How best to feed your baby is a very contentious subject. It can be very difficult for mothers to make sense of the information and media on the subject. Should you breastfeed your baby, or bottle-feed?
We've put together some breastfeeding tips to help inform you of some of the benefits, techniques and tools so you can feel informed and knowledgeable whilst deciding on what works best for your situation.
Import Note: Breastfeeding is not mandatory. The NHS and the WHO (World Health Organisation) both recommend breastfeeding your baby but ultimately, you, as Mum, need to make that decision. If you decide not to breastfeed please don’t beat yourself up about it.
Should You Breastfeed Your Baby?
The World Health Organisation and the NHS both recommend breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of life.
After six months it's recommended that you start combining breastmilk with the solid foods you are eating until your baby no longer needs milk from your breast to grow and develop in a healthy way.
Many mothers stop breastfeeding before their baby is two years old, but that decision is yours and yours alone. Never place pressure on yourself regarding your decision on whether to breastfeed or not.
If you do decide to breastfeed there are lots of health benefits for your baby.
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast milk is mother nature’s food for your baby. It is the right temperature, fresh, clean, and is the healthy choice for your little one with the right amount of nutrients and vitamins baby needs to grow into a healthy child.
- Breastfeeding can be very easy and convenient, and it doesn’t cost a penny!
- There is no need for preparation, or sterilising bottles and making up formula.
- It provides the very best nourishment for your child made by Mums amazing body and includes all the right nutrients your baby needs to grow, immune itself properly and help fight any viruses or diseases.
- Helps mum and baby bond. When you breastfeed, your body produces hormones that help the maternal bond strengthen.
- There is a lot of research that suggests the bond of a breastfeeding mother and her baby is stronger than all other human contact, even more than carrying the baby inside the uterus.
- Your baby can be fed as soon as it asks for feeding. The breast is always on and throughout the night that can make nightly feeds a much calmer experience for the baby than having to wait for a bottle to be made.
Breastfeeding Tips to Avoid Painful Feeding
Breastfeeding will not hurt but it can be uncomfortable if things are overlooked, rushed or simply not done correctly.
When your breast fills up with milk (known as the letdown reflex) you may notice a strange uncomfortable sensation. This subsides over the first few months of feeding.
Your breasts can also overproduce milk. This can be a little unsettling, especially if you haven’t been able to feed your baby for a while or express it. Don’t panic if this happens. You can express to relieve the swelling or better still help the baby feed to reduce some of the milk.
Nipple pain is a complaint that is often discussed among new mums that choose to breastfeed. If you have a baby that likes its food constant feeding can result in having to cope with cracked or bleeding nipples. Ouch! This is a very common problem so take make sure you purchase some nipple soothing cream.
Please be aware that there are certain circumstances around breastfeeding that would require a visit to your GP.
Firstly, did you know that thrush can be passed between you and your baby via your nipples? This can be very painful so seek advice from your GP if you think you have thrush.
You also need to be aware of something called Mastitis. This is where your breast tissue becomes inflamed and can lead to a lot of discomfort and even fever-like symptoms. Check out our symptoms of mastitis here if you're concerned.
Tips for Your Diet When Breastfeeding
Making sure you enrich your diet when you are breastfeeding is super important.
You need to take care of your health. What you eat and drink is effectively being fed to your baby.
A breastfeeding mum needs a healthy balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and the right amount of fibre and protein.
You also need to be aware of daily limits around some foods and drinks that can have an impact on your baby's health. For example, caffeine is not recommended for breastfeeding mums above a certain limit (280mg a day). It is a stimulant and can keep your baby awake!
Also, you need to be careful when drinking alcohol. Only have a tipple in small amounts, e.g. a maximum of one or two units a week and no more.
Can I Take Medication While Breastfeeding?
When you breastfeed, you have to be very careful about what medications you put into your body.
Our breastfeeding tips on this subject are very simple to follow – always seek advice from a qualified GP. Don’t take any chances in this area.
You do not want to put medication in your body that may harm your baby through your breast milk.
Do I Need to Give My Baby Water Whilst I Breastfeed?
Breastmilk is made up of over 85% water.
This means that when you breastfeed your baby you are providing water alongside all the key nutrients. You might find in the summer months your baby wants to feed more regularly because it is actually asking for a drink.
