Once you get the hang of it, it's quick and convenient. But breast feeding is a learned skill and many newborns need time to learn, just as you will require a strong commitment and some perseverance in the early days. While breast feeding is perceived as being natural and instinctual, it is common to experience difficulties because proper technique is required by both you and baby to get it right, which takes a lot of practice. It can take time and patience to figure out the technique - however, most problems can be overcome with the right education and support and the benefits breast feeding bring to you and your baby make it worth persevering with.
It's widely accepted that breast milk is best for your baby. However, breast feeding may not necessarily come as naturally as some mums hope it will. This is normal and difficulties commonly occur in the early days when trying to establish breast feeding. Breast feeding is considered a learned skill that takes practice to develop. It's not something that you or your baby will necessarily instinctively know how to do but rather something you both learn to do.
Don't be disappointed if you find things difficult or uncomfortable at first. With the commitment to breast feed, an understanding of correct technique and some practice, you'll find that things get easier, which usually happens for most women within the first couple of weeks of initiating breast feeding. Be prepared, because if you've never breast fed before it may feel uncomfortable or unusual at first, even with a baby that is properly latched. It's a new experience and a lot of new mums will report it feeling like a "tugging" or "pressure" on your breast - a sensation that can have some mums feeling rather doubtful or be perceived as 'pain'. You quickly adjust to this new sensation and it no longer feels this way soon after you start. Pinching, stabbing, or sharp pains may be a sign of an improper latch in which case a baby must be unlatched to try again or else damage to the nipple can result.
There are various positions to breast feed your baby. For any questions or reassurance on breast feeding please call our team of experts on 1800 438 500.
If you're finding feeding uncomfortable it is important to establish the reason why. Painful feeding could be caused by your baby not latching on properly - changing positions and seeking support with your technique may help. Slip your clean finger between the nipple and their mouth to gently dislodge them and move them away from your breast and try to position them again. There may also be some medical or mechanical reasons behind uncomfortable breast feeding so do talk about it with your healthcare professional and seek a proper assessment. Lactation consultants are experts in breast feeding and offer support services. There are also many breast feeding support organizations that can offer assistance. Most breast feeding problems can be overcome with the right information and support.
If you're encountering any problems with breast feeding or you're worried your baby isn't feeding as well as they should be, speak to your midwife or healthcare professional. Most problems can be overcome and breast feeding is worth persevering with. You can also call our expert team of experienced feeding advisors or midwife on 1800 438 500, who'll do their best to help.
If you're breast feeding, your baby gets all of their nourishment from you, so it's important to maintain the healthy eating habits you developed during pregnancy. Motherhood can be demanding and tiring, especially during the early days, so eating the right foods will provide you with much needed energy and nutrients.
Looking after yourself is as important as looking after your baby. Making time to eat healthy, energy and nutrient-filled meals will help maintain your energy requirements while minimizing the need for your own body to draw on your reserves to meet baby's nutritional needs. Inadequate intake of nutrients or energy may mean your body needs to rely heavily on its reserves which can eventually deplete them leaving you and your milk supply unable to meet the demands of caring for a new baby.
Eating a variety and balance of foods is essential for well-being, may help keep you sustained longer and provide you with the nutrients your body needs.
Many mothers will report feeling hungry as part of the demands brought on by breast feeding which is normal considering the continual demands of producing breast milk. Eating small meals with nutritious snacks in between may be a good way to address the extra energy needed for breast feeding.
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating has been developed for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and is based on research in nutrition. The Guide provides information about the amounts and kinds of food that adults need to eat each day to get enough of the nutrients essential for good health and well-being. View the Australian guide to healthy eating for adults.
If you're breast feeding, all the energy your baby needs will come from you, which means you'll need more energy than usual. While some of this energy will come from the fat stores you lay down during pregnancy, the rest should come from your diet.
As a general guide, women who are breast feeding will require an additional 2000-2100kJ per day, assuming an infant is fully breast fed for the first 6 months and partial breast feeding thereafter. The energy requirements will vary depending on your individual weight and how much fat has been stored in pregnancy, your individual metabolism, how much you are breast feeding, and how physically active you are.
