Breastfeeding: Getting Started

Breastfeeding: Getting Started


Breastfeeding gives the baby the best start in life. It is a wonderful way to deepen the bond between the mother and the baby.

When the expecting mother arrives at the hospital before delivery, she should inform the staff that she plans to breastfeed the baby soon after delivery. It’s important that the staff and the nurse are aware of and aid in the process of breastfeeding.

When To Start Breastfeeding?

Doctors advise mothers to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby after delivery. That is because it has been observed that the baby tends to feed for a longer period of time if this is done. Nursing in the first hour of life is important because the baby is most alert and able to imprint the unique suckling movement necessary for successful breastfeeding. After the very first feed, the baby tends to sleep for a long period of time. Breastfeeding can take some time to be fully established, therefore, it’s important to seek help from a trusted healthcare professional.

Where To Make A Start?

The mother’s comfort comes first! The mother should support herself with cushions and wear comfortable clothing with a button or clip fastening.

How To Hold The Baby And How To Establish A Good Latch?

Hold the baby in such a manner that baby’s whole body is faced towards the mother’s chest and the lips, nose, and chin are closer to the nipple, from which the baby is to be fed. Offer the nipple and place the baby’s nose closer to the nipple. Once the baby opens a wide mouth bring it closer so that that the nipple and the areola (the dark area around the nipple) is covered by the mouth as much as possible. Remember, the baby should be drawn towards the nipple and not vice versa. The mother can support the breast by one hand. There are no hard and fast rules; the mother and the child can work around their comfort. Looking for signs of a correct latch on? Read our list:

  • Chin and nose should be touching the nipple but shouldn’t be pressed against it.
  • The areola area should be visible.
  • The bottom lips should be curled down and the tongue should be under the nipples.
  • The mother should be able to hear the swallowing sounds.
  • The mother might sense the letdown reflex as the milk is pushed towards the nipple. If not latched on, the baby may not feed well so gently break the latch with the finger and reposition.

How Does The Mother Know That The Latch On Is Incorrect?

The mother can gauge this if she has pain and soreness or bleeding of the nipples. Babies who latch on in the wrong way tend to fall asleep at the breast, or often may not seem satisfied because of getting insufficient milk.

How To Heal Nipple Soreness?

If the nipples are cracked or bleeding, the mother can use a hydrogel pad to keep the nipples from sticking to the bra and causing more pain. Breast milk has natural healing emollients so the soreness goes away once the latching on is corrected.

Painful Engorgement Of The Breasts

This is a common problem faced by mothers. The breasts get hard and painful because they are full of milk. This usually happens during the first week because the mother’s milk supply is still adjusting to the baby’s need to feed. Engorgement also happens when the mother does not pump for an extended period of time. Breastfeeding via a pump or hand expression as soon as possible can curb this problem.

Is The Baby Getting Enough Milk?

Once the baby is latched onto the breast, it usually takes four to five sucks, followed by a period of pause of 5-10 seconds. Once the flow of the milk increases, the pattern and number of sucks will change to four sucks followed by a pause of more than 10 seconds.

The Foremilk And The Hindmilk

The foremilk comes at the start of the feed and has a watery consistency to quench the baby’s thirst and has lower fat content; the hindmilk comes at the end of the feed and is creamier and has a higher fat content. There is no clear distinction between both the milks, as the change is gradual.

The Frequency Of Nursing/Breastfeeding

In the first 24 hours, after the first feed, babies generally tend to sleep without being bothered about being fed. But it is advised to feed the baby at least 8 times. On the second day and onward, it is expected that the baby will require feed after every 1.5 to 3 hours for a total of 8 to 12 breastfeedings over 24 hours.

The baby generally suckles for at least 10 minutes and may continue for about 30 minutes on the first breast before letting go without any help from the mother. However, the length of the feed may vary. It’s best to be guided by the baby. Feed the baby fully from one breast and if the baby is still hungry, offer the other breast. Motherly instincts are important to know when the baby needs a feed, like if it becomes active and puts its hand in the mouth.

Nutrition Advice For A Breastfeeding Woman

Breast milk naturally contains a tailored blend of nutrients. To optimize the value of the breast milk, the mother should keep herself hydrated and eat healthily. An adequate amount of proteins, calcium, vitamin C and iron should be included in the diet. She should limit high-caffeine foods and beverages to up to only 8 ounces a day. Avoid spicy foods as the baby’s stomach is delicate. Alcohol, cigarettes and over the counter drugs without any prescription from a consultant are also a complete no-no.