The following is general information for you about breastfeeding. During pregnancy your midwife will be able to discuss most aspects of breastfeeding or may suggest you contact a Breastfeeding Support service for further assistance.
Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Your breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. It protects your baby against gastroenteritis, ear and chest infections, allergies and diabetes. Breastfeeding has also been shown to promote healthy weight in children. The W.H.O recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months and that breastfeeding continues for up to two years after other foods have been introduced.
Benefits of breastfeeding for mothers
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of bleeding after birth, helps you to return to your pre pregnant weight, and is convenient and free. Breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer and can help to prevent Type II diabetes in women with pregnancy related diabetes.
Risks associated with not breastfeeding
Your baby is more likely to get common infectious illnesses such as ear infections and respiratory illnesses. There is an increased risk of your baby developing allergic diseases such as asthma and eczema. There is an increased risk of SIDS especially combined with a parent smoking. Artificial formula is not a sterile product so your baby may develop tummy infections.
Importance of uninterrupted skin-to-skin after birth, feeding cues and the first breastfeed
Holding your baby skin to skin helps you to bond closely with your baby. This is linked to better breastfeeding success and longer BF duration. Skin to skin has been shown to reduce your risk of excessive bleeding after birth. After your baby is born your baby will begin to show signs of readiness to breastfeed such as licking, sucking, bringing their hand to mouth. These early days when you and your baby will practise good positioning and attachment. This helps to avoid nipple pain, ensures your baby receives enough milk. Most mothers having a caesarean are able to have their baby skin to skin in the operating theatre and/or in recovery.
Getting position and attachment right
It takes time for your baby and you to learn to breastfeed. In the first days after birth your breasts are producing colostrum which is the perfect nutrition for a healthy baby. Your breasts are soft at this stage but begin to feel full as the mature milk ‘comes in’. These early days are when you and your baby will learn together how to attach well to the breast. This helps avoid nipple pain and ensures your baby receives enough breastmilk.
Your baby needs to feed frequently in the early days to ensure you have a good milk supply. This should be at least 8 times (or more) in 24 hours while breastfeeding is being established. This is normal and will settle with time.
Rooming-in (keep your baby by your side)
The midwives will assist you to keep your baby in her cot by your bedside. Keeping baby with you helps you to see the cues that your baby displays when they are ready for a feed.
Using teats, dummies and complementary feeds
When baby is learning to breastfeed they can become confused if offered a teat or dummy before they have learned to breastfeed well. Offering fluids other than breastmilk to a healthy baby will decrease the time your baby breastfeeds and this will reduce your milk supply. Frequent, unrestricted breastfeeding will satisfy your baby and help you to build a milk supply that is just right for your baby.
Feeling comfortable and safe in the place you are having your baby can make your labour easier and this can make learning to breastfeed easier.
Chosen support person for birth
At HNE Health we encourage you to have the support person of your choice with you in labour. Women who are well supported in labour use less medical pain relief which can delay the establishment of breastfeeding.
Comfort measures for labour
There are many things you can do to make labour easier. Non-medical comfort measures can help to avoid medication in labour which may make it harder to establish breastfeeding. Staying active and moving in labour makes contractions more effective and can add to your comfort as can warm showers, warm packs, relaxing, position changes, music and any distraction techniques.
Support for Breastfeeding your baby when you go home