Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare
Getting breastfeeding off to a good start
It’s Breastfeeding Celebration Week!
Having a baby: there’s so much to think about isn’t there? Media bombards us all with so many products and ideas; we spend ages just flicking through pages of a magazine or websites looking at everything on offer.
We don’t have that option for breastfeeding. The best time to start thinking about breastfeeding is while you’re pregnant. This blog will give you a little bit of information about the benefits of breastfeeding, the mechanics of breastfeeding and the importance of building a wonderful relationship with your little human!
So let’s start with the basics.
- Breastmilk provides your baby with all the nutrients needed to grow healthy and strong
- It is a living fluid; always changing and adapting to suit the needs of your growing baby
- Breastmilk contains hundreds of constituents that will help to develop your baby’s strong immune system and protect them against many illnesses such as gastroenteritis, ear infections, urinary infections, insulin dependent diabetes, childhood cancers and so many more
- Breastmilk is easier for your baby to digest than formula and contains a protein which will tell your baby when they are full
- Breastfeeding will provide you with protection against breast cancer, osteoporosis and ovarian cancers
- Breastfeeding also helps you to build a close relationship with your new baby
So you’ve heard just a few of the benefits….what next?
Milk production starts in pregnancy. You may find that towards the end of your pregnancy, you produce breastmilk. This is absolutely normal and just your body’s way of preparing you for the journey ahead – a bit like those Braxton hicks do!
Once you give birth, the hormones in your bloodstream get to work. The two main hormones that are responsible for breastfeeding (oxytocin – our happy hormone and the hormone that is responsible for letting out the milk; and prolactin – our milk making hormone) start to work. They set about building a supply of breastmilk for your baby.
When you put your baby to the breast, instinctively they will look to suck. The first hour after you have your baby is the best time to get breastfeeding started. Put your baby skin to skin and watch as they go through 9 instinctive stages – one of the last being to suck at the breast.
Being able to put your baby to your breast as often as they or you need will increase the amount of milk your body makes. In the first few days, your body produces a richer breastmilk substance called colostrum. It is just as nutritious but it will only be a small amount. This is all your baby needs for the first few days until your milk comes in around day 3-4. Remember, your baby has such a tiny tummy that large volumes of food cannot be contained. Colostrum has the added benefit of acting as a laxative; helps to get rid of the waste products baby has inside their bowel – otherwise known as meconium (or tar!!)
Once your milk has arrived (and you’ll know!) feed your baby as often as possible. Babies will feed on average between 8-12 (and more) times in a 24 hour period. Remember the small tummy? This frequent feeding will help your body adjust to produce the right amount of milk for your baby.
Feeding cues – these are cues your baby will make to let you know they are thinking about feeding. Look out for them
- Putting their hand to their mouth
- Making small murmuring noises
- Becoming unsettled and moving around
- If you or your partner are holding the baby, you may notice them turning to try to seek the breast
So how do we breastfeed?
Over the next few days we will be looking closely at some of the most important steps for effective breastfeeding. We will be looking at position and attachment and how to tell whether your baby is in the right position for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, and so it’s really important to get the attachment right early on.
For more information, have a look at a video introducing breastfeeding recorded by my colleague at the Royal Berkshire Hospital – Claire Carter:
If you need to talk to someone about breastfeeding, or anything else about your new baby, you can call the Health Visiting duty line between 9.30am-4.30pm, or drop them an email.
Bracknell: 0300 365 6000 or email email@example.com
Wokingham: 0300 365 7000 or email: DutyHVWokingham@berkshire.nhs.uk
Reading: 0118 931 2111 or email HVWBRDGDuty@berkshire.nhs.uk
West Berkshire: 0300 303 3944 or email: HVWBRDGDuty@berkshire.nhs.uk