Breastfeeding: Getting Started

The beauty about breastfeeding is that you don’t need to do anything special to prepare your body for breastfeeding – nature has seen to that already, you’re programmed and ready to go. It’s helpful though to have a healthy diet during pregnancy as you will need those good nutrient reserves to nourish you and your baby in the early days.

It’s really helpful to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Getting the information that you need so you know what to expect can help you feel more confident coming up to the birth.

1. There’s lots of help out there for breastfeeding Mums – seek it out!

Antenatal classes are a must for every new Mum, as they will cover a range of important breastfeeding topics such as positioning, latching & attachment and expressing and storing breastmilk. There is also a lot of help available locally such as dedicated community breastfeeding groups (e.g., Cuidiu) which have breastfeeding advisors and drop-in days so you can also meet other breastfeeding Mums and you can have a chat about breastfeeding over a hot cup! Make a list of handy numbers so you have them to hand after the birth.

Breastfeeding Handy List for your hospital bag:

  • Breast pads
  • Support bra/nursing bra
  • Nipple cream (e.g. lansinoh)

2. Skin-to-Skin Contact helps your milk supply

After you have given birth to your beautiful new baby, you two will be getting to know each other. Holding your baby close and having lots of skin-to-skin contact straight after the birth will naturally help you both along, it can be a lovely bonding experience and is an ideal time to start your first feed because your baby will be alert and ready. Keeping your baby near you can also help release the hormones to help stimulate your own milk supply. Try to start breastfeeding your baby within half an hour after the birth. Ask your midwife to help you position and attach your baby to your breast so that you both get off to a great start.

If your baby is born by caesarean section, you can still have skin-to-skin contact with your baby directly after you’ve given birth. If for some reason, this contact is delayed because of complications, it doesn’t mean that you can’t breastfeed. Express your wishes to your midwife who will help you to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as it is possible.

3. Get to know more about the magic of breastmilk

During the first few days after birth, many babies want to breastfeed on demand – often and for long periods, perhaps every hour, until your milk supply increases over the next few days. Your first milk is called colostrum and is a yellow colour. It’s has a thick consistency due to its concentration. Your baby will only need a small amount of this, just a teeny teaspoonful).

Babies can be tired after the birth too so if your baby is sleepy or doesn’t appear to be interested in feeding, it would be good to breastfeed often. The more breastfeeds you give, the more milk you will make. Nearly all women can produce the amount of milk their baby needs. Babies can have a sleep after the feed and show signs when they are ready for their next feed. These signs include:

  • They start to move about as they wake
  • Suck their fingers
  • Move their head

The time in between the feeds will vary but soon, your baby will settle into a general pattern, which changes from time to time, taking growth spurts into account.
Your breasts will become more full 2-4 days after giving birth. This is your milk “coming in” and this milk looks thinner than colostrum but can get thick as the feed goes on.

4. Making enough breastmilk for your baby

The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often your baby feeds. Combining breastmilk with infant formula can decrease your milk supply. Most breastfeeding mums can make enough milk to meet their baby’s growing needs.

Your baby’s sucking causes milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down ducts towards your nipples. This is known as the let-down reflex. Some women get a tingling feeling, which can be quite strong. Others feel nothing at all. You’ll see your baby respond, and their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow.

You pair are so intertwined, that you’ll notice your milk flowing in response to your baby crying or when you have a warm bath or shower. Breastmilk can also leak from your nipples. You can press your hand firmly on your nipple when this happens. Breastpads can be worn to stop your clothes becoming wet and if you feel very full, you can express your milk.

For more information on breastfeeding basics talk to one of our advisors on 1800 570 570.