World Breastfeeding Week – your breastfeeding questions answered!
We’ve been overwhelmed with your responses to our #MumsKnowBreast campaign for World Breastfeeding Week on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks so much to everyone who’s contributed, either by submitting a question or by giving your thoughts and opinions. It’s so lovely to see mums offering their experience and advice to mums to be!
There were so many fantastic questions, it was hard to choose which ones to answer, but please find below the top 10 questions answered by our Expert Midwife, Lesley.
We’re expecting our first baby in September and planning on breastfeeding. The midwife keeps talking about ‘cluster feeding’, but what does that mean?
Cluster feeding is when your baby feeds a lot within a shorter time period. For example, if your baby is feeding 2-3 hourly, it can increase to hourly for a few hours and then settle back to 2-3 hourly afterwards.
Your baby does this to stimulate the production of hormones, which then tell your breasts to increase your milk supply. Your baby stimulates your body into the cycle of cluster feeding - hormone production - increase milk supply to make more milk because their needs are greater at this point in their development.
Cluster feeding is more likely to happen during the night, as this is when the milk-making hormone, prolactin, is at its highest point.
It may feel like your baby is constantly breastfeeding, but your breasts and your baby work together to provide the right amount of milk that your baby requires and this will vary as they grow.
What's the best way to prepare yourself for breastfeeding?
Your body makes many changes during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. You may notice your breasts becoming larger and heavier, as well as seeing more visible veins on them. Your breasts are increasing in size and developing a greater blood supply in readiness to make milk and feed your baby.
There is now evidence to support hand expressing breast milk whilst you are pregnant to help stimulate your supply (you can also store any expressed milk in the freezer and use it for your baby once they are born).
Before starting breastfeeding, ask your midwife for more information about how and when to hand express antenatally. You can prepare yourself by learning more about breastfeeding and what to expect on your breastfeeding journey. Do this by reading and asking other women who have breastfed their babies, such as friends and family members for their breastfeeding tips. There are also breastfeeding classes available in most areas, as well as baby cafes, that will provide you with lots of helpful information.
Where is the best place to seek support for breastfeeding for new mums in those first few weeks?
Initially your midwife and maternity support workers will support you for the first feeds, providing advice on positioning, attaching and latching at the breast. If you know of any family members or friends who have breastfed, ask them about their experiences and if they would be happy to help you learn more when your baby is born and give you breastfeeding support.
Baby cafes operate all over the UK and are usually drop-in groups in local cafes, on set days, where women can find face-to-face help and new mum support from women who have breastfed. You will also be very welcome to attend whilst you are pregnant.
Established breastfeeding support groups in your area could be a useful source of information. Contact La Leche League who can provide support over social media and in some areas for all stages of your breastfeeding journey.
When is best to introduce a bottle so as not to cause nipple confusion?
Your baby uses a different feeding technique when bottle feeding, compared to breastfeeding, and this is why they can become confused about how to feed from the breast if the bottle is introduced too early.
You can introduce a bottle when you feel as though breastfeeding is well established, this will usually be when your baby is at least a month old. Using a bottle will enable you to start to leave your baby with someone else, such as your partner, for short periods, as they can use your expressed breast milk to bottle feed your baby.
If you decide to use formula milk via a bottle remember that this can affect how your body produces milk. If feeds are replaced by formula, then your body will make less milk, as it will think your baby needs less.
I struggle with drinking the right amount of fluids during the day, will this contribute to milk production? If so, what’s the best ways to help my fluid intake to make sure my milk doesn’t start to dry up?
You will need an extra 700mls of fluids per day once you are breastfeeding. Tune in to your body’s cues, as your body will usually tell you how much to drink by making you feel thirsty. If you don’t have enough to drink when breastfeeding it will not affect your milk production, it will just make you more dehydrated. You can monitor how dehydrated you are by making sure you are passing urine regularly and that it is not too concentrated in colour when you do.
A tip for maintaining hydration is to always have drinks to hand and before you settle down to feed your baby. Have a large glass of water within easy reach whilst you are feeding.
Everything I read just continually says it shouldn’t hurt but I’m day 4 now, milk has just come in & it blooming does. I’ve been told he’s got a good latch & he is to my little knowledge feeding well. Should it really not hurt at all?
Once breastfeeding is established – which can take a few weeks - it shouldn’t be painful. At day 4 your body is still adapting to breastfeeding; your milk supply is increasing dramatically to produce enough for your baby, and there are lots of changes for your body to take on board. This part of breastfeeding can be a little overwhelming as you are often still tired from the birth, but persevere and things will improve.
If your baby’s latch has been checked and is correct, this should help to reduce friction and nipple soreness. If you feel sore from breast engorgement this should feel better within a few days and most women will find that it has significantly reduced by the time baby is 2 weeks old. Try lying in a warm bath to relieve this feeling. You can also hand express a small amount of milk to help to relieve any soreness, but try not to over-stimulate the breast by expressing too much. Women have often recommended cabbage leaves that have been chilled in the fridge. Place them into your nursing bra, covering the breast to achieve a cooling effect.
Your breasts are constantly adjusting to your baby’s needs, so feed your baby regularly and on demand. You should feel confident that your baby is feeding well at the breast when you see plenty of wet and dirty nappies.
How do you know how often to feed and do I stop after a certain amount of time?
Your baby should wake regularly to breastfeed, usually 3-4 hourly or more often. Allow your baby to feed at the breast until they decide to stop, usually at least 10 minutes at a time and often for longer, there is no average breastfeeding time. Be led by your baby’s needs. Cluster feeding is common and babies are more likely to feed more often at night.
Is it true you can't over feed a breast-fed baby?
Babies are all individuals and will all feed differently. As a guide, your baby should be feeding at least 8 times in a 24 hour period for around 20 minutes. Some may feed for longer and some shorter periods of time. Your baby should not have access to the breast restricted and should feed as often as they want to. It is true that, even if your baby is breastfeeding very frequently, you can’t over feed a breastfed baby.
Does using a nipple shield take away the bonding experience?
It is important to access as much help and support as you need when breastfeeding, as this can make the difference towards breastfeeding successfully.
If you have had input from health care professionals about positioning, latch and attachment but feel as though you want to use nipple protectors, it will not interfere with the bonding experience. Your baby will still be feeding from your breast and you will also have the opportunity to do plenty of skin-to-skin contact, which is known to help in promoting bonding between you and your baby.
What’s the guidance on alcohol?
As small amounts of anything you eat or drink can pass through to your breast milk, the safest current advice is not drinking alcohol when breastfeeding. However, it is thought to be very unlikely that one or two drinks, once or twice a week, would harm your baby. One unit of alcohol, (half a pint of normal beer, a small glass of wine or a single measure of spirits), takes 2-3 hours to pass through your body.
If you are concerned, you could express milk to give to your baby before having a drink and then waiting a few hours for your body to clear the alcohol from your system before breastfeeding again.
Thank you so much to these ten mums and mums-to-be for their breastfeeding questions. We hope you enjoy your free No Harm Nipple Balm as a thank you from us!