BREASTFEEDING MAY BE THE MOST NATURAL THING IN THE WORLD BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT COMES NATURALLY OR IS EASY FOR EVERYONE.
Some babies take to the breast like a duck to water but don’t worry if that’s not your experience! It can take some time to get the hang of every part of it from how your nipples will feel to the best position that suits your baby. What’s important, is to remember that you’ve just met your little one in person and you’re both getting to know each other every single day so give yourself a chance, be patient and remember you’re not alone.
Challenging as it may be after zero hours sleep, looking after yourself is just as important and beneficial for your baby too. Try to eat and drink regularly and have plenty of rest, especially in the early days as this can help maximise your milk supply!
We thought it might be handy to have an area where you can read up on some advice tied to the most frequently asked breastfeeding questions. This is just a starting point and if this guide doesn’t give you the answers you’re looking for, there’s always support you can get whether it’s by speaking to your midwife, health visitor, GP, friends, family or communities online.
The human body as we’re sure you know by now is pretty amazing and the fluid your breasts produce in the first few days after birth, known as colostrum is no different! Usually golden yellow, it's a very concentrated, protein-rich, creamy food, so your baby will only need about a teaspoonful at each feed.
After the first few days, your breasts will then produce more ‘mature’ milk. The more you breastfeed, the more your baby's sucking will stimulate your supply and the more milk you'll make. Incredible or what?
Again, this goes back to the human body being nothing short of amazing! A baby sucking causes milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down ducts, towards your nipples. That’s often referred to as ‘the let-down reflex’.
Some mums get a strong tingly feeling, others may not feel a thing, but you’ll be able to see your baby respond when your milk lets down by their deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow.
If your baby seems to be falling asleep before the deep swallowing stage of feeds, they may not be properly attached to your breast so ask a health professional for support on positioning and attachment if you think its not quite right.
Around 2 to 4 days after birth you may notice your breasts become fuller - this is often known as your milk ‘coming in’. Your milk will vary according to your baby's needs. Each time your baby feeds, your body knows to make more milk for the next feed (we told you your body is amazing!). The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often your baby feeds.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice milk letting down when your baby cries of if you have a warm shower… its completely normal but also a great idea to have lots of breast pads to hand for any leakage if you go out and about!
Check out breast pads and other useful breast-feeding accessories here.
Skin-to-skin time can be a bonding experience for you and your baby. It's also a great time to have your first breastfeed and if you need any help make sure you ask your midwife for support with positioning and attachment. If skin-to-skin contact is delayed for one reason or another, it doesn't mean you won't be able to bond with or breastfeed your baby but again, ask your midwife to show and help you.
There are sometimes some signs you can look out for that can help you to tell when your baby is a hungry little bear – as you get to know your baby, you’ll get used to what their most common cues are. Some common signs to look out for are below:
· If they’re getting restless
· If they suck their fist or fingers
· If they’re making murmuring sounds
· If they turn their head and open their mouth
All mums and babies are unique. Newborn babies have teeny tummies and can’t take in much milk at any one time so it’s best to feed your baby on demand whenever they show signs of hunger. As a general guide, your baby may want to feed 8 to 12 times a day, which is roughly one feed every 3 hours during the first few weeks. Although you may feel you’re just a ‘milk machine’ in the early days, you can't overfeed a breastfed baby so try not to worry! As your baby grows, your milk supply ‘magically’ adapts in line with your little one’s needs, so they’ll likely be able to take more milk, going longer between feeds.
When it comes to feeding, some babies are born sprinters while others enjoy a more leisurely approach. In general, a feed can take from five mins to an hour. Just try to go with the flow…literally!
Newborn’s need time to practice and learn and many other factors can influence a baby’s’ feeding time such as age, size, latch, how often they feed and state of alertness. Other factors include your breastmilk supply, allowing enough time to stimulate your body to build up your milk supply and speed of flow.
