional needs for their first six months.  In addition, there are also well documented medical benefits.  Breast milk increases your baby’s resistance to infection and disease.  It even lessens the risk of them developing allergies and intolerance to certain foods. There are many factors of breastfeeding that are beneficial for mothers too.  In terms of health, it helps your uterus return to normal more quickly after childbirth.  In addition, mothers who breastfeed have been shown to have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as heart disease and osteoporosis.  It’s also very convenient, not having to worry about preparing milk for your baby!

How soon after birth can I start to breastfeed?

Straight away!  Most babies have a strong need to suck when they are first born and you will often find that women develop milk in their breasts as a response, the first milk is called “colostrum”.   Skin to skin contact and placing the baby directly on mum straight after birth encourages the baby to find the breast.

How do I direct my baby to my breast?

Hold your baby, skin-to-skin, against your chest, between your breasts and wait a little while, they are likely to attach and feed by themselves.  More information on this process, referred to as baby-led attachment, can be found at the Australian Breastfeeding website. If you prefer to help your baby attach to the breast, hold your baby close to you, chest to chest and chin to breast, with your baby’s face being opposite your nipple.  Then gently touch baby’s lips with your nipple, this should encourage them to open up their mouth wide and allow you to gently insert your nipple and as much as possible of your areola (which is the darker area around your nipple) is in your baby’s mouth.

How often should I breastfeed?

Early on, you are encouraged to breastfeed frequently, whenever your baby fusses or seems hungry.  Your baby will help guide you in the amount of milk and frequency with which they drink, as your breasts make more milk in response to your baby’s sucking.  The more milk the baby consumes, the more milk you make.  A baby’s stomach is about the size of his clenched fist, so he will need to breastfeed little and often.

So what should guide you?  Let your baby finish the first breast’s milk.  You will be able to tell that this is the case because the baby will stop suckling and swallowing the will detach from the breast.  You should then offer your second breast.  As a guide, many babies feed between 8-12 times in 24 hours. Please note that many some babies will feed more times than this – the average is actually 11 times an hour. Avoid giving complimentary bottles, as this will reduce your baby’s need to suck at the breast and so actually reduce the supply of milk that you create.  Please see more information on breastfeeding and its regularity at the ABA website.

Also, there are signs of whether your baby is getting enough:

  • They are breastfeeding frequently, at least 8 times in 24 hours, though babies often feed more frequently than this.
  • They should also have plenty of pale, wet nappies (at least 5 disposable or 6-8 cloth nappies in 24 hours)
  • They have two or more soft bowel motions a day (babies older than around 6 weeks may have less than this and may not poo for a week or more, but when they do, it is soft).
  • They should gain weight
  • They should have some periods in which they seem reasonably alert, active and happy.

Why it’s important to be comfortable breastfeeding

Not only is being comfortable and relaxed will help your milk flow more easily.  It is not always easy to feel like this at the start of suckling, as it is a new and often strange experience but will improve.

Tips when experiencing discomfort

A good breastfeeding tip is to feed your baby at night, which will prevent your breasts from becoming too full or uncomfortable.

Please note that whatever technique you use, when your baby is positioned correctly for breastfeeding it should not hurt you.  Whilst an initial feeling of tenderness is usual, pain is not.

Please consult or contact your child health nurse, medical adviser or an ABA breastfeeding counsellor if you are experiencing pain during breastfeeding.

  • Telephone counselling is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the national ABA Breastfeeding Helpline. Call 1800 686 268, (1800 mum 2 mum). You can also email an ABA breastfeeding counsellor for information, support and reassurance here.