It's your baby who gets breastfeeding started - by having an appetite. It's as easy as that. All you need to do to start breastfeeding is put your baby on your breast. Well, almost.
The first breast milk: colostrum
Straight after birth, your baby wants the first thick milk, known as colostrum, which has accumulated in your breasts during pregnancy. Colostrum is fatty and highly nutritious, and contains antibodies that protect your baby from infection during the first months. Colostrum is only produced in tiny amounts, but because of its special composition it meets all your baby’s nutritional needs during the first few days after birth, until your milk really gets flowing.
Getting breastfeeding started
Put your newborn to your breast as soon as possible after birth. That’s how breastfeeding starts – by having baby at your breast as much as they want, and then some more. Your baby wants to stay close to you, snuggled against your skin. They recognise the sound of your heartbeat from inside your womb, and your embrace is warm and cosy like the womb. In your arms, your baby hears your familiar voice and gets the food they need. So it’s no wonder your breast is your baby’s favourite place to be.
Many mothers get very sore nipples during the first days and weeks of breastfeeding. This isn’t surprising: they’re being treated in a completely new way. You can prevent further painful complications like cracked nipples by making sure your baby latches on with the right sucking technique.
Obviously, it’s hard to know the right sucking technique if you’re a novice at all this. Ask your midwife or staff at the maternity ward for advice. Many hospitals have lactation consultants you can talk to or you can engage one privately. Get them to check whether your baby is positioned correctly at your breast. By getting help from your midwife, a lactation consultant and your partner, you stand the best chance of getting breastfeeding off to a smooth start.
You're sure to soon get the hang of it. Ironically, the greatest obstacle to successful breastfeeding is worrying too much about it. The shape and size of your breasts and nipples makes no difference. It can be reassuring to know that most women are capable of feeding their babies. The quantity of milk may vary, but it’s usually just right for your baby.
Breastfeeding provides comfort and bonding
Getting help and support from those around you right from the start is very important. Your partner can help by taking care of all the other things. This allows you and your baby to withdraw into your own little world and focus completely on breastfeeding, bonding and getting to know each other. Breastfeeding is about more than just food. It’s also about getting to know each other. It’s comfort and closeness. And it feels wonderfully cosy.
Tell us about your first few weeks of breastfeeding. Share your ups and downs here.
For more information on breastfeeding, go to www.breastfeeding.org.nz