About Me

A first time mum blogging the journey.

Friday, 11 January 2013

A breastfeeding survival guide - Latching and let downs.

If you have arrived on this post then it's is probably because you are  having difficulty breastfeeding or have questions about it.  I have frequently trawled the internet looking for answers to whatever new hurdle breastfeeding has thrown at me.  Basically, it's not easy, some find it more natural than others and its forever changing with your baby.  Hopefully you will pick up a few tips from this post and find the experience as enjoyable as I have.

So you've had your baby.  Up until now your body has done all the work and suddenly you're faced with a hungry little creature crying for you.  In the first few days your baby does not require much food (they actually lose a little weight for the first few days), the milk produced is rich and creamy.  It is called colostrum and is the milk which is full of all the good stuff for your baby.  Your body will make it right away, so as soon as you're ready, try latching your baby, skin to skin.  Breastfeeding is not just for food, it's also about comfort.  Your baby seeks your breast because she is seeking you.  Smell and skin to skin contact are your baby's way of recognising you and feeling safe.  Suckling will give your baby a little colostrum and will also help your baby to sleep.  Often newborn babies will fall asleep while feeding, in fact this lasts until they are months old.  You soon begin to recognise the difference between feeding and suckling in their sleep, so if you are wanting to delatch your baby, gently pop a finger into her mouth and slide your breast away. I find Poppy was always quick to stir as soon as I moved her away from the breast so I recommend cuddling and rocking straight away to soothe and send your baby back to sleep.

Once you arrive home it is up to you to feed your baby however do not feel alone, midwives will be visiting promptly and there are plenty of breastfeeding groups to help and support your journey.  About three days after your baby is born your milk will come in.  This is the real stuff, the milk you will be feeding your baby with.  Try not to be alarmed by the size of your breasts when this happens!  Your milk will come in excess supply to begin with and your supply will settle down as you and  your baby become in sync.  Your body makes the exact amount of milk that your baby needs, the more she sucks the more you will make.  A lot of mums worry their baby is not getting enough milk or that their body isn't making enough milk, this is rare.  One of the best feelings I had as a new mum was when Poppy was weighed at two weeks old, there is something really satisfying knowing you have fed your baby and she is gaining weight well, I guess it feels like you have really done your job.  

So latching.  This is probably what gives most mums grief to begin with.  Everyone has trouble latching.  It is how you deal with it which determines whether you are going to be a 'natural' or not.  It takes a least two weeks for breastfeeding to become more comfortable and at least six weeks until it is properly established.  I was speaking to my mum recently and apparently she was telling a friend how easy I had found breastfeeding and how it wasn't painful or difficult for me.  I told her this was not the case!  I hadn't panicked about it as I knew it being difficult was only temporary and I had suspected it would be as tricky as it was.  She was surprised as I hadn't mentioned once that it was painful.  It really tests you at the beginning, after being exhausted from birth you are straight away faced with the pain of breastfeeding.  Once your baby starts latching properly you sore nipples really are a thing of the past and your baby will have longer feeds without pulling on and off. I think the most important thing to remember if you are struggling with latching is that both you and you baby need to learn how to latch properly.  With time you baby will get it.  So put down all the pictures of the 'perfect' latch down and just go with it.  Also there is no wrong way to breastfeed. You do not need to be sat in a breastfeeding chair with a cushion.  Laying down feedings were my saviour after having a difficult birth as sitting in a chair was almost impossible. Try different positions and make sure your baby has a wide open mouth, if your baby closes her mouth before latching it can be very painful.  Finally relax. 

When you baby latches they will begin sucking, this stimulates a let-down which means milk comes gushing out.  All mothers have different let-downs, some faster than others.  You will feel a tingling sensation (similar to pins and needles) then you will notice  you baby swallowing, fast at first and then more rhythmic.  If your baby is choking and pulling on and off the breast you may have a fast let down.  I had this problem to begin with.  I would wait for Poppy to pull away hold a muslin to my breast and wait for the milk to settle down and then latch her again.  Breastfeed babies have to work harder for their milk than bottle fed babies which just flows out.  If you have an impatient baby try to feed them before they are too hungry.  Also try to relax this helps your milk come faster.   If you want to express or partially bottle feed your baby try to wait al least six weeks until breastfeeding is established because the may forget how to latch or simply become a little lazy and want milk more quickly from a bottle.  The same goes for dummies.  If you are planning to express milk there is some useful imformation here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/expressing-storing-breast-milk.aspx

So that's it for my first post on breastfeeding, the next post will have information on over supply, sore nipples and hind milk.  E-mail me or comment if you have any questions or tips.

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