Breastfeeding for the first time can feel overwhelming, so we’ve created a guide to help you understand the benefits of breastfeeding and how to breastfeed your baby.
It’s recommended that you feed your baby breast milk for the first six months of their life. The nourishment from your breast milk will help them grow and provide health benefits that could reach into adulthood.
After six months you can begin to try your baby on some soft, wholesome foods alongside your breast milk and continue to build on this until the age of two.
You can breastfeed for as long or little as you like, your breast milk production works on supply and demand so you will continue to produce for as long as your baby is nursing.
Benefits of breastfeeding
It’s completely your choice whether you want to breastfeed and you should never feel pressured into breastfeeding if it isn’t something you’re comfortable with.
You don’t need to decide how you’re going to feed your baby until they’re born, so you can try at the time and make a decision then.
Breastfeeding does benefit both mother and baby in several ways, and you may want to think about the benefits of breastfeeding before you make your decision.
It’s nourishing for your baby
Ultimately breast milk is created to be the best nourishment for your baby. It has all the right nutrients and nourishment, and will help protect them from infections and diseases.
Unfortunately formula milk doesn’t protect your baby from illness in the same way, or have the same long-term health benefits, while breast milk has been proven to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, vomiting, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Breast milk is constantly available and free!
Spoiler alert: babies are expensive, so you may want to take the free wins where you can get them. Even though breastfeeding can feel daunting at first, it’s incredibly helpful to have a constant supply of food on your chest for free vs carrying around sterilised bottles at a certain temperature for a price.
It helps with bonding
Breastfeeding is a big part of bonding with your baby and feeling maternal towards them. Many mums find breastfeeding difficult at first, but soon find that it gives them an unparalleled connection to their baby. This can be really helpful when your emotions are all over the place and you could be feeling overwhelmed by your new situation.
How to breastfeed
First ensure that you’re sitting comfortably with cushions around you to support your arms, back and shoulders which should be relaxed. Hold your baby close to you, supporting their head, neck and shoulders in a straight line. It will be difficult for your baby to feed if their body or neck is twisted.
Always bring your baby up towards your breast, don’t lean down towards them. Hold their nose in line with your nipple and encourage them to open their mouth by stroking their top lip. Wait until your baby’s mouth is open with their tongue down, they should take a large mouthful of your breast with your nipple towards the back of their mouth.
Once your baby has latched on and is feeding make sure to support their neck but not to hold the back of their head so that they can move their head away from the nipple once they are finished. Your baby should appear content and satisfied once they have fed and should be producing six wet nappies a day and two soft, yellow poos.
Time and place
Consider the practicalities of breastfeeding, thinking about where and when would be best to nurse your baby. Choose your spot carefully. Are you going to be able to sit quietly for the full feed? A comfy café is good; while a short trip on a busy bus will be stressful for you and therefore your baby.
A well-fitting nursing bra is essential. It’s designed to support your breasts and make it easy for you to feed your baby. You’ll probably need at least two or three bras; you’re constantly producing milk, so they’ll need to be washed frequently.
Look for adjustable straps and fastenings and fabric with give, high cotton content is best for comfort. An ill-fitting bra will be uncomfortable during breastfeeding, and can also interfere with your milk production by blocking ducts. Night-time nursing bras are lighter to wear, but instead of opening in the usual way for feeding, they tend to have a cross-over front design.
How to store breast milk
If you’re going to be away from your baby or your breasts are uncomfortably full you may want to express your breast milk and store it for later use. Expressing your breast milk can also really come in handy if your partner wants to help with feeding or your baby is having difficulty latching on.
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You can store breast milk in a sterilised container or in special breast milk storage bags. You can pop them in the fridge for up to five days at 4C or lower, for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge or for up to six months in a freezer.
Breast milk that’s been cooled in the fridge can be carried in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. Storing breast milk in small quantities will help to avoid waste. If you’re freezing it, make sure you label and date it first.