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Breastfeeding – the early weeks

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We have a fabulous guest blog from lactation consultant Elizabeth Brierley, at Mummy Matters, this month. Read on for her breastfeeding advice for the first few weeks!

So, you’ve attended the antenatal classes, bought everything on your “essential checklist” and the nursery is almost ready. You then welcome your little boy/girl into the world and leave the hospital to put everything you’ve learned in the past few months into practice.

I truly believe that no amount of preparation can really prepare you for the first 6 weeks. Whilst you find your feet and get to know your little baby girl or boy together with dealing/coping with the lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances and lifestyle adaptation there are some top tips that can just make things that much easier. Like any new skill, breastfeeding can take some time to master, not only for you but your baby too. Being kind to yourself and not setting such high expectations in those first few weeks are crucial. When it comes to breastfeeding there are a few top tips that can just help with those first few weeks.

  • Latching and positioning is everything – How you hold your baby during a feed together with your position can make all the difference to your comfort during a breastfeed. Ensure that your baby takes a large portion of the areolar into his/her mouth, and although breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, the first 10 seconds or so can feel a bit sensitive (in unusual circumstances a very strong let down can lead to pain but this is unusual). Relax and count to 10, if your still in pain, take your baby off (by sticking your finger into his/her mouth to break the seal) and try again. There is no point continuing the feed if you’re in lots of pain. This indicates that the baby is not latched on properly and therefore won’t get enough milk and will cause some nipple trauma. If you are struggling please access some help, like I said breastfeeding is a new skill for you both.
  • Regular winding during a feed – new-borns have such immature digestive systems and nervous systems so struggle, in the first 12 weeks or so, to pass wind. There are a few things that you can do to prevent them from getting too uncomfortable. Sit up and wind her/her at least twice during a feed. Sometimes just changing their position from lying down to sitting up can cause them to bring up some wind. Don’t spend longer than 5 minutes winding, a gentle pat or rubbing his/her back is perfect. Also keep your baby elevated for at least 10 minutes after a feed (for example on your shoulder).
  • Giving a bottle by 4-6 weeks – It is so important to not introduce a bottle too early or too late. I always suggest that if the feeding is going well and your feeling comfortable and confident that your baby is latching well then introducing a bottle at around 4-6 weeks will “lighten the load”. Make sure however that your partner gives the bottle and there are some great tips on how to give a bottle that still encourages your baby to “work” for the milk and ensures good oral development. can be a wonderful way for your partner to help with the feeds and gives you that “ticket” to some time on your own. Also knowing that your baby can take a bottle gives you real piece of mind if there was ever a scenario when you couldn’t be present to feed.
  • Cluster feeding and niggly hours – is when babies space feeding closer together at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at other times. This is very common, and often occurs in the evenings. Cluster feeding often coincides with your baby’s fussy time. Baby will feed for a bit, pull off, fuss/cry, feed for a bit, fuss/cry… and this can go on for sometimes hours. This can be very disheartening as it can make mothers feel like they are doing something wrong or there is not enough milk. This behaviour is NORMAL and has nothing to do with your breastmilk or how your feeding your baby. If your baby is content most of the day and doesn’t seem to be in pain (i.e. colic, silent reflux) during the fussy time – just keep trying to calm your baby and relax as much as you can. Using a soft fabric sling during these hours can make a massive difference and recruit your partner to help you!
  • What to expect – the first 6 weeks are such a massive adjustment to all your lives. I believe it can take at least 6 weeks before you really feel 100% confident with breastfeeding. During this time just be kind to yourself and if you feel that something isn’t right then access some support. Whether that be through a breastfeeding support group, talking to like-minded friends or 1:1 lactation support. There is plenty of help out there so don’t suffer in silence.

For more information about Liz and her work as a lactation consultant please check out her website:

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