How to begin breastfeeding

How to begin breastfeeding your baby

Ann Marie Brennan, clinical specialist dietitian explains how to begin breastfeeding your baby.

Some mums may perhaps be undecided about whether they are going to breast or artificially feed before having their baby. It’s recommended that you start off with skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, as it’s easier to change from breast to artificial feeding than the other way around.

A short period of breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial. Colostrum, the first milk, has been dubbed baby’s first vaccination. It’s present in small amounts and as the baby’s tummy is tiny, you can practice breastfeeding with small volumes before the milk ‘comes in.’

Breastfeeding is also said to prevent against ovarian and breast cancer and osteoporosis. Skin-to-skin contact directly after the birth or as soon as possible afterwards initiates bonding between you and your baby; helps baby settle; keeps them warm and helps maintain a healthy temperature; settles their heart rates after birth and assists with breastfeeding. It’s also a lovely experience for mum.

Familiarise yourself

If breastfeeding is the plan, doing your homework before you have your baby will be a great help. Familiarise yourself with people and groups that can assist you like Cuidiú, Friends of Breastfeeding, La Leche League of Ireland and breastfeeding classes in the hospital.

How to breastfeed

A midwife will assist you in getting the baby to latch on and feed. Bring your baby to your breast, placing their nose to your nipple. Ensure their tummy is facing you and check that their mouth is wide open. Aim your nipple at the roof of baby’s mouth. Hug your baby’s body and bum into you. Don’t hold their head but snuggle them into you closely, as newborns don’t have a lot of strength to stay attached well.

Different breastfeeding positions

Ask a midwife to show you the different positions before you leave the hospital, including the baby across abdomen or under arm hold and lying on your side. The idea of ‘laid back’ breastfeeding or biological nurturing is popular. All that is involved is that you and your baby simply help each other to get comfortable. Put the baby on your tummy and let them find your breast. Make sure to support baby’s whole body with yours and to keep their feet supported. Comfortably lean back on a bed or chair so that when you put baby on your chest, gravity will keep them in position with their body moulded to yours.

How to begin breastfeeding

Your head and shoulders should also be well supported. The idea is to let your baby’s whole front touch your whole front. Your baby can rest in any position you like and their cheek can rest somewhere near your breast.

It takes practise

It takes most first-time mothers a couple of weeks to feel really confident about breastfeeding, but it gets much easier as the weeks go by. Every feed you give your baby counts.

If you have opted for artificial feeding, it should be started within the baby’s first hour of life. Formulafed babies should be fed every three to four hours for the first six weeks. They may start to have a longer sleep during the night and they may now be feeding four hourly during the day and sleeping up to six hours at night. The amount they take ultimately depends on the baby’s weight. It is recommended that a baby should take approximately 150ml of formula per kg of body weight.

Hygiene is vital

Artificially-fed babies have a higher incidence of gastroenteritis due to poor hygiene or incorrect storage of feeds. It is vital that you practise proper hygiene at all times – washing your hands, cleaning kitchen surfaces, and washing and sterilising storage containers correctly to maintain a pristine environment for the preparation of feeds. Making sure the kettle has freshly boiled water, which is allowed to cool for 30 minutes, and preparing the feeds according to the manufacturer’s guidelines are important too. Storing the storage containers on a fridge shelf – not on the door – once they are cooled down is also very important.You can buy a special thermos carrier, which will keep your baby’s storage container cool. Once a feed is taken out of the fridge and heated, it must be discarded within two hours.

More like this:

Newborn feeding issues
Breastfeeding tips for newborns
Bottle-feeding essentials

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.