Breast Feeding Your Baby

Whether you are a new mum or not, most mothers will need to make a choice to whether or not breastfeed their baby. Your decision may be well affected by your own childhood experiences, how you feel about your body and the quality of your relationships with your family, friends and partner. You may also feel overwhelmed at the emotions you feel when you are pregnant or are beginning to feed your baby for the first time.

All the emotions are valid and normal. Taking time to acknowledge and sort out these feelings will help you and your baby to have a successful breast feeding partnership should you decide to breast feed. Just like everyday life, you will have your ups and downs. On some days you may very well feel like the baby has ‘taken over’ your life and that your life is no longer your own. It can be an extremely frustrating and overwhelming experience. Therefore, it is very important to have at least one person who can support you and be there for you when you decide to breast feed your child.


Breast Milk
Breast milk has long been known as the ideal food for babies and infants. Major health organisations recommend that women breast feed their babies exclusively until they are 6 months old, and continue breast feeding, along with solids, until they are 12 months old or more.

Breast milk has many benefits.

  • It is cheap, safe, environmentally friendly and ready for use at a moment’s notice.
  • It’s the perfect food, it can be easily digested and very unlikely to cause constipation.
  • Generally breast fed babies are more lean.
  • The breasts will adapt to your baby’s needs – a breast fed baby will take just as much milk as they need.
  • Breast milk has protective antibodies which will protect your baby against infections.
  • It may reduce the risk of allergies.
  • It may help protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes and asthma.
  • Breast feeding may also protect mothers against ovarian and breast cancers, and possibly osteoporosis.


Starting to breast feed

Breast feeding will take quite a few days to get used to. Both the baby and yourself will need to work out a good partnership during the breastfeeding time. It may come easier for some than others.

The first feed should be soon after the birth. The first few feeds for the baby, he or she will be receiving colostrum, a yellow fluid that contains all the nutrition the baby needs for the first few days of life.

Colostrum is also full of antibodies that help to protect your baby from bacteria. This will also build the baby’s immune system. No other food or fluid is required in these first few days. Babies may take a while to feed. Some may take up to 45 minutes to feed and some may doze off to sleep during the feed. This is all normal.



Your midwife will help you and your baby get breast feeding started and show you how best to position the baby. You will soon develop your own breast feeding style.

Most midwives will spend some time helping you ‘latch’ your baby correctly. This is because most problems that occur with breast feeding are caused by the baby not positioning their mouth correctly on the breast.

Before each feed, you should take time to position yourself comfortably, so that you are relaxed. Get some pillows to support yourself and the baby. Your baby’s arm should be unwrapped to allow them to explore your face and breast. Have your baby’s mouth at the same level as your nipple. Touch or brush your nipple gently on the baby’s lower lip to encourage the baby’s mouth to open. The mouth should go over the nipple and areola. Make sure the nipple is centred to reduce any soreness. After feeding you can break the suction by gently placing your finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth. Do not pull the baby off without doing this as you will hurt your nipple.


The ‘let down’ reflex

The let down is the reflex action that allows the milk to be pushed along the milk ducts towards the nipple. Some women may notice a tingling pins and needles feeling or fullness. Leaking from the breast can also occur. The let down is important so that the baby gets not only the early milk but also the milk higher up in the duct. The milk higher up in the duct is full of good healthy calories and fats that the baby needs.


Supply and demand feeding

The best way to build up and maintain your milk supply is to feed your baby as often as he or she needs it. This is known as demand feeding. The newborn baby should have at least 6 feeds every 24 hours.

Your baby will go through growth spurts every few months and will demand more milk. If your breasts doesn’t produce enough milk, you will find that your baby will be wanting to be fed more frequently. Therefore, it is recommended to pump your breast in between feeds to increase your milk supply. This will allow the baby to have more milk during the growth spurt period without the frequent feeding. You may find that when you first start pumping your breast, the amount extracted may be quite little. This is normal and it will gradually build up to a bigger amount. The more you pump or feed, the more milk you will produce.

Your fresh breast milk can be stored.

  • At room temperature, 6–8 hrs (26ºC or lower). If refrigeration is available store milk there.
  • In the refrigerator, 3–5 days (4ºC or lower) Store in back of refrigerator where it is coldest
  • In freezer:
    • 2 weeks in freezer compartment inside refrigerator.
    • 3 months in freezer section of refrigerator with separate door.
    • 6–12 months in deep freeze (-18ºC or lower).

Do not refreeze any milk that has been thawed or the baby has begun feeding on it.

When you are feeling tired, you can ask your partner to bottle feed your baby with your breast milk. This will provide some time out for you and give you a break from the baby. If you are thinking of doing so, it may be helpful to introduce the bottle to your baby after 6 weeks of age. Try not to introduce the bottle until you have established good breast feeding partnership with your bub. Please keep in mind some babies will take both the bottle and the breast and some others won’t.


Every baby is different

Every baby is different. Some will sleep well through the night, others will be wakeful. This doesn’t mean that your baby is not contented or that you are not a good mother. If your baby is gaining weight, has plenty of wet nappies, and is mostly contented, he or she is probably getting enough milk. It is not unusual for breast fed babies to go for a number of days without a bowel motion, sometimes as long as 10 days. Bowel motions are usually pale in colour. If the bowel motions are hard and formed the baby may need more breast milk.


Looking after yourself

You must sleep or rest whenever you can. Being tired or over stressed can reduce your milk supply. It may also cause strain on your relationship with the family.

Eat healthy food everyday as you will need protein and calcium. Have healthy snacks between meals such as fruits, nuts or cheese. Make sure you drink plenty of fluid. Breast feeding can make you very thirsty. It can be helpful to have a glass of water within reach during a breast feed. Medication should only be taken if your doctor advises.


Getting help

Breast feeding may be the most natural thing in the world, but for many women it doesn’t come easily. Breast feeding difficulties can cause considerable physical and emotional stress. Fortunately, a lot of help is available. Organisation such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association can offer advice, and lactation consultants – usually midwives who have undergone special training in helping people to breast feed – are readily contactable through maternity hospitals and early childhood health centres. There is also a National Breastfeeding Helpline – 1800 MUM 2 MUM (1800 686 2 686), operated by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The great majority of breast feeding problems can be resolved with expert help.

There are a lot of benefits with breast feeding both for the mum and for the baby. However, depending on your circumstances and your background, you may or may not want to breast feed. Don’t feel pressured if you choose not to do so.


Reproduced from MyDr, UBM Medica Australia, 2000-2009

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