When you’re a new mom everyone’s got advice about how to care for your baby – how to hold them, burp them and get them to sleep. More than anything, they’ve got an opinion on how, when and even where you should feed them.
So we’re not going to tell you what to do. We’re just going to leave a few ideas here that have worked for other moms. If you like the sound of them, see if they work for you...
1. Find yourself a happy place in which to feed, whether it’s a rocking chair in the nursery or a comfy couch in the lounge. Make sure you can sit comfortably with good back support – you’re going to be spending a lot of time there!
2. Eat well! One of the bonuses of breastfeeding is that you can eat just about whatever you want and the weight still drops off. Because your body is converting all those calories into milk for your baby, now’s the time to indulge in all your favorite healthy foods. Chances are you’ll feel hungry all the time, so stock the pantry and fridge with quick-fix snacks that you can grab on the run between feeds, naps and nappy changes. Some women find certain foods (for example cabbage and broccoli) upset baby and produce wind – so keep an eye out and avoid any suspect foods. (If your baby is often upset after feeding, discuss this with your midwife or lactation consultant.)
3. Don’t forget to drink lots of water too. Pour yourself a glass every time you sit down to feed your baby, and make sure you’ve finished drinking by the time your baby has. Herb teas and miso soup are good hot options, but try to avoid too much caffeine, including coffee, tea and energy drinks.
4. Burping baby is boring but it’s essential. If you’ve got support crew, such as a partner or grandparent, handy, now’s the time to hand over baby for some quality time (just pop a towel over their shoulder first). Ditto bathtime. And nappy changing. In fact breastfeeding is the only babycare duty you can’t delegate!
5. Don’t panic if your baby doesn’t feed for long, or doesn’t look as though they’re drinking much – your body will naturally produce more or less milk in response to their feeding habits. As long as they're wetting at least six nappies a day, gaining weight and seem happy (most of the time), you’re doing a great job.
6. You’ll get to recognize a tingling sensation when your milk lets down – a reassuring feeling when your baby has just latched on, but not when you’re in the queue at the supermarket! It’s normal to leak a little, and sometimes even looking at a photo of your baby or hearing another baby cry can cause spontaneous let-down. So be prepared with
absorbent nursing pads
tucked inside your maternity bra – just in case!
7. Keep an eye out for your baby’s hunger signs and get in early rather than waiting for him or her to cry, which can make feeding more stressful for both of you. Often they’ll open their mouth and jerk their head to one side, as though reaching for a nipple, or they’ll make little sucking movements with their lips and tongue or bring their thumb or fingers to their mouth to suck them. Sometimes the signs are not obvious so don't stress if you don't pick these up straight away.
8. Don’t wait too long between feeds. Letting too much milk engorge your breasts can be painful, make latching tricky and lead to mastitis. Try expressing a little milk by hand or with a pump to relieve the pressure.
9. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to every woman, so don’t be shy to ask for advice. It’s normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, even when breastfeeding is going swimmingly. Talk to your midwife, nurse or lactation consultant, ask other new mums what works for them or join online forums for tips, tricks and support. Sometimes it’s helpful just to know you’re not the only one awake at 3am trying to figure this whole thing out...
10. Like most aspects of parenthood, the breastfeeding journey is often two steps forward, one step back. Your baby will change every day, so what worked yesterday or even a couple of hours ago might not work now. Don’t expect perfection and don’t be too hard on yourself. Many women experience the ‘baby blues’ within a few days of birth as their hormones adjust, but if you feel anxious, panicky, overwhelmingly sad or helpless on an ongoing basis, talk to your doctor or nurse or contact a helpline.