When I first had my son and started breastfeeding, I was absolutely clueless! Naively, I was under the impression that it would be relatively easy. I hadn’t managed to get a space in the NHS Breastfeeding class, so I really was going in blind. I thought that it would be alright, my baby would know what to do. However, I couldn’t get him to latch on. I couldn’t tell if he was getting any milk, what was normal, and it was all incredibly stressful!
To help other first-time mums who want to breastfeed, I have to put together an Ultimate Guide Of Breastfeeding Advice For New Mums, including everything I wish I had known and everything I learned during my breastfeeding journey. And dads, make sure that you check out my post – Breastfeeding Advice For Dads – How To Support Mum And Bond With Baby for lots of advice!
Important – Obviously, I am NOT a medical health/breastfeeding expert. This post is based on my personal experiences of breastfeeding and everything that I learnt along the way. Always contact a medical professional for advice.
Liquid Gold Colostrum
For the first few days, before you start producing milk, you will produce colostrum. You may even begin to leak a small amount of colostrum shortly before giving birth; this is completely normal!
Some women like to harvest their colostrum before their baby is born. However, you do need to be careful. Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin, which can bring on labour, so do always check with your midwife before doing this if it is something that you would like to do.
Colostrum is also called Liquid Gold. This is because it is a yellowy-golden colour and thicker than regular milk. It is also absolutely FULL of amazing nutrients that not only help your baby to grow but also contains immune-boosting properties, helps prevent jaundice and is easy to digest! It’s the perfect first food!
Because colostrum is so thick and nutritious, your baby will only need a minimal amount.
I found latching to be so tricky at the start! Try to make sure that you and your baby are relaxed and comfortable. It’s important to have a good latch to ensure that baby is getting enough milk and not causing you any discomfort. With a bad latch, you risk blocked milk ducts and possibly also mastitis.
Some advice to help you get started:
Hold your baby close with their nose level with your nipple.
Let baby’s head tip back ever so slightly and brush their top lip against your nipple. This should prompt your baby to open their mouth nice and wide.
Baby’s chin should touch your breast first before you aim your nipple to the top of baby’s mouth. They should take in a large portion of your areola, not just the end of the nipple.
You can ask your midwife or Health Visitor to check the latch to ensure it’s right if you’re not sure. Make sure you check out the NHS Website for more information.
Finding a Feeding Schedule
You may be tempted to try and get into a feeding routine/schedule early on. This will not be possible in those early days. As your baby’s tummy is so tiny, you will find that you will constantly be feeding your little one. Those first few days, you will probably feel like you always have your boobs out!
It is possible, however, to get into a routine once breastfeeding is a bit more established. At first, it felt like my little one would feed erratically, but once I began tracking the feeds, I realised that there was actually a slight pattern. I would definitely recommend tracking feeding to any breastfeeding mum. It makes it so easy to see patterns and helps you to establish a routine later down the line.
At a few months old, my little one would want a feed around every 2 hours during the day. On average, he would feed between 15-20 minutes. As he got older, this increased to every 3 hours, and he would feed for 12 -15 minutes. This is because he became more efficient at breastfeeding, so he needed less time at the boob.
By understanding my little one’s schedule, it was easier to react to his needs and sometimes even anticipate them. If he wasn’t due a nap and didn’t need a nappy change, I knew that there would be a chance that he was hungry.
However, even when you find a schedule, be open and able to adapt. Your baby wants a feed an hour earlier than expected? That’s fine! Feed them. If you were thirsty, you wouldn’t look at the clock and think, ‘Right, well I can’t have a glass of water until 11am, so I’ll have to wait an hour’ would you?
Your milk is based on supply and demand. The more your baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. This is where cluster feeding comes in. Cluster feeding is where your baby will latch on and feed for hours at a time. Alternatively, they will do lots and lots of little feeds, all close together.
The point of cluster feeding is to increase your supply. Babies and boobies are very clever. By suckling at the nipple, they are sending a signal to your body to produce more milk.
Cluster feeding can be incredibly exhausting. You need to make sure that you are keeping yourself hydrated and well-fed so that you can continue to feed your little one.
If you start producing too much milk, you may find that your breasts become very full, tender and uncomfortable. You may find this happening more if your baby starts sleeping longer at night/as they start settling into a feeding routine/as they drop feeds when you begin weaning.
You may be tempted to pump off the milk that you have produced. However, only do this if you would like to continue to produce that milk at that time. As discussed above, your milk is produced via supply and demand. If you pump off the milk, your body will think that you still need it and continue to produce more milk.
To help ease your poor full breasts and avoid mastitis, you may want to pump off a small amount to make you more comfortable until your baby’s next feed.
How Do I Know How Much My Baby Is Drinking?
Unless you are pumping, there is no way of telling how much milk your baby is getting. I remember mums saying that their littles one drank 6 oz every 4 hours, and I was sat there, like ?? ‘Well, my baby had a boobfull about 2 hours ago?’
Is My Baby Over Eating?
Breastfeeding babies are smart. They will feed until they are full. If they have completely drained one breast and they are still not satisfied, move them over to the next breast and let them continue feeding. It is not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby as they will only feed until they are full.
