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Dr Duncan

What you need to know about breast feeding

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In the last 100 years we have moved from having babies at home, to having them in hospital, and when it comes to breast feeding we have moved from family and friends helping out, to experienced Midwives and Lactation Consultants. This may not be much to the liking of those with a hint of nostalgia for the “good old days”, but there is no doubt that this has been to the tremendous advantage for both mother and infant!

First a refresher course of the benefits of breast-feeding:

  • Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients for baby
  • It’s easier to digest and comes freshly packaged each hour of every day!
  • In the early days it contains special antibodies that will help protect your baby from infections.
  • There is no need to sterilise bottles and teats.
But despite the fact that it is so “natural”, reading about breast-feeding is one thing, actually having to do it yourself can be something completely different, and if you just get one message from this article, that message is if you’re having problems, ask for help.

The Australian Breast Feeding Association has an excellent website that gives plenty of great advice on how to get the best out of breast feeding, and they talk about the seven natural laws of breast-feeding:

The 7 natural laws of breast feeding

   1. Babies are hardwired to breastfeed
   2. Mother's body is the baby's natural habitat
   3. Better feel and flow happen at the comfort zone
   4. More breastfeeding at first means more milk later
   5. Every breastfeeding mum and baby have their own rhythm
   6. More milk out means more milk made
   7. Children wean naturally

One of the keys to successful breast feeding is for Mum to be as comfortable as possible: if she is tense or anxious or not in a position that is comfortable for her, this will be picked up by your babe who will also start to get “grumpy”, and that’s when things can start to go pear-shaped! So here are some more useful hits from the ABA;

Steps to attaching your baby

  • Sit or lie comfortably with your back and feet supported.
  • Have your clothing open as much as possible for the first feeds; it may also help to remove your bra or even your upper clothing.
  • Unwrap your baby and hold him close, with his head and shoulders supported along your forearm. He will be on your forearm with his head supported at the back of his neck. Turn him onto his side with his chest towards you, head tilted slightly back, at the same level as your breast and his nose and mouth level with your nipple. If you are sitting, tuck his feet around your side and his lower arm around your waist.
  • Gently brush your baby's mouth with the underside of your nipple. This will encourage your baby to open his mouth wide. You may find holding your breast similar to a sandwich allows him to take more of your areola in, and makes it easier for him to attach. When your baby opens his mouth wide and his tongue comes forward over his lower gums bring him quickly to the breast with your nipple pointing to the roof of his mouth. His first point of contact will be his lower jaw or chin well down on your areola.
  • As his mouth closes over the breast he should take in a large portion of the areola.
  • If you are engorged, expressing around the areola can soften it, allowing him to attach more easily.

To check that baby is attached properly, look for these signs:

  • Chin is touching the breast and nose is clear.
  • Lips are flanged out, not sucked in.
  • Tongue is forward over the lower gum (may be difficult to see at first).
  • Your baby has much of the areola in his mouth, more so on the 'chin side'. There is no serious pain in the nipple (new mums may feel a tingling sensation as the nipple adjusts to being drawn out).
  • You may notice your baby's whole jaw moving as he sucks and even his ears wiggling. He should not be sucking in air or slipping off the breast.
For the first few weeks most babes will want to feed every couple of hours, 24 hours a day! Let them feed on one breast for 15 to 20 minutes and then “posture” them to bring up any wind, especially if they’re a “guzzler”. After that, try the second breast and if they’re still hungry they will latch on. If not then when the next feed time arrives, start with the full breast – if it’s a bit full, then express the milk from the areola area so that babe can get it in their mouth.

Try and keep your nipples dry between feeds to reduce the chances of infection getting into cracked nipples. All this means is replacing breast pads once you feel them getting damp. And soothers/dummies/pacifiers are generally not recommended until your babe is at least one month old and breast-feeding is well established.

Breast-feeding is very tiring; so don’t expect to feel full of vim and vigour whilst feeding two people from your one body. If you can, sleep when your baby sleeps but if you’ve got other children, then accept every offer of help that you can, and convince your “other half” that they need to be on a roster system at night to care for the non breast-feeding children!

Reference: Australian Breast Feeding Association

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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