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How to get breastfeeding off to the best start

Updated: May 5, 2019

1. Skin to skin

Mum holding her baby after birth in skin to skin
Hold your baby against your skin straight after birth for at least an hour or until she has her first feed.

Holding your baby against your skin straight after birth will calm your baby. It will also steady her breathing and help to keep her warm.

This is a great time to start your first breastfeed because your baby will be alert and will want to feed in the first couple of hours after birth. Your midwife can help you.

Your baby will be happier if you keep her near you and feed her whenever she is hungry. This will remind your body to produce plenty of milk.

Baby wanting to feed.
Feed baby whenever baby starts rooting. Just like the baby above.

2. Frequency of feeds

Remember that babies need only 2-3 feeds in the first 24 hours. After that she will need at least 8 feeds in 24-hour period. Some feeds will be shorter and some longer. Anything from 5 – 45 minutes is considered a normal feed. It is the same with us, sometimes we need only a sip of water and sometimes we feel like having 3-course meal. Your baby will not necessary ask for a feed every 3 hours. Some feeds might be 4 or even 5 hours apart and some feeds might be very close together so called ‘cluster feeds’. Keep a log of her feeds and nappies. She should have 6 wet nappies and at least 2 dirty nappies (yellow stool) in a 24 hour period by day 4. If she does not wee and poo frequently that indicated that feeding is not going well.

3. Feeding positions

There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding. It does not matter which one you use, however these principles always apply:

Is your baby’s head and body in a straight line?

If not, your baby might not be able to swallow easily. Try turning your head to the side and swallow. Not easy to do.

Are you holding your baby close to you?

Support her neck, shoulders and back. She should be able to tilt her head back easily.

Are you comfortable?

It’s worth getting comfortable before a feed, although it’s ok to change your position slightly once your baby is attached to your breast.

Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple?

Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from underneath the nipple. Placing your baby with her nose level with your nipple will allow her to reach up and attach to your breast well.

1. Hold your baby’s whole body close with her nose level with your nipple.

2. Let your baby’s head tip back a little so that her top lip can brush against your nipple. This should help your baby to make a wide open mouth.

3. When your baby’s mouth opens wide, her chin is able to touch your breast first, with her head tipped back so that her tongue can reach as much breast as possible.

4. With her chin firmly touching and her nose clear, her mouth is wide open and there will be much more of the darker skin visible above your baby’s top lip than below her bottom lip. Your baby’s cheeks will look full and rounded as they feed.

Signs that your baby is feeding well

Your baby has a large mouthful of breast.

Your baby’s chin is firmly touching your breast.

It doesn’t hurt you when your baby feeds (although the first few sucks may feel strong).

If you can see the dark skin around your nipple, you should see more dark skin above your baby’s top lip than below your baby’s bottom lip.

Your baby’s cheeks stay rounded during sucking.

Your baby rhythmically takes long sucks and swallows (it is normal for your baby to pause from time to time).

Your baby finishes the feed and comes off the breast on her own

4. Make sure your baby is properly attached to your breast

 You will have a good supply of milk and your baby will get a good feed.

 Your nipples will not get sore and feeds will be comfortable for you.

5. Try not to give your baby a dummy before breastfeeding is established

Breastfeeding takes 4 to 6 weeks to be established. Babies who have a dummy sometimes find it difficult to remember how to attach to mum’s breast. Sucking on a dummy requires different jaw movements and different muscles are involved in comparison to baby suckling on the breast.

Your baby will be less likely to feed when she needs to, as the dummy will mask her hungry cues and so won’t take in as much milk, which can effect your milk supply.

You can find more information in the 'Off to the best start leaflet'.

Baby breastfeeding

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