Breastmilk is a perfect, complete food for your little one, easily digested and absorbed. But establishing a successful breastfeeding routine can be tricky to start with. We look at some of the most commonly-asked questions, and offer answers to help you make the most of feeding your baby.
Q How do I get my baby to latch on?
A Having a good latch is the secret to successful breastfeeding. To help your baby latch on correctly, make sure she is tummy-to-tummy with you, and chin-to-chin. Use one hand to cup your breast and offer it to your baby. Your baby should open her mouth wide enough to take a good portion of the areola (the dark circle around the nipple) into her mouth. As she does so, pull her closer to your breast. She should have her lips flared around it. Good signs that she's feeding correctly are her jaw moving and audible swallowing.
Q How often should I feed my baby?
A Newborn babies have tiny tummies and can't take in much milk at any one time - so you may feel as though you're doing nothing but feeding in the early days! Six to eight feeds a day is perfectly normal. As your baby grows, she'll get more efficient at emptying your breast and will be able to take more milk, and as a result, she'll go longer between feeds.
Q What if my breasts hurt?
A Lots of mums experience sore nipples when they first breastfeed, but they will harden up over the next few days and weeks. An incorrect latch is the most common reason for sore nipples, so don't be afraid to take your baby off the breast and try again. Using a nipple cream after each feed may help, as will exposing your nipples to the air. If one or both of your breasts feel hot and tender, look inflamed and red and you generally feel under the weather, you may have mastitis. It's not usually serious, but visit your GP, who can advise on treatment that will help you feel more comfortable.
Q How do I know if my baby has had enough?
A Feel your breast after your baby has fed from it. Is it soft? If so, then she's taken the milk from it. If she's content after her feed, she's probably full up. Yellowy-mustard stools are also a good sign, as are six to eight wet nappies in 24 hours.
Q Am I allowed to breastfeed in public?
A Yes, you are - it's against the law to prevent a mum from breastfeeding her baby in public. You may feel more comfortable wearing a specially designed nursing bra that undoes easily at the front, and a top that enables you to tuck your baby underneath. A shawl or pashmina may also help you feel less self-conscious.
Q I've been feeding my baby for three weeks, but by nipples have become sore and cracked What am I doing wrong?
A Your baby may be latching on in the wrong position. Try bringing him to the breast so your nipple is at the top of his mouth and his chin is as far as possible from the nipple stem while still getting the nipple into his mouth. Don't let him suck on the end of your nipple. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, so if things don't improve, speak to your midwife or health visitor for help.
Q I'm worried that my daughter isn't getting enough breastmilk
A You should be able to spot the signs of successful breastfeeding. Listen for sounds of swallowing and look for milk in the corner of her mouth. Feel your breast after she's fed on it, is it soft? If so then she's taken the milk from it. Most breastfed babies lose weight initially but are normally back up to their birth weight by day 10. If you're still worried speak to your health visitor.