Breastfeeding: ‘Am I doing it right?’

The right way to feed your baby is the one that works best for you and your child.

As we all know, babies don’t come with a how-to manual (if only) and new parents are often confronted with an overwhelming amount of unanswered questions and worries about caring for their newborns.

Breastfeeding is a huge area of concern for most new mums and dads. The National Childbirth Trust tell us they receive thousands of calls every year from worried parents, in real need of advice on breast and formula-feeding.

To mark World Breastfeeding Week (1-8 August 2018), NCT tutor and breastfeeding counsellor, Fran Bailey, answers some of the most commonly asked questions received by the charity’s helpline.

1. Am I holding my baby in the right position while breastfeeding?

When it comes to choosing the ‘correct’ position for breastfeeding, the most important thing is for mum and baby to be comfortable.

‘Initially many mums find it best to lie back, holding the baby very close, giving lots of skin- to-skin contact and allowing the baby to use his or her own reflexes to bobble about and find the breast,’ says Fran.

‘The “cross cradle” hold or “tummy to mummy” is another good way to start. Some women try the rugby ball hold with the baby tucked in to one side under an arm while, for those who have had a Caesarean birth and still have sore stitches, lying in bed to feed may work best.’

Fran added that all the close contact positions also work really well for mums who have decided to formula feed their babies as they cuddle them near their body while looking into their eyes.

2. How often should I breast or bottle feed my baby and how do I know if they’re hungry?

According to Fran, ‘New mums will soon start to recognise their babies’ feeding signs. Their hands will start to start waving about, legs will start moving, eyes will flicker, they will start to wriggle and they are likely to start chewing their fists, or dribbling. These are really good early feeding cues.

‘If you wait for them to start crying it is often a lot more difficult to feed so try to catch it early on and it will be a lot easier for everyone concerned!’

3. How long should a breastfeed last?

‘Feeding times will vary completely, from one day to the next and from one feed to another,’ says Fran. ‘Babies may just need a quick drink for a few moments or of course to feed for much longer.

4. How long does it take to express breast milk?

‘Women may express their breast milk when they want someone else to take over for just one feed, or if they’re returning to work,’ says Fran.

‘It is very easy for some women and very difficult for others.

‘It can be done with the hand or with a manual or electric breast pump, depending on how often you need to express. Some women find it easier to do it first thing in the morning when hormones have had a chance to recover overnight, while others may find they can encourage the milk to flow just by looking at a picture of their baby.’