Breastfeeding your baby often takes time and practice, and for many new mums it can be a frustrating experience.
Katie James, education manager at Medela, says breastfeeding is often about trusting your instincts. "In the first couple of days/weeks you will probably be counting the number of feeds each day and possibly watching the clock too!
But as you move into the next few weeks and the second month you will find that it’s best to just watch your baby," she says. "Put down your phone and become in tune with your baby; they will tell you what they need. As time goes on you both will relax into a comfortable pattern, led by your baby’s needs.”
Katie also says not to worry about what other mums and bubs are doing. "We are all different and so are each of our feeding patterns. As long as your baby is gaining weight well, is content (most of the time!) and is keeping you constantly busy changing nappies, then you can be confident that you are doing really well."
The following advice will help you relax when it comes to feeding your baby... before you know it you'll be an expert at it!
1. Tickle your baby’s ear to keep them awake
There’s a sleep-inducing substance in your milk called tryptophan, which means that your breastfeeding baby is likely to start snoozing on the job.
This is often more noticeable during evening feeds, as your breastmilk brings your baby’s circadian rhythm (their natural 24-hour pattern of behaviour) in sync with your own, stimulating bub earlier in the day and leaving them more relaxed towards night time. But nodding off can mean your little one doesn’t drink his fill.
To get your baby to drink more in one sitting to avoid an all-night sleep-snack-sleep cycle, wake them gently when he nods off at your nipple. Try tickling the foot and ear to see which works best to keep your baby awake. If they still look sleepy, try using a different hold, or stop midway through a feed to wind them and change the nappy.
Switching him temporarily to the other boob, with its faster flow, then back, can also keep your newborn busy suckling to make sure they've had enough before settling to sleep.
2. Their nappies tell you if they're drinking well
The colour and texture of your baby’s poos will tell you a lot about how they're digesting his milk. From the dark and sticky meconium produced for the first few days after birth, their poo should turn a bright or mustard yellow. It may be softer or looser and contain grains of undigested milk fat – all perfectly normal.
Poo that’s lime green or frothy could indicate digestive troubles, perhaps because your baby is filling up on the high-lactose foremilk and not getting enough of the richer, creamier milk at the end of the feed. Checking their latch and making sure they finishes on one boob before offering the other should fix this, but ask your midwife or GP for advice if peculiar poo persists.
Monitoring the frequency of your baby’s poos will offer more clues about his milk intake. Expect at least two poos a day for the first six to eight weeks – less could indicate he’s not getting enough fluid.
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3. Your baby likes a varied menu
While your breastmilk is 88.1 per cent water (meaning hydration for mum is key), what you eat can flavour your breastmilk for up to eight hours.
Studies have shown that flavours pass from mum to baby, with scientists likening the process to a ‘brestaurant’ with a constantly changing menu.
So eat a varied diet, and let your little one enjoy his dining out!
For more need-to-know tips breastfeeding, pick up the current issue of Mother & Baby magazine, on sale now!
For more about the ins and outs of motherhood, LISTEN as host Claire Isaac quizzes Rhian Allen, the Founder and CEO of The Healthy Mummy, on 'How To Be a Mumpreneur' in the first episode of our ‘How To Be…’ podcast.