Breastfeeding: 7 baby-friendly do’s and things to avoid
Tips to help breastfeeding parents
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally – for both mothers and their babies.
It takes time and practice. And every mother’s breastfeeding story is different.
But there is one consistent thread throughout each of these stories: they are giving their babies the healthiest start to life.
Breastmilk gives babies the nutrition, energy and immunity they need to grow up strong, healthy and smart.
Here is a quick list of expert tips to help new parents breastfeed their little one:
Do: Breastfeed in the first hour of your delivery
Whether you give birth at a health centre, hospital or at home, breastfeeding your new baby within the first hour of life gives them the best chances of surviving and ultimately thriving.
Breast milk is your baby’s first vaccine, boosting immunity against harmful diseases. Even a delay of a few hours can have life-threatening consequences for newborns and can limit a mother’s ability to breastfeed.
You will find that your new baby’s reflexes are already very strong, and they are ready to learn to feed at the breast.
Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth also helps to regulate your newborns’ body temperature and exposes them to beneficial bacteria from your skin. These good bacteria help protect them against illnesses and builds their immune systems.
If you need help breastfeeding after birth, ask for support from a qualified healthcare worker or a friend or family member like your mother or mother-in-law.
If you are not able to breastfeed right after birth, do not get discouraged. Try again as soon as you are able to. Frequent skin-to-skin contact and putting your baby to the breast will help to get breastfeeding going.
Did you know? The ‘first milk’ – or colostrum – is rich in antibodies and gives newborns an immunity boost while their own immune systems are still developing.
Do: Exclusively breastfeed your baby for 6 months
From the first hour of life up until they are 6 months old, your baby can get all the nutrition they need from your milk. They don't need anything else – no other foods or fluids, not even water – during this time.
Introducing foods or fluids other than breastmilk before your baby reaches 6 months can increase the risk of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which can make your child thin and weak, and can even be life-threatening.
Parents and caregivers can start introducing soft foods – in addition to breastmilk – at 6 months and should continue feeding breastmilk for 2 years or longer.
Did you know? Breastfeeding protects your baby from ear infections, diarrhoea, pneumonia and other childhood diseases.
Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby, but for mothers too! Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
If you are not able to breastfeed, that’s okay. Consult with your local healthcare worker to discuss the best options for you and your baby.
Do: Make sure your baby is attached well
Establishing proper attachment is the key to making sure that breastfeeding is a comfortable experience for both you and your baby.
Sore or cracked nipples are usually a sign that your baby is not properly attached at the breast when feeding. If one or both of your nipples begin to crack or bleed, visit your local healthcare centre as soon as possible. To help relieve soreness, try dabbing a bit of breastmilk onto them after you feed. Your breastmilk has incredible healing properties.
After your delivery, ask for breastfeeding support from a skilled healthcare worker to make sure your baby has good attachment and can successfully feed.
Signs of good attachment:
A comfortable experience with no pain.
More areola is visible above your baby’s mouth than below.
Your baby’s mouth is wide open.
Their lower lip is turned out.
Their chin is touching or nearly touching your breast.
Do: Breastfeed on demand
Your baby’s needs are constantly changing and so are their hunger patterns. Be attentive and breastfeed your baby whenever they show signs of being hungry.
Breastfeed your baby as often as they want - throughout the day and night. Try not to limit yourself to a feeding schedule. Let your baby decide when they want to feed and for how long.
Responsive feeding will help to make sure your baby is getting enough milk while at the same time stimulate your milk production based on your baby’s needs.
Tip: Avoid using bottles and pacifiers while you are still breastfeeding. While pacifiers are great for soothing your baby, they can also encourage your baby to wean off breastfeeding too early.
Do: Keep you baby awake while breastfeeding
It’s natural for your baby to fall asleep while breastfeeding, especially in the first few weeks of life.
If your little one keeps dozing off, it could impact the amount of milk they are getting.
Keeping your baby awake while breastfeeding is an important way to make sure they are getting enough food. It can also help your baby develop good sleeping habits and discourage them from associating feeding with sleeping.
Ways to keep them awake while breastfeeding:
Gently touch their feet or hands.
Change breastfeeding positions or switching breasts as soon as they fall asleep.
Sing or talk to your baby to keep them engaged.
Do: Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
Your body is losing a lot of liquids while breastfeeding.
That’s why it’s important to increase the amount of water you are drinking in order to stay properly hydrated. This will also help your body to produce milk.
It’s recommended to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. While water is the best for your body, you can also drink milk and fresh fruit juices.
Do: Express your breastmilk
You may not always be able to breastfeed your baby.
Expressing your breastmilk – milk that is pumped with a hand or device – is safe and is a great way to collect and store your milk, so that you can feed your baby when needed.
If you are away from your baby, for example, if you have gone back to work, expressing can also help to maintain your milk production.
You can feed your baby the expressed milk using a cup or spoon, but do not use a feeding bottle.
Things to remember while expressing:
Always wash your hands before expressing.
Express in a clean container and cover it with a lid.
Expressed milk can be kept at room temperature for 4-6 hours and in a refrigerator for 24 hours.
Do: Support breastfeeding mothers
Breastfeeding isn’t a one-person job. Breastfeeding mothers need the support from their partner, their family, healthcare workers, employers and their entire community.
At home, you can help by playing an active role in caring for the baby, including changing their diapers and bathing the baby. Take on household chores like cleaning and cooking, and offer to help out where you can.
Make sure you regularly check in with her. Ask how she’s feeling and if she needs anything.
A little help goes a long way. And a supportive family and environment can truly make all the difference.