Positive relationships: A parent's guide to... Breastfeeding

Annette Rawstrone
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reassure new mothers on the recommended way of feeding their baby with advice from Annette Rawstrone.

Why should I breastfeed my baby?

Breastmilk provides all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development for the first six months of their life. It helps to protect them from infection and diseases, such as ear infections, eczema, obesity and asthma, and can also help protect you against ovarian cancer, breast cancer and weak bones later in life.

Breastfeeding also helps you to bond with your baby, both physically and emotionally. An added benefit is that women who breastfeed return to their pre-pregnancy figure faster.

The Department of Health advises that:

- breastmilk is the best form of nutrition for infants

- exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant's life

- six months is the recommended age for introducing solid foods for infants

- breastfeeding (and/or breastmilk substitutes, if used) should continue beyond the first six months, along with appropriate types and amounts of solid foods.

How can I successfully breastfeed?

- First, make sure that you're settled and comfortable, because feeds can take a long time, often up to 40 minutes.

- Hold your baby in a position that won't leave your arms and back sore - support yourself with cushions.

- Make sure your baby is properly attached to your breast so that she will have a good feed and so your breasts will not be sore.

- Try to relax - your baby can pick up on tension, which can lead to her refusing to feed.

- The more milk your baby takes, the more you will produce. Start your feed with alternate breasts but follow your baby; it's normal to just use one breast per feed..

- Buy at least two breastfeeding bras that will give you extra support, and ensure that they are properly fitted (you may want to do this once you've given birth). Carry some breast pads in case your breasts leak.

I'm worried about feeding my baby in public. What should I do?

It's understandable to feel shy about breastfeeding in front of others. Unfortunately, you can't dash home whenever your baby gets hungry, but you will soon learn how to feed discreetly. Putting a blanket or wrap over your shoulder, and wearing loose tops that can pull up from the waist and special nursing bras can all help. Some large shops and department stores have mother-and-baby rooms where you can feed in private. Another solution is to take a bottle of expressed milk out with you.

What if I struggle with breastfeeding?

Many mothers have problems, especially in the first few weeks as your milk supply adjusts and both you and your baby learn how to do it. So don't worry. Experimenting with feeding positions can often help - you can sit or lie in any way you like, as long as your baby can reach the breast comfortably.

Breastfeeding should not hurt, so seek help from your health visitor, GP or midwife if it does. You may be suffering from:

- Engorgement (overfull breasts)

- Mastitis (inflammation of the breast)

- Sore nipples.

If you continue to find breastfeeding problematic, a breastfeeding counsellor may be able to help. These are mothers experienced in breastfeeding who have received training to support other mothers. The NCT and other organisations have breastfeeding counsellors across the UK who offer a free service.

Where can I go for breastfeeding help?

Your health visitor or midwife are on hand to support you. You can also contact:

- National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0844 20 909 20

- National Childbirth Trust: 0870 444 8707, www.nct.org.uk

- La Leche League: 0845 456 1855, www.laleche.org.uk

- The Breastfeeding Network: 0844 412 4664, www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk.

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