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Getting started with breastfeeding

It’s important that a mother who chooses to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported. She needs to be shown the correct way to breastfeed. This will help her to be more confident during feeding times, which makes her breastfeeding experience more positive. It also ensures that the breastfeeding meets the nutritional needs of the growing infant. The process of educating and supporting women should start antenatally. Planning ahead is important as new Mothers will be very busy as soon as the infant is born. Education and support for breastfeeding women should continue from the maternity unit to the community. There are many healthcare professionals and groups in the community who can support breastfeeding women, such as Public Health Nurses, Practice Nurses and General Practitioners, Lactation Consultants and Community breastfeeding support groups.

Healthcare professionals in the maternity unit should help mothers to initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of the birth of the infant. They should show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain breastfeeding. Providing a breastfeeding checklist is helpful to mothers so they know if breastfeeding is going well. It is essential that all breastfeeding mothers receives information on support groups for her area and contact details should they have any queries.

  • Correct positioning of infant is important with infants body facing the mother and the nipple in front of his/her mouth. Bring the infant to the breast and not breast to infant. Sitting up to breastfeed is usually more comfortable for the breastfeeding mother – sitting upright with good support for her arms, back and feet. Try different positions to find the one that suits you and baby best. A breastfeeding pillow can be a useful aid.
  • Demand feeding is normal and ensure a regular milk supply. Reassure mother by advising that it is normal for infants to feed frequently as they go through regular growth spurts when they require more energy and nutrients during this time.
  • Colostrum is available in small amounts in the first few days which is rich in nutrients and immunities. It is a thick, creamy fluid, that is rich in protein. Milk usually arrives on/after 3 days. The more the mother feeds, the more milk will be produced. Feeding 8-12 times a day is normal as breastmilk is digested rapidly. The first breast should be emptied before offering the second breast in order to get a balance of foremilk and hindmilk.
  • Avoid giving the infant any other drinks as it will interfere with the demand supply basis of milk production.
  • Break the suction before unlatching the infant from the breast by advising the mother to use her little finger in the corner of her infants mouth even if the infant is sleeping, as the nipple can be damaged. Using a lanolin cream after feeding is soothing for the mothers nipples.
  • Advise that the mother takes a record of the times she is breastfeeding and which breast, especially in the early weeks when milk supply is becoming established.
  • Making a note of wet and soiled nappies is a way of knowing if the infant is getting sufficient milk ie 6 or more wet and 3-4 soiled nappies in a 24 hour period is normal once the milk is established.
  • The infant should be winded and burped after feeding.
  • Breastmilk can be expressed and stored in either the fridge or freezer. This can help to ensure that infant can have breastmilk even when mother is apart (i.e. returns to work) and gives others the opportunity to feed the infant.1

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