Whilst breast feeding, it's important to make sure you're drinking plenty of water. You'll need about 2.6 litres a day (about 9 glasses of water or other fluids) to maintain your own hydration and equally, it's essential to the production of breast milk, given breast milk is mostly composed of water. You might find you feel quite thirsty while nursing so drink whenever you feel the need. Many mums find getting a glass of water for themselves before sitting to breast feed or keeping a large bottle of water handy can help. An indication that you're not getting enough fluids is if your urine seems dark or has a stronger smell than normal. Urine should be clear to pale yellow. Remember, water is the best choice but milk and unsweetened fruit juice are also good options for keeping you hydrated.
It's advisable to avoid alcohol when you're breast feeding as it can pass from your blood into your breast milk and on to your breast feeding baby. Although you can still enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, keep an eye on your caffeine intake as too much may cause over-stimulation in your baby. Some women report that certain strong flavoured or spicy foods upset their babies.
If your baby is unsettled after a feed, cries a lot, or has difficulty sleeping it may be helpful to make a note of what you're eating and drinking and see if you can find a trigger. It is also important to ensure that proper attachment and milk transfer is occurring as sometimes a baby may "seem" latched but isn't removing milk effectively.
If you pinpoint a particular food that you think may be upsetting your baby, try avoiding it for a couple weeks and see if things improve. And if you have a specific concern, speak to your health care professional. Keep in mind that babies are unsettled for a lot of reasons and some studies have shown that women will perceive this as attributable to their milk or their milk supply when in reality it is not. If you have concerns about your milk supply not being adequate or having an adverse effect on your infant then contact your health care professional first before giving up on breast feeding.
If there's anything you're unsure of regarding breast feeding or your diet at this stage, call the team for expert advice on 1800 438 500.
During the first few weeks you're advised to feed your baby according to their early feeding cues rather than try to introduce a feeding routine. Your baby is your best guide - they'll let you know how much they need. Try to pay attention to your baby rather than the clock when feeding and you may soon begin to notice a pattern emerging. Feeding on demand means feeding to your baby's hunger cues and not feeding a baby each time they cry. Babies will cry for many reasons aside from hunger, so it's important to learn your baby's individual cues.
Early feeding cues can include: stirring or body wriggling, head bobbing or turning the head or cheek to one side, turning the head side to side, tongue-darting, eye-darting, "star fish hands", and hands up to the face or mouth. Late hunger cues may be crying and grizzling. It is better to feed your baby on their early cues, especially when they are newborns, which will often be shortly after waking, because they are most active and receptive at this time to feed.
The duration of feeds will vary during the day with a short feed lasting 5-10 minutes and a long feed lasting up to 45 minutes or more. Sometimes babies want a long feed to satiate hunger and other times a shorter feed for thirst. Duration of feeds will shorten as babies grow and become more efficient at removing milk from the breast.
Your composition of milk changes during the day, which may make some babies want to nurse more frequently or longer at a certain time. Breast fed babies will also "cluster feed" sometimes, which means feeding in close sequences at a certain time of day. This is not reflective of a "low supply" but rather the way new babies influence your milk production, and get their nutritional needs met. They will also want to feed more frequently or exhibit cluster feeding patterns for a growth spurt which can happen at any time, but commonly occur around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 and 9 months. They usually last for 2-3 days but may last up to a week or so at other times.
However, it's worth remembering that any pattern may prove to be short-lived. As your baby goes through varying growth spurts, and continual developmental changes occur, their appetite and consequently their feeding habits will change. But the more you feed, the more milk you'll continue to produce, and you'll find your body automatically works on a supply-and-demand basis adapting to their needs.
A good sign your baby is getting enough milk is if they're alert. If you're at all worried speak to your health care professional, or give one of our expert team of advisors and experienced mums a call on 1800 438 500.
breast feeding can be tricky to get the hang of, but experts agree that the benefits make it worth persevering with. Not only does breast milk provide your child with essential nutrients and immunity components, but it can help you to regain your pre-pregnancy shape. And once you get the hang of it, it's often the most convenient option as it requires no bottles or equipment.
There's lots of support available for mums who are finding breast feeding difficult; your midwife or other health care professional is usually the best person to speak to or speak to one of our feeding advisors on 1800 438 500.
Your baby is unique and they'll let you know when they need feeding. Some days this might be very frequent during the day and night, and other days it might be less often. As a rule of thumb, most new babies feed around 8 times a day - some will feed more often.