Should I Wind a Breastfed Baby?
Yes, but you will find that breastfed babies don’t need to be burped as often as bottle-fed babies. This is because they swallow a lot less air.
Do Breastfeeding Babies Get Colic?
Breastfeeding does, unfortunately, not guarantee that your baby does not get colic. If you are concerned about colic we recommend that you contact your GP as soon as possible.
Will My Breasts Change Shape if I Breastfeed?
Your breasts might change shape and will certainly change in size when you are breastfeeding
The flow of milk into your breasts during breastfeeding can lead to a slight stretching. This might cause your breasts to look and feel different.
Other than that, it's impossible to say how your breasts might change in appearance after breastfeeding. Everyone's breastfeeding experience is different. Any changes to the appearance of your breasts are far more likely to be caused by pregnancy itself.
Can I Get Pregnant Whilst Breastfeeding?
Absolutely, yes you can!
Breastfeeding Tips to Manage Hormonal Side Effects
When you breastfeed your body releases hormones and these can produce some side effects.
The side effects of breastfeeding differ from woman to woman but can include drowsiness, facial spots (acne), weight loss, some migraines/headaches, slight nausea, and fluctuations in emotions.
Some women also claim to feel a little depressed when breastfeeding. This can be the result of the release of hormones related to the milk. If you're concerned about mood swings when you are breastfeeding speak to your GP.
Lots of women take vitamin supplements when breastfeeding. This helps the physical and emotional stresses that breastfeeding can sometimes place on the female body.
Can I Breastfeed in Public?
Although breastfeeding out in public can at first feel slightly odd, it is legal and a beautiful natural thing. You should never feel ashamed of providing for your baby.
Of course, you need to add some sensibility to breastfeeding in public and be aware of your surroundings whilst making things comfortable for you and your baby.
Many mums use an appropriate bra and sometimes a nursing top for comfort and some privacy when out and about. We have you covered here with this wonderful cotton Muslin blanket by Swedish desginers, Jabadabdo.
Breastfeeding Tips for Essential Suppliers
There are breastfeeding products available that make things much easier and more convenient for mums, should they want to breastfeed their babies.
Buying the right kit before you give birth is a very sensible thing to do as part of your post-birth preparations.
A breast pump is a great product, It allows you to remove some milk to alleviate swollen breasts and store it for later feeds. Try to buy the best pump you can afford. Trust us, you will be thankful for letting the pump do the work!
Lots of mums like to have a good quality nursing pillow at hand to help make the feed as comfortable as possible. You might also want to consider a sling. A good quality sling can allow mum to breastfeed whilst standing up.
Don’t forget decent-quality breast pads. This key accessory is very underrated and can help soak up the inevitable nipple leaks.
How Long Should I Breastfeed?
Every mother should make their own decision on when to start weaning off.
The NHS and WHO both advise that six months is a good time to start introducing your little one to solid foods (alongside breastmilk).
There are lots of different opinions and methods on weaning off and you should do some research and decide yourself on the approach you wish to take for your little one.
Many mothers let their babies guide them at six months and start gently introducing weaning foods at feeding times. This allows the baby to accept or refuse.
Remember that the most important thing when starting the weaning-off process is that your baby gets fed. It's vital to continue offering baby milk throughout the weaning stage of feeding.
Don’t ever feel under pressure to start weaning because of outside pressures. Your baby will be an individual and there is no right and wrong time period.
Further Breastfeeding Tips and Support
First and foremost, breastfeeding your little one should be a beautiful and enjoyable experience. It is a time of pure bonding between mum and baby. If you find that you are having difficulties when breastfeeding (emotionally or physically), then you must seek support and help.
Remember, there is no question, no matter how silly it sounds to you, that has not been already asked.
Lots of new mums will have exactly the same experiences as you. Remember support exists and people will be more than happy to help make breastfeeding a better experience for you and your baby.
You can reach out to your friends, family, GP, midwife and online breastfeeding groups for support and help.
There are also Breastfeeding groups available in every community across the UK&I that are widely available. These can actually be a fantastic resource to meet local similar-minded mums and build a network of friends and support.
You can read more of our helpful Parenting Tips For Babies and Toddlers here.