7 ways to make breastfeeding easier in those early weeks

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So many of us go into motherhood planning to breastfeed, and not truly understanding what’s involved and how hard it’s going to be (because how could we?)

Often we’re sold on the benefits of breastmilk (and rightly so, it’s liquid gold!) and the beautiful side of it without truly understanding what it takes to breastfeed. Because even though breastfeeding might be one of the most natural things there is – that doesn’t mean it comes naturally to everyone.

Like so many things in this parenting game, you can be as prepared as you like, but the real learning can only be done on the job. And those first few weeks can be a baptism by fire where you’re feeling overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and high on a cocktail of hormones…

So in partnership with Triumph, we’ve asked Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue to share 7 ways to make breastfeeding easier in those early weeks.

1. Feed on demand

We know this doesn’t seem to make sense when we just said we’re going to make your life easier, but trust us. Feeding on demand now will set you up for success. Throw out any idea of a routine or a schedule in these first few weeks and feed your baby as they want it. 

Typically this might be anywhere from 7 to 12 feeds within 24 hours. This might feel like you’re feeding around the clock but this will not only help them feel comfortable (they’re getting used to being in the outside world) but it will also help your body too. Feeding helps regulate and stimulate the hormones in your body to do what they need to do to recover from the birth and to feed your baby.

Feeding on demand is also really important because it helps to bring your milk in. The first few days you will be feeding your baby Colostrum, then once your milk comes in (typically around days 2-5) continuing to feed in this way will help you establish your supply.

2. Caring for your breasts

Once upon a time, your breasts were there for a good time, but right now they are purely functional and so they’re going to need lots of TLC while they adjust to their new role.

The right bra is an absolute non-negotiable when it comes to breastfeeding. In fact, we recommend having at least 2-3 bras (if not more) that you can have on rotation. Because, hello leaking nipples!

You should have already ditched the underwire during pregnancy, but it’s important you do while breastfeeding as the underwire can cause added pressure as your breast fill with milk and can increase the risk of blocked milk ducts or mastitis.

The Triumph range of maternity bras come with an A-frame design to support your breasts during feeds and magnetic clips that are easy to undo one-handed. Their six hook and eye adjustments also make them super versatile as they can accommodate your growing breasts as they change through pregnancy and breastfeeding. Their maternity range also includes styles up to H-cups. 

Tip: You’re also going to want to ensure you have a good nipple cream and plenty of nipple pads on hand because they will become cracked and sore, especially in the first few weeks whilst your baby is establishing their latch.

3. Empty each breast at each feed 

It’s important that you are offering your baby a full feed – at every feed as much as possible. So this means emptying the first breast, before offering them the second. 

Then don’t forget to start on the opposite breast at the next feed!

Signs your baby has been fed well:  

  • They are relaxed and content
  • Have a sleep pattern of 1½ hours
  • They have a lot of wet and dirty nappies
  • They are relaxed after a feed
  • Your breasts are soft after a feed

4. Relax and get comfortable

Seems obvious, we know… but we also know it’s often easier said than done when you’re tired and stressed and feeling overwhelmed. Unfortunately, stress is not breastfeeding’s friend and can inhibit letdown and milk production. So try and create a calm, quiet space where you can feed, either in the baby’s nursery or your bedroom away from any siblings or other household chaos.

Make sure you have some water and snacks within arm’s reach, a phone charger and anything else you might need to help you relax.

Tip: If you find you are struggling with feeding and getting upset, ask a partner to take the baby for a few moments so you can take a few deep breaths and have a few moments to yourself before trying again.

5. Connection 

Whereas stress might be breastfeeding’s enemy, connection and contact are its best friend! So taking lots of time for connection with your baby will help strengthen your bond, get those hormones pumping and doing their job – and of course, get your breasts producing milk. 

Think lots of eye contact, skin-on-skin time, smiling, talking to your baby. It might seem silly at first but more than just great for breastfeeding this is nurturing your relationship and laying the foundations of a life-long love affair with your little one.

6. Look for hunger cues

As you get to know your baby you will start to understand they each have their own unique way of communicating with you. At first, you can feel like you’re at a complete loss trying to figure out what they might want or need, but in time you’ll learn their cues. And hunger cues are a complete game-changer. 

In the early weeks, feeding is all about timing, if your baby is unsettled and it has been around 2.5 hours since their last feed, chances are they are hungry.

Here are some of the most common hunger cues:

Early:

  • Opening and closing their mouth
  • Licking or smacking their lips
  • Putting their hands in their mouths 

Active

  • Rooting around on the chest (whether its mum holding them or someone else)
  • Pulling on clothes
  • A sense of restlessness or fussiness

Late 

  • Crying and upset 
  • Squirming or writhing

If your baby gets to the late stage of hunger cues, try and calm them before attempting to feed as they will struggle to latch if they are very upset. However some babies will be instantly soothed by the feed.

Tip: Remember in the first few weeks your baby can stay awake for the length of a feed and not much more. So once they have had a feed and a little cuddle or some tummy time – it’s time to get them ready for sleep again. Now you’re seeing what they mean about eat, sleep, poop – repeat!

7. Posture

Making sure you are looking after your posture is extremely important when it comes to breastfeeding. Often we tend to hunch forward to ensure our baby is comfortable – at the detriment of our own comfort.

So take some time to make sure your setup provides support for your back and that you aren’t experiencing any back or neck pain. You can lean forward to help your baby latch and then you should sit up and settle yourself back, opening up your chest as much as you can. 

Pillows can be a great way to ensure you are set up for success – for both your comfort and your baby’s. And taking time to stand up and stretch after the feed will help too.

The most important thing to remember? Go easy on yourself!

This is a new skill for you and your baby, it takes time to master and can take even longer to enjoy. Some mothers go on to love breastfeeding and others decide it’s not for them. Some babies will be expert latchers from the get-go and others will need a little extra support and guidance. So give yourself and your little one some grace, ask for help if you need it and settle in for the time being and know that it won’t always be this hard, we promise!

Whilst it’s common to struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning and to find it difficult, if you’re struggling to cope there is support available. Speak with the midwives at the hospital who can put you in touch with a lactation consultant in your local area. You can also contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Breastfeeding Hotline 24/7 on 1800 686 268.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Triumph.

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