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


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….