Try to relax and let your baby guide you! They tend to know what they want and when they want it, so you’ll soon start figuring out when their little tums are full up!
This will depend on how much milk you store in your boobs. Rather than focusing on how much time your baby spends on each breast, watch what they’re doing during nursing and follow their cues.
It’s generally best to allow your baby to finish with one breast before offering the other and whilst some babies may only ever take one breast, others may want to go back and forth between breasts. If your little one pauses when feeding, starts to stretch out, is no longer actively sucking and swallowing or if they move away from your breast on their own, it could be time to offer the other breast.
Whatever anyone has told you before your baby came along, until they’re here, you’ll not know how they will behave so use your feeding time as little watch and learn sessions. You could even keep a diary or have a hair tie on your wrist to put on your right wrist if their last feed was from the right breast and left wrist if it was from the left to keep track.
What matters most? Well, if your baby is showing signs of being full and content, they’ll be fine!
Trust when you hear the phrase ‘trust your instincts’ that it really is a thing! And you’ll hear it a lot! Your baby will let you know when they’re hungry. Common signs include crying, nuzzling and rooting for your breast, finger or fist sucking, sucking noises, sticking out their tongue and moving their head from side to side with their mouth open.
When they’ve had enough, your baby may turn their head or push away your breast with their hand; others simply fall into the land of nod (that golden hour for you as well as your baby and the perfect opportunity to get a ‘milk drunk’ picture too). Ultimately, your little one will seem more content and look more relaxed.
Remember, breastfeeding is not only about your baby getting milk; your baby will feed for comfort and reassurance too.
Without x-ray vision, if you’re breastfeeding, it’s hard to know how much milk your baby’s drinking. For anyone who likes to be fully in control that can be hard to accept but you’ll have to learn to trust that your body knows what’s what, so try not to worry!
Your baby will gain weight steadily after the first 2 weeks (its normal for them to lose weight in the days after birth) and from day 5 onwards, wet nappies can be a god indicator that they’re getting enough milky goodness. Your breasts can also feel softer after a feed and you’ll probably see or hear your baby swallowing when they’re feeding too.
You’ll naturally become familiar with your baby’s appetite too but for peace of mind you can always keep a note of their feeding patterns.
When it’s 2am in the morning and you just want the feeding marathon to end, often the most helpful thing is to know that breastfeeding does get easier and there are other mums out there who, at the exact same time may be experiencing frustration, be close to floods of tears and generally struggling too (the list of possible emotions is far too long to go into but we’re meaning them all!).
There really is light at the end of the tunnel as your little one gets used to feeding, so if you’re finding it harder than you thought, don’t instantly give up! Give yourself a chance and speak to a health professional who may be able to help if you think something isn’t quite right.
It’ll probably be quite hard to see from your feeding position, but you’ll know things are going well if your baby is able to tip their head back slightly when feeding, their mouth is wide open, and their bottom lip curled back. You may also notice a tingling feeling in your breast as the milk flows down to your nipple when your baby is properly latched on.
When you start out on your breast feeding journey a little tenderness at the beginning of a feed can be normal. Tender and sore nipples (ouch!) are also pretty normal in the first few weeks of breastfeeding but there are solutions out there that can really help!
Latch problems are the most common cause of breastfeeding pain so if you’re in discomfort, slip your little finger gently into the corner of your baby’s mouth just enough to get air in and break the suction. As babies have a natural instinct to try to stop the breast from leaving their mouth, once you break the latch, keep your finger between baby's gums until your nipple is safely out of the way, so your little one doesn't chomp back down on it. Then repeat.
If you start searching for ideas to help online you’ll certainly come across some weird and wonderful ideas (we’ve seen and heard so many of these including cabbage leaves…but we’ll let you discover those for yourself) but often placing a cool compress on engorged breasts (when your boobs become overly full and might feel hard, tight and painful) after feeding can be enough to soothe the sore area before feeding again. There’s also plenty of mums who swear by nipple shields and creams. It could also be worth considering pumping for a few days if your nipples are really sore and cracked to give them a chance to heal.
