The basics of breastfeeding – top 10 questions for new parents
Avent brings you answers from experts to the most commonly asked questions about breastfeeding before you actually get started. These pointers will immensely help first-time mums.
Any new breastfeeding mum would probably have a million questions running through their minds as to whether they’re on the right track in their breastfeeding journey. There are many common breastfeeding questions every new mum would have thought about at least once.
We’ve picked out the top 10 most popular questions from new parents, answered by a panel of experts commissioned by Philips Avent. We hope you find some insights that can empower your parenting journey.
There are a few signs to tell if a baby is latching well during breastfeeding. A good latch is pain-free. You may feel a little pain when your baby takes their first suckle but it should subside. Another good sign that your baby has latched onto enough breast tissue is the fullness of their cheeks. You will not be able to see the base of your nipple, only the outer edge of your areola.
After a few suckles, you will generally hear a swallow. If the breastfeeding is going well, you should not be hearing any clicking sounds for air. Lastly, when your baby is correctly attached to the breast, the nipple should be round, or as it was before the feed. A flattened or pinched nipple is a sign that your little one has not taken enough breast into their mouth.
Being in physical contact with mum shortly after birth has many benefits for babies. Your touch will naturally soothe your baby, regulate their temperature and help form the beginnings of a strong bond. Mums who have skin-to-skin contact with their baby within the first 2 to 3 hours after birth are more likely to breastfeed after the first month. Skin-to-skin contact is a simple way to improve your baby’s emotional and psychological well-being.
After breastfeeding your baby for around 10 to 15 minutes, it is generally safe to let your baby sleep. If the new born baby is dozing off during a mid-feed, you can gently tickle your baby’s feet as a little bit of stimulation is enough to wake your baby from a snooze. You can also try to remove a layer of clothing and increase skin-to-skin contact. Babies are highly sensitive to touch; fewer layers or feeling your skin can encourage them to wake up.
There are several ways to tell if a baby is overheating. First, watch for signs of dampness and sweat. A baby who is overheating often has a damp neck or head. Second, their face will also appear redder than usual if your baby is too warm. Lastly, rapid breathing and an overly warm chest are signs that indicate that your baby is overheating.
Here are some basic guidelines on how long breast milk lasts:
- Refrigeration – up to 5 days at 4°C or lower
- Freezer (in fridge) – up to 2 weeks
- Freezer (separate compartment) – up to 6 months
- Room temperature – use within 4 hours
If you're expressing from day one, the milk you first express will be colostrum, a thick pre-milk your body produces before your actual milk arrives. It is so rich that your body does not need to actually make all that much to keep your baby feeling full. Just 0.2-0.7 oz. (5-20 ml) per feed is enough for the first few days. 2-4 days later your milk will come in and over the days that follow, you will find that you are able to progressively express more milk. The volume your baby drinks per feed will probably be more than you are able to express in a single session. Additionally, breasts tend to hold more milk in the morning. Morning expressing session consistently produces more milk than a lunch time or evening pump.
Research shows that the more relaxed you feel, the more milk you will be able to express. A breast pump triggers the release of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) in your body. Oxytocin then gives your body the signal to start releasing milk. The higher your oxytocin levels, the easier it will be to trigger a let-down and release your milk. Stress actually inhibits oxytocin production—which means it is harder to express milk. Comfort is a must-have for easier expressing of milk.
One of the most mysterious things about breastfeeding is that you’re working with an invisible supply. How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk? The frequency and length of feeds will vary from baby to baby and even day to day, so a more reliable way to monitor your baby’s health is to look for these signs:
- By around day 10-14, your baby has regained their birth weight
- Your baby has regular wet nappies
- Your baby continues to steadily gain weight as expected
- You have a happy and alert baby (most of the time!)
Your paediatrician will regularly monitor your baby’s weight and overall health for you. That said, if you’re worried about your baby’s weight or milk intake, don’t hesitate to contact your paediatrician before your scheduled check-up.
We’d love to tell you there’s a secret formula to producing lots of milk. The truth goes a little more like this.
Fuel your body with regular and nutritious meals comprising a mix of vegetables, proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re too tired to cook.
Being a mom is thirsty work and you’ll find you need to drink more water while breastfeeding. Drink to satisfy your thirst and leave a bottle of water next to the place you’re most likely to nurse.
Every time your baby takes milk from your breast, it sets off a trigger in your body to begin creating more. Nursing frequently – particularly in the first few weeks – and encouraging your baby to drain one breast before offering another will encourage your body to naturally shift into milk-making mode.
With every growth spurt, your little one will naturally want more milk. Growth spurts typically happen at around 2-3 days, 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks and 3, 4, 6 and 9 months. Feeding on demand will allow your body to adapt naturally to meet your baby’s increased appetite and support them through the growth spurt.
For more information, visit Philips Avent, the world’s leading mother and childcare brand.