Breastfeeding will be a new adventure for both you and your baby. For most of us, it takes a little time and patience, but once you and your baby master the art of breastfeeding, you will be on your way to a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
The more you know about how breastfeeding works, the more likely it is that you will avoid the problems which some mothers experience. In the first few hours and days after your baby's birth, you will have lots of practice (and, hopefully, lots of help).
Babies are born with a strong instinct to suck, so your baby's first breastfeed should be offered as soon as possible after birth. If you are both alert, and neither of you are affected by any drugs given during labour, then your baby will instinctively search for your breast and latch on within the first half hour. If either of you is sedated or unwell, then it will take a little longer, but the sooner you can get breastfeeding under way, the better your ultimate chance of success.
The first milk your breasts produce - colostrum - looks thick and yellowish and s rich in protein and antibodies. Over the next few days, this concentrated milk gradually changes to translucent mature breastmilk.
One of the most important skills to learn is ensuring your baby is well positioned for feeding and well attached to your breast so that he gets all the available milk at each feed.
Here are some simple steps to good positioning and attachment:
Gently touch your baby's mouth with your breast to encourage him to open his mouth wide. His tongue needs to be forward over the lower gum and well down.
As soon as his mouth is gaping widely, quickly move him onto your breast so that he has a good mouthful of breast and areola. (Remember that pushing your baby's head onto the breast may mean his nose makes contact first and so he will not be able to latch onto enough breast tissue).
Your baby's chin should be well in against the breast and his nose clear, chin to breast.
His lips should be opened out or flanged over the breast creating a seal, and should not look rolled in.
When your baby is feeding well:
If you're not sure that you're getting it right, ask for help and keep asking each time until you feel confident.
Your baby's suckling is a trigger for two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, to "let-down" the available milk from the storage area in your breasts to the nipples.
Once this happens, you will notice a regular suck-swallow and you might be aware of a tingling or sudden feeling of fullness in your breasts. In the first few days, it might even feel like a labour pain but this strong sensation will go away as your hormone levels settle down.
Breastmilk is designed to be very easily digested - to perfectly match your baby's maturing digestive system.
Your new baby's stomach is very small, about the size of a golf ball, so it is understandable that he will want to feed often - eight to 12 or even more feeds in 24 hours, including during the night.
Feeding your baby according to need and not rushing him will help you to establish and maintain a good milk supply.
Feeding times in the early weeks may vary from feed to feed. Let your baby feed until he stops on one breast and then offer the other breast if he wants more, again for as long as he wants to feed.
Night-time feeds are important for keeping up milk supply, meeting your baby's appetite and making sure your breasts don't get too full and tender.
The more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk you will make. Your breasts are never empty - they keep making milk all the time in response to how much your baby takes at each feed.
So, when your baby feeds, your breasts get the message that more milk needs to be made.
If you don't feed your baby frequently, your breasts get the message that no more milk is needed and milk production slows down.
This is known supply equals demand - and it is the key to successful breastfeeding.
It's good to remember that, as each day goes by, you will learn more about breastfeeding and become more confident in your ability to nurture your baby. Enjoy it.
Source: Australian Breastfeeding Association