Whether you’re experiencing pain from breast engorgement, producing too much milk, have blocked milk ducts or an infection you think may be mastitis (or generally any other reason), don’t put off asking for help early. Speak with your healthcare professional to help identify the reason and then fixing it will be a whole lot easier!
A good latch ‘means’ your baby has enough breast in their mouth to easily extract milk and get a full feed in less time. It also means you can breastfeed comfortably, reducing any nipple pain.
Although a newborn instinctively knows how to suck, getting their lips and your nipple in the right position may take some trial and error. It can help to touch your baby’s mouth, lips and chin with your nipple to let them know where you milk is. With the tip of your baby’s nose opposite your nipple, your baby’s head should naturally tilt back, and their mouth open wide. Aim your nipple at the top of your baby’s mouth and bring your baby to your breast. From there your baby should suck quickly to stimulate your milk supply and then slow down when milk begins to flow.
Once your little one has worked out that you're their main source of milk (there are studies that suggest babies can smell breast milk when their mum is around) and coordinated their latch, suck, and swallow movement, feed times should soon settle down.
Your little one will get all the necessary hydration they need from breast milk or formula for the first 6 months or so. If you’re breast feeding, remember breast milk contains water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, substances that boost your baby’s immune defences and tons more beneficial components, so really your baby will be getting everything they need.
Giving a baby younger than 6 months old too much water can interfere with their body's ability to absorb the nutrients in breast milk or formula. It can also cause their tiny tummies to feel full, reducing their desire to feed. From around 6 months though, particularly if the weathers hot, taking some sips from a cup or bottle will be totally fine.
Feeding your baby is what’s most important. How you choose to do that should be down to you and it’s normally perfectly possible to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding using formula or expressed breastmilk. It’s worth thinking it through first and speaking to your healthcare professional for some guidance on how best to introduce combination or ‘combi’ feeding.
As it can take up to six weeks to successfully establish breastfeeding, introducing a bottle sooner may affect your milk supply plus babies need to use different techniques when breastfeeding versus feeding from a bottle which can sometimes be confusing for your little one too.
As they say, practice makes perfect so once you’ve both got the hang of it, most babies have no problem transitioning between breast and bottle. To make it easier, it’s worth using a bottle with a teat that mimics babies’ natural breastfeeding action as well.
All our bottles come with Easy Latch SoftFlex™ teats that flex and stretch like the breast and have three unique advanced anti-colic valves to help prevent air ingestion when your baby’s feeding. These bottles are designed to make transitioning that little bit easier. Find out more here.
Anything you eat or drink while you're breastfeeding can find its way into your breast milk, and that includes alcohol. It’s not all doom and gloom though as the NHS do mention that an occasional drink is unlikely to harm your breastfed baby. They also say it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units a week (equivalent of 10 small glasses of low-strength wine or 6 pints of average strength beer) on a regular basis.
Generally, most medicines will be fine to take while you’re breastfeeding but it’s always best to tell your doctor, pharmacist or dentist that you are breastfeeding.
Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later. This can be handy if you have to be away from your baby, your baby is in special care, your breasts feel uncomfortably full or your partner is going to help with feeding your baby.
It’s a decision for you to make based on your own circumstances so if you choose to use a pump then great but if you’re happily exclusively breast feeding and don’t feel the need to use a pump, that’s also great too. The most important thing is that your baby is being fed and they’re happy and healthy.
Expressing can be done by hand or with a pump. These days breast pump technology is very advanced, and pumps are often super quiet, much easier to use and many are portable meaning you can express on the go. It’s worth doing a bit of research into pumps before you buy too so that you get the best style of pump to suit you and your lifestyle.
Take a look at our range of breast pumps here!
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old and it’s best to wait until your baby is a little older and breastfeeding is well established before ‘expressing’ milk. If you do choose to express early on, only express enough to feel comfy as you don’t want to overstimulate your supply. If you’re a bit unsure just get in touch with a health professional for additional advice.
