Topic of the Week

The Early Days of Breastfeeding

by Cuidiú

The best possible start to breastfeeding is achieved by skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby soon after the birth. This also helps you to establish a closer bond with your baby. If for some reason you were not able to experience skin-to-skin contact at birth then it is possible and very enjoyable to make up for this by cuddling as much as possible in the early days. You, or the baby’s Dad, can hold the baby on your/his bare chest. For maximum skin-to-skin contact your baby can be almost naked, maybe wearing just a nappy. Make sure to keep baby warm by covering with a blanket, or position your baby inside your clothing.

Some mothers experience some nipple tenderness during the first few days of breastfeeding. This is normal and should pass quite quickly as you are learning how to breastfeed. In the meantime, a number of the following ideas may help: Always make sure that your baby is positioned correctly at the breast. After the initial latching-on, breastfeeding should not hurt as the feed progresses. If it does, gently remove your baby from the breast by placing your little finger inside the corner of his mouth to break the suction. Carefully reposition your baby making sure that he opens his mouth wide before he 'latches-on'.

When a feed is finished, gently rub some expressed breast milk on your nipple and surrounding area. Let your nipple dry naturally. Breast milk contains natural healing properties and your breasts require no other creams or sprays. If the tenderness persists, seek help from your midwife, public health nurse, GP or local Cuidiú breastfeeding counsellor (www.cuidiu-ict.ie)

How to get a good start

Fullness or engorgement can be a common feature in the early days of breastfeeding, although not all women experience it. It can occur when your mature milk starts to come in at about day three or four (day 5-6 after a Caesarean birth). With engorgement, the breasts can be hot, hard, tender, and feel very full. This fullness and tenderness is caused by the extra blood supply to the breasts, which is needed for mature milk production. The baby often finds it difficult to 'latch-on' to the engorged breast. If so, it is helpful to hand express some milk before attempting to put your baby to the breast. Other comfort measures you can use include: warm flannels applied to the breast; splashing warm water on the breast; bathing and showering. Engorgement lessens after a few days and is usually gone by the end of the week. For most women, engorgement is a temporary inconvenience. When it subsides you may notice your breasts become softer. Be reassured that this softening of the breasts signals that a balance has been achieved between supply and demand. It is not an indication that you don’t have enough milk for your baby. By continuing to feed your baby frequently, you will produce all the milk your baby needs. If you are having any difficulty, contact your midwife, public health nurse or nearest Cuidiú Breastfeeding Counsellor (www.cuidiu-ict.ie)

28 May 2011