Your baby's weight gain is a good indicator of whether they're getting enough milk so weekly checks are important. Other healthy signs include regular wet nappies and a good colour to the skin which bounces back when gently pinched, showing they are well hydrated. Talk with your health care professional about the signs to look out for to ensure your baby is getting sufficient milk.
It can take a while for both you and your baby to get used to feeding, but if you feel that your milk supply is not satisfying your baby in the early days, seek advice from your health care professional.
Sore nipples from breast feeding are usually due to your baby not latching on properly or being in the wrong position. Make sure your baby's mouth is wide open and they are sucking on your breast rather than just the end of your nipple. You can also try lying down to feed or experiment with other positions that could make it easier for you. Read our article on How to breast feed for more information on proper attachment.
Up to 70 hours after birth, it's common for your breasts to become full and swollen. This is due to your body producing an abundance of milk and increased blood flow to the area.
If possible, continue to feed frequently as this will help your body adjust to your baby's needs and it may also prevent your breasts from becoming engorged.
When your breasts are full of milk, it's not unusual for them to overflow and leak. It can also happen unexpectedly when your body's letdown reflex is triggered by a baby's cry, whether yours or someone else's. It's most common during your first few weeks of breast feeding, while your body adapts to your baby's feeding routine.
There's no way of controlling leaks, but here are some tips that you may find helpful:
If you feel unwell or notice pain while feeding or in between feeds, or any redness, or inflammation of your breasts consult your health care professional straight away to have these symptoms further investigated. It is advisable to continue to breast feed your baby.
Remember, it can take several weeks to feel comfortable with breast feeding and you might need to give it time. No-one expects you or your baby to be an expert straight away, so don't be afraid to ask your health care professional, our Advisory team or other mothers and friends for advice if you need it. You can reach the advisors on 1800 438 500 or via email.
Generally, a well-fed baby will let go of your breast and stop feeding when they've had enough. It is not typically advised to restrict their time or frequency to the breast as this can affect your overall supply and may impact on their growth. The time that babies spend on the breast will vary with each feed.
New babies may lose up to 10% of their birth weight but should be back up to their birth weight around the first 7-10 days of life. A "sleepy" baby may need to be woken every 2-3 hours during the day and 4 hourly at night in order to establish your milk supply. This type of feeding plan is best discussed with your health care provider as the "sleepiness" would need to be properly assessed.
breast feeding however is not always as straight-forward as this, especially if you and your baby are new to breast feeding.
Babies should be weighed by day 5 and again at day 10 to assess their weight gain. It is considered normal for a healthy full term baby to lose up to 10% of its birth weight in the first few days but they should be back up to their birth weight within 7-10 days. Weighing a baby can be one of a few important indicators of how well milk is being transferred and absorbed by a baby.
The range or weight and size of newborns will vary considerably but most healthy full term babies weigh between 2.7 and 4kg (6-9lbs) and their length from 48 to 53cm. A number of factors will affect a baby's size including: gender, birth order, genetics, maternal health, nutrition status, gestational age at birth and baby's health. During the first month most newborns will gain on average 140-170 grams per week and grow around 2.5 - 4 cm. Babies are measured along a growth chart where it is expected they will follow their growth "curve" to ensure they are meeting all their energy requirements for growth and development in the first year of life.
While weight can be an important tool to assess whether a baby is getting enough nutrition from breast milk, there are other factors to consider and here are some common signs that a baby is well fed:
If your newborn baby isn't getting enough milk you may notice:
If you are worried your baby is not getting enough milk, try feeding them more regularly and holding them close to you at times other than feeding time; this will give them the chance to move towards your breasts as and when they feel hungry.
Talk with your health care professional straight away about your concerns and have your baby properly assessed by a medical practitioner.
Some mums find that their baby is still hungry even when they're being fed more regularly. If this happens speak to your midwife. You can also call our feeding advisors on 1800 438 500, Monday to Friday, who will try to help you work out the reason why.
If your baby is approaching six months, they may be ready to start complementary feeding. Most babies are not ready until around six months and mums are advised not to introduce solids any earlier than four months.
Our advisors have a wealth of knowledge to share about all aspects of breast feeding. So if there's something on your mind call them on 1800 438 500 or email them.