Collecting every drop of ‘liquid gold’ as breast milk is often referred to, can help you enjoy a little more freedom, enable dad and family members to help out and give you some rest (especially with night feeds). Remember though, each time milk is removed from your breasts, either by your baby feeding or by you expressing, the more milk you will make! A bit like magic!
Just like breastfeeding, it can take a little while to pump like a pro. So, relax (or at least try to), be patient and hopefully it won’t be long for that eureka! moment to occur. It may even help to have your baby nearby, a video recorded on your phone of your baby crying or a picture of them to look at.
When it comes to using a breast pump its worth doing some research before you buy your pump. What worked for your best friend or reviews you’ve read online from, other mums, may not suit you so it’s worth thinking about what’s important to you. Some key things you might want to consider are:
- How often you plan to use the pump?
- How much your willing to pay?
- How quickly you’d want to express your milk?
- If you want to be able to adjust the suction levels?
- Whether you want it to be portable?
- If you’re wanting to have the option to double pump?
Once you’ve thought some of these things through, why not research both in stores and online to get an idea of sizes, reviews and brands available.
Our full range of pumps are designed to suit whatever stage of expression you’re at on your breast-feeding journey too. Discover the range here.
Your breast milk can be stored in a sterilised container or a specific breast milk storage bag in the fridge (don’t forget to date it first) for up to five days at 4C or lower, for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge, or for up to six months in a freezer. It’s usually best to store it in small quantities too so you avoid any waste as once your baby has drunk from a bottle of breast milk, it should be used within the hour and anything left over, thrown away.
If you’ve frozen breast milk, It's best to defrost frozen milk slowly in the fridge before giving it to your little one. If you need the bottle to be ready faster, you can always put it in a jug of warm water or hold it under running warm water. Once it's defrosted, use it straightaway – definitely don't re-freeze milk that has been defrosted.
You can feed expressed breast milk straight from the fridge if your baby is happy to drink it cold or warm it up to body temperature. Don’t use a microwave to heat up or defrost breast milk.
Our range of bits and bobs from bottle warmers to pre-sterilised milk storage bags will no doubt come in handy. Check them out here.
Of course! As feeding your baby breast milk is recommended for the first 6 months, you can continue to give your little one the nutritious benefits of your breast milk by expressing your milk beforehand.
You’ll need to express milk at least as many times as you normally feed to maintain your milk supply and pumping can take around 10-15 mins or longer per session. Many mums who go back to work will often use their work breaks to pump or arrange with their employer to come in early or stay late to make up the time needed to express. If you’re worried about how you can make it work, speak to your employer during a ‘keep in touch’ day if you can and you’ll no doubt feel much better afterwards.
If you haven’t used a pump before going back to work, practice expressing a few weeks before your return so you can build up a supply of expressed milk and get used to how the pump works. Label and date the container(s) used for your expressed milk before storing straight away in your fridge or freezer.
Let the breastfeeding journey begin…
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but what in life worth doing is? We rarely take a moment to celebrate what breastfeeding mums actually achieve in those early weeks – the time, the investment, the steep learning curve and so much more.
After the early weeks of breastfeeding it often becomes much easier too and its great when you can see there’s light at the end of the ‘sleep-deprived’ tunnel but getting to that point can be really hard.
What often helps is talking about your experiences with others if you’re feeling overwhelmed, like you want to give up in the middle of the night, thinking you’re doing something wrong or generally feeling anything other than super happy to be getting to know your gorgeous new baby. That’s where your health professional, support groups, friends who have breastfed, your own family or looking online for some support can be really helpful. A problem shared is generally a problem halved after all.
Here at Nuby, we’re all about ‘real talk’ too and encouraging new parents to talk about their breastfeeding experiences – the good bits, the bumpy bits and the total leaky bits. The more we talk about these ups and downs; the more other new mums can feel less isolated and more supported in their own breast-feeding journey.