Written by: Aliza Carr | Midwife From Bumpnbub
Whether you have breastfed before or if this is your first time, breastfeeding can be tough in the first few weeks, but equally as beautiful and rewarding as the weeks and months go on. Your baby instinctively knows how to suck, but they are still learning and mastering the art of breastfeeding, as are you.
Establishing your milk supply and a good attachment can take weeks, a lot of persistence and assistance from health professionals. The Australian Breastfeeding Association state that it can take 6-8 weeks for the breastfeeding dance between mama and baby to find its rhythm. Each baby and mother is unique with different patterns, so try not to compare yourself or your baby to others.
The First Few Days
In the first few days, your nipples may get sore as you adjust to breastfeeding. Watch for any nipple damage, if grazes or cracks are present contact your midwife or lactation consultant for a consultation. Your baby will be consuming colostrum in these first few days, a substance rich in sugars, protein and antibodies to start building their immune system from the very first feed. You may find, 2-3 days after bub is born they begin to feed A LOT and are irritable or hard to settle, and you start wondering ‘what is going on?’. This is referred to as cluster feeding and is a very normal behaviour that all babies display around this time as they are working hard to increase your supply and fill your breasts with milk.
If your baby is upset or unsettled try having them skin-to-skin. Skin-to-skin is amazing at assisting babys transition from life in the womb to the outside world, regulating their temperature and breathing as well as releasing important breastfeeding hormones for making milk. Having your baby on your chest helps you to learn feeding cues, increases your bond with your baby and triggers their instincts for feeding.
The First Week
Within the first week colostrum will change and your breasts will fill with mature breastmilk. Your milk coming in commonly occurs around day 3-5 (or 70-90 hours) after birth, but can take up to 7 days. You will recognise your breasts are larger, firmer and fuller, and you may notice some leakage of milk. Around this time, you can experience engorgement, which is when the breasts get swollen when they fill with milk and can feel lumpy or sore. It is important at this time to ensure bub is draining your breasts frequently (at least 8 times in 24 hours), they have a good attachment, you can use massage and heat prior to a feed and ice packs after a feed, and to contact your healthcare provider if you develop a fever.
Continuation of Breastfeeding
It does take up to 6 weeks for your milk supply to fully establish, and it works on a supply and demand theory, the more milk that is removed from your breast the more that is produced. Therefore, following bubs cues and feeding them as frequently as they need will result in you making the perfect amount of milk for your baby.
The other things to consider in helping maintain a good breastmilk supply is to remain hydrated, consume healthy food and rest when you can. Breastfeeding burns 500 extra calories per day, so it is no surprise that mamas experience an increased need for nutrients and hydration. You may find you are always reaching for that drink bottle when you sit down to feed and that is a great reminder your body needs more fluid.
For these reasons, a healthy smoothie is a great addition to your day to maintain these extra calories and hydration needs. The Le Puree smoothie range is created by nutritionists, includes a range of vitamins and nutrients such as folate, calcium and fibre that your body needs in pregnancy and postpartum. The smoothies come in 6 delicious flavours and can be the perfect quick snack to grab before you start breastfeeding, remember nourishing yourself is important when your body is nourishing your baby.
If you are worried about your milk supply or you don’t know if your baby is getting enough breastmilk when they are feeding, there are a few things you can keep an eye on.
Have a feel of your breasts before and after each breastfeed to help you determine if bub has drained or softened the breast at all, this will give you an indication of how well they have just fed. Secondly, track your baby's output (wet and dirty nappies). They should have one wet nappy on day 1 of life, with this increasing by 1 every day, and from day 6-7 of life bub should have 6-7 wet nappies every day after that.
Your baby's poo will vary in amount, but you should notice the colour change in the first week of life from black meconium poo, to green/brown by day 4 and mustard yellow by day 7 of life. This is a great sign that your milk has come in and they are consuming enough. You can also attend your GP or child health nurse for regular weigh checks if you need reassurance or are concerned about bubs feeding.