Am I Producing Enough Milk?
If you feel like your baby is not satisfied after feeding from both breasts, you may be tempted to top up with formula. However, letting your baby continue to suckle at your breast is actually encouraging your breasts to produce more milk. By topping up with formula, your body thinks that it is producing enough milk and will not try and produce extra.
Is it also possible to increase your milk supply by pumping milk, however, it can seem confusing at first. This Ultimate Guide on how to pump more breast milk by Mom Loves Best covers everything that you need to know and takes all of the confusion out!
However, always check with your Health Visitor to see what they advise as they’ll take into consideration the babies weight and size etc.
Breastfeeding Isn’t Just For Food
I remember getting comments from some people when I was breastfeeding my little one, saying, ‘he can’t be hungry again?’ Babies don’t just feed because they are hungry. They might be;
- Want comfort
As you can see, there is a whole host of reasons. So if anybody says, ‘You’re feeding them again?’ you can tell them. Or tell them to mind their own business. Either/or.
Tongue-tie is where the strip of skin at the bottom of the tongue that connects to the bottom of the mouth is shorter than usual. For some babies, it doesn’t cause them any issues at all. However, it can restrict their tongue moment in some babies and make breastfeeding difficult and painful for mum.
You will need to speak with your Health Visitor if you believe that your baby has tongue-tie, and they can advise the next steps.
I had no idea what the let-down was when I first started breastfeeding. I remember feeding my little one after my milk came in, and my breasts began tingling, and it felt like I had pins and needles! It wasn’t painful, just odd. This is the let-down, and it’s just the milk flowing from the ducts to the nipple.
When To Pump
Did you know that it makes a difference when you pump? Milk produced during the day is different to milk produced at night. Night milk contains a particular hormone to help your baby sleep and milk procured in the morning helps wake your baby up.
Breast Milk Produces Antibodies
Did you know that your breastmilk is tailor-made to your baby? If your baby has a cold or is feeling unwell, your milk will adapt and change and produce antibodies to help protect your baby. It’s very technical, but basically, when feeding, saliva from your baby sends signals to the mum to produce the correct antibodies. If you were to pump the milk when these antibodies are being produced, it changes the colour of the milk to give it a slight blue tint.
And it works the other way too. If you feel a bit run down with a cold, your milk will produce the antibodies to help keep your baby protected. Awesome, right?!
I stole this next part from my post Boobs and Bottles – My Breastfeeding Journey as it fits in perfectly with this post:
- Breast pads – I would leak terribly from the other boob when I was feeding, so I definitely recommend getting some. You can get reusable ones if you don’t like the idea of disposable ones.
- Lansinoh cream – This stuff is absolutely incredible. It saved my nipples when I was breastfeeding, and it doesn’t need to be wiped off before you feed your little one. Bonus!
- Good Quality nursing bras – I had ones from Primark to begin with. Which were okay for a little while, but I started to find them uncomfortable. Also, you’re going to need two at the very, very least. Even with breast pads, milk gets everywhere, so you’re going to need to wash them all the time.
- Nipple Shields – Until your nips start to get used to feeding your little one, you will have very sore nipples. Even with no teeth, you’ll feel like little Piranhas are attacking your boobs rather than your little one. You may end up with cuts or splits. Ouch! Although nipple shields won’t stop the pain completely, they will definitely help.
- A comfy feeding pillow – Maybe even more than one. Settling down to feed Baby J downstairs only to realise that I left the pillow upstairs happened more than once. You think you’ll be okay to use your cushion from the sofa, but like I said….milk gets everywhere!
- Suitable feeding clothes – You don’t have to buy expensive ones! I found that wraparound tops or wearing a vest top with a t-shirt or jumper over the top did the job well – one goes up, the other does down, and you’re still covered.
When People Are Telling You To Stop
You may experience friends or family members telling you to stop breastfeeding. This is not up to anyone except you and your baby. If you are feeling well and your mental health isn’t suffering, then carry on breastfeeding. What business is it of theirs?
When Breastfeeding Becomes Too Difficult
I won’t lie to you; breastfeeding is hard work for the first few weeks. Your nipples will be sore, cracked and bleeding. Believe me; I’ve been there when your toes curl when baby latches on.
But it does get easier.
You just have to get over the hard bit. Then one day, everything will click into place, and it will be the most natural thing in the world, and you’ll forget all about the difficult bit.
If you really are struggling, or you find that your mental health is suffering, then stop. There is nothing wrong with moving onto formula. Your mental health and sanity are more important.
I hope you have found the above breastfeeding advice for new mums useful. I have tried to include everything that I learnt during my breastfeeding journey and everything I wish I had known when I started. Breastfeeding is a wonderful but sometimes challenging journey with many ups and downs.
Although this is a breastfeeding post, I would also like to say I disagree with the statement Breast is Best. At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you and your baby. Ensuring that you are both happy and healthy and that your baby is getting the nutrients they need is the most important thing.
The Breastfeeding Network – Helpline: 03001000212
La Leche League – Helpline: Numbers vary depending on area so check website for your local La Leche League Leader
NCT – Helpline: 03003300700