For some mothers breastfeeding is straightforward and just works straight away but for many mothers it’s a painful, stressful experience and a steep learning curve. It can be overwhelming if it doesn’t go according to plan.
We’re all different and our babies are different! From mothers’ milk supply varying to babies not latching properly, there are a number of reasons why it doesn’t come easy for all of us. The first month is the most challenging but it usually gets better after four/five weeks and if you find it overwhelming, you’re not alone.
What should I expect in the first few weeks?
A new born baby is likely to want to feed every two – three hours in the day time which may stretch to four hours at night. Each feed can take between twenty mins to an hour, depending on how efficient your baby is at feeding. This can also change each day so go with the flow! Once your baby has fed from the first breast, offer the second and you’ll know if your baby wants more or not. Start with alternating breasts for each feed, you’ll probably know which one is next as it’ll feel more full but you can use an app to track this or tie a pin to your top as a reminder.
Cluster feeding is common in the first two – three months. Often occurring in the evenings from 6pm to 11pm. This is when babies are most tired, unsettled and want comfort. It can be due to developmental leaps and babies needing to feel secure and/or overtired. It obviously coincides with parents feeling their most tired so it’s a double whammy!
It’s worth having help to hand during this time, a partner, family member or friend to help share the comforting needs. Holding and rocking your baby and trying a soother to deliver comfort can support both mother and baby during these hours. There are good resources and articles about feeding on NCT website and the NHS advice on feeding.
Why does my baby want to feed more frequently?
Sometimes your baby may just want to feed more frequently and maybe for longer too. They could need more fluids if it’s hot for example or they may be going through a leap or a growth spurt and need more food. Some babies need the close contact and the comfort experienced from breastfeeding and may not be hungry. If your baby has fed well but still wants to suck, try just holding baby close for a while. You could also try a soother, some babies just need the comfort and hormones released by sucking. Read more about sucking here.
We were recently approached by a mum with a two week baby who said “my baby can feed for an hour plus and still continue to root. She’s not hungry and is using me as a pacifier currently which is exhausting!” We were very happy to have one of our prototype Qudo Soothers left and this has helped both mother and baby enormously. This little baby is now able to suck happily between feeds, helping to calm her and giving her mother a much needed break from constant feeding.
Reason why breastfeeding does not work straight away?
Some babies can have a tongue tie which will affect their ability to feed. There are different degrees of tongue tie but if a baby can’t mobilise its tongue effectively then breastfeeding can be painful for the mother and not as effective for the baby. A baby’s tongue tie can resolve itself after a few weeks but some will need their tongue tie cut, a quick and simple procedure that can be done by a qualified professional or private consultant. Ask your GP or Health Visitor if you think your baby has a tongue tie or Visit https://www.tongue-tie.org.uk/ for more information. Read more in our article about Tongue Tie
My baby isn’t latching properly, what do I do?
There are a number of reasons why a baby doesn’t latch properly, one mentioned above, and if you’re concerned, call your Health Visitor or seek out a breastfeeding clinic or specialist to help get to the bottom of the latching issues. Some mothers find feeding works better with baby in a certain position, sometimes using nipple shields can help the baby’s latch. Nursing pillows can help keep your baby supported while you find a good position to get an effective latch. Do seek advice from a professional to help resolve latching issues. Click here to find a Lactation Consultant.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk when breastfeeding?
This is something most parents think about and can cause worries. Not being able to see how much milk your baby is getting can make parents anxious. The best advice is to watch your baby’s body language. When your baby has fed and refuses the offer of the breast then they’re telling you they’re full. They may be relaxed and sleepy and looking content, letting you know they’ve had enough. As another indicator, your baby’s nappies can tell you if they’re getting enough milk too. They will have about five wet nappies a day and poo at least twice.
In the first few days/week, your baby is likely to lose a little bit of weight which can often worry parents but this is quite normal. Babies can lose between 5-10% of their body weight but this will normally be regained by the end of week two/three.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s weight loss and/or your baby has a sunken fontanelle or dark urine then call the GP quickly as they may be dehydrated.
When will breastfeeding become easier?
This varies for everyone but generally after the first month or two breastfeeding will be part of your daily routine without any issues. Your milk supply will be established and any latching issues should be resolved.
If you’ve had problems in the first weeks, keep trying as it will get easier, just take each day as it comes, feed by feed and do what you can. Breastfeeding, when it works, is the easiest way to feed your baby, no sterilising or making up bottles but if you’ve tried but had to stop – don’t give in to the guilt that as mother’s we’re driven to feel! Sometimes it just doesn’t work and just remind yourself you’re a good parent and doing everything you can for your baby.1 August 2022