If you are returning to work or will be away from your baby during breast feeds, expressing your milk means you can continue to give them all the benefits of breast milk even if you are absent. It can also enable your partner or other family members to give you a hand in feeding your baby. If you need to express breast milk or prefer to have some breast milk stored for emergencies then there are several techniques you can use to help encourage your 'let-down' while expressing.
Expressing breast milk can be done either by hand, with a manual pump or with an electric pump. All of these techniques will work but the amount of milk expressed may vary due to a number of factors. These factors can include:
Many women report difficulties using pumps and it can be difficult for some women to express off a sufficient quantity of milk. This is not necessarily reflective of an insufficient supply (and most times isn't at all), but rather as a result of the inherent difficulties of the techniques used and because many women's let down reflex is impaired during expressing.
Hand expressing can be a very fast, safe, cheap and effective way to express milk. Some mothers may also find their let-down reflex is more effective with hand expressing compared with a breast pump. This is because some experts feel your fingers may be better to mimic the action of a breast feeding baby than some commercial pumps.
Our team of experts can support and reassure you with hand expressing so call us on 1800 438 500.
Breast pumps can be either manual or electric and you can usually rent or purchase them. Manual pumps are non-electric and the pumping action is done by hand. Electric pumps will facilitate this action and may run either on battery or from a power point (or both). The breast ideally is massaged or stimulated to start the milk flow before applying the pump; this may reduce the amount of time pumping before milk flow starts (which can be several minutes of discomfort for some women). There are also electric hospital grade pumps available for women who may need to be expressing a lot or for an extended period of time. These can be rented usually from a hospital, pharmacy or some private lactation consultants. There are a lot of pumps on the market that may not be suitable for you or work very well. If a breast pump is not effective or fitted properly then breast milk supply can be reduced and may also damage the nipples.
More information about breast pumps can be found through your Health Care Professional or a lactation consultant. You can also call our team of experts for more help.
Your let-down reflex is a conditioned reflex that ejects milk from your alveoli (where milk is stored after being secreted from the milk producing cell) to the sinuses of the breast and the nipple. It also stimulates the pituitary gland to increase the secretion of prolactin and oxytocin which help to produce milk.
Your let-down reflex needs to release in order for milk to move to the nipple and be removed. Here are a few tips in helping to facilitate this conditioned reflex:
It is important to remove breast milk regularly and frequently from the breasts to maintain supply. The amount of expressing required will depend on the baby's age, frequency of feeding and the volume needed to maintain growth.
While milk production is establishing in the first 6 weeks of an infant's life, regular removal of milk from the breast is recommended. Because breast fed babies will typically feed between 8-11 times in a 24 hour period in the first 6 weeks, it is advised to mimic this pattern when establishing milk supply. Usually the frequency of milk removal needed will lessen as a breast fed baby gets bigger and begins to space their feeds.
As a baby grows or if a baby is mixed feeding the number of times needed to express may be less. It is better to express after or around an hour after a breast feed so more milk will be produced for the next feed, or close to when you would normally be breast feeding if you are absent. The amounts you express are dependent on numerous factors which include: type and fit of equipment used, your individual storage capacity, frequency of feeding, when you express, and how many let-downs occur while expressing. Talk with your health care professional to ensure you are expressing properly as expressing improperly can affect your milk supply or contact our team of experts for more information and support.
Ensure hand hygiene before expressing breast milk. Once milk is expressed it can be stored in an appropriate container with an air tight lid. The container should have the date and time of collection and the oldest stored milk should always be used first. Milk that is fresh or refrigerated is preferable to frozen because it retains more beneficial properties. Store milk in small portion sizes of between 100-300mL to avoid wastage.
Containers and feeding equipment need to be washed in hot soapy water and then rinsed prior to being sterilized Follow the manufacturers' instructions on sterilizing and cleaning equipment carefully.
Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia NHMRC April 2003
Frozen breast milk can be thawed by placing in the refrigerator or placing in a container with warm water until thawed. Expressed breast milk should not be placed in a microwave oven because this can destroy some of the immunological properties of the milk alongside causing uneven displacement of heat and the risk of scalding.
If you have any questions about expressing your milk our team are here to help; give them a call on 1800 438 500 or email us.