Choosing to breastfeed is a great way to grow the bond between mother and baby, while providing both long and short term health benefits. As a new parent or parent-to-be, you may be considering breastfeeding or you may have some questions. Teresa Walsh, midwife at The Portland Hospital, talks about some of the benefits of breastfeeding and tells you what you need to know about feeding your newborn.
When can I start breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can begin as soon as your baby shows interest which is usually within the first few minutes, but some may take up to an hour, so long as mum and baby are in good health. If a mother or baby is unwell at delivery or there is medical indication that prevents feeding immediately, there are processes to initiate lactation which will be specific for different situations.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for the mother?
Breastfeeding has many well documented benefits both physical and psychological for mothers. Some of the more common benefits to mother are protection against breast and ovarian cancer, and hip fractures in later life.
There are two main hormones that make the mum feel great during her breastfeeding time: Prolactin, which produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows you to relax and focus on your child and oxytocin, which promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between the two of you.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby?
A baby will thrive on milk that is specifically designed for them. They will have lower risk of developing or being admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, type 1 & 2 diabetes and allergies such as asthma and lactose intolerance.
What should I do if I’m struggling to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is an art that is learned and there are many factors that can have an impact on a positive breastfeeding experience. One of the most common reasons that breastfeeding can be hindered is when the supply and demand system is interrupted. This can be due to many different factors including giving baby supplementary formula, putting a baby on a feeding schedule too soon or a condition called tongue tie.
If you intend to breastfeed, try to gain understanding of how it works while you are pregnant and know that it will take a few weeks until both mum and baby are comfortable. Manage your expectations, plan ahead and engage support during the early days with your newborn. If you think this is not helping, seek advice from a lactation consultant as soon as you can.
How much should I be feeding my baby?
Babies all need different amounts and have a very slick way of regulating how much they drink. It is important to understand that the quality of breastmilk is guaranteed to be specially designed for the individual baby. You need to observe your baby for evidence that she is getting enough milk – they usually need around 6-8 feeds per 24 hours, have 6 wet nappies and uses the loo regularly. It’s also important to have weight gain to ensure the baby is thriving.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to new mums?
Learn the basics and know it takes a few weeks to get right. There is a lot to think about when you are pregnant and sometimes it can be overwhelming. When you are wondering how you will feed your baby, try to learn about how feeding works and how long it will take to learn.
For many knowing that the first 6 weeks at least is the time that you and your baby will be learning the skill of feeding and your body is learning how to make the right milk. This does not happen overnight. Women need support during these early weeks – the kind of support that is best for you can vary depending on your personal circumstances.
You will need a supportive partner, so having them learn about breastfeeding will really help them to understand how they can help too.
Are there any classes or groups for new breastfeeding mums?
We have specific breastfeeding preparation classes as one-on-one education sessions at The Portland Hospital, provided by our lactation consultants and childbirth education team. In addition, our antenatal classes include breastfeeding education. Mothers can also come to see our childbirth educator/ midwife for lactation consultations after the baby is born if they are having difficulties.