First time breastfeeding: Your questions answered

First time breastfeeding: your questions answered

For first time mums, breastfeeding a newborn can be tricky business. We get expert tips from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to give you the best start.

During pregnancy, your focus is often on the birth process. After all, the thought of delivering your growing bump is mind-blowing. Whether you choose natural birth or caesar, intervention-free or as much help as you can get, you’ll spend a lot of time researching, thinking and deciding on the type of birth you’d like to have.

Not so much on how to breastfeed, what support you’ll need to breastfeed and whether you can feed in the first place. It can come as a surprise to some new mums when breastfeeding doesn’t come easily - after all, it’s natural, isn’t it? After you’ve spent all that energy envisioning your birth, you might feel a little under-prepared when baby is here and hungry. 

So we caught up with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Shona Cassels, for expert advice on first time breastfeeding to answer all your questions.

Q. What, if anything, can I do to prepare my breasts and body for first time breastfeeding?

“There is no specific preparation of your breasts or nipples that is needed. The days of pregnant women being told to ‘toughen up’ their nipples to ‘prepare’ them for breastfeeding are long gone, thankfully! 

“We know now that we do not need to scrub them with toothbrushes, or pull and twist them (!) We can observe the changes in their size during pregnancy, and notice that our areola gets larger and darker (thanks to the action of the pregnancy hormones), and we might get used to just handling them if we like. 

“Most breasts and nipples work just fine for breastfeeding, but if you feel that you have any unusual anatomy of your breasts or you have had previous breast surgery (implants or reduction surgery) please seek an appointment with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for a personalised assessment.”

Q. I’ve heard a lot about latching in terms of breastfeeding position. What makes a great latch?

“Breastfeeding should always be comfortable (never painful) and a baby should be able to drink easily and strongly. When latched a baby's mouth will be wide open and their head slightly tilted back, allowing a deep latch onto the breast.”

TIP: If you’re unsure if your baby is latching correctly, or if you’re feeling pain during breastfeeding, reach out to a qualified lactation consultant. They help new mums (and new-to-breastfeeding mums!) to comfortably and confidently breastfeed. Even if you bottle-fed your previous babies, a consult with a lactation consultant may see you breastfeeding your new bub like a pro.

Q. Help! It’s our first night home from hospital and my newborn won’t settle. Should I just keep feeding him?

“Babies need at least 8 feeds in 24 hours, and the average is around 11 feeds per day. 

“In the first two days after birth they start with very small volumes of your colostrum (around 2ml-5ml per feed), then your milk starts to ‘come in’ from around Day 3, and the volume of milk increases day-on-day over the first week, so that by about 5 days old babies are drinking bigger volumes of around 500-800ml per day. 

“It is important to feed your baby at least 8 times in 24 hours over the first few days and weeks to ensure your milk supply comes in strongly. You can tell that your baby is getting enough milk by monitoring their wet and dirty nappies.”

Q. What’s the best position for my baby and me to feed pain-free?

Babies are more relaxed and are able to latch better if they are tummy-to-tummy with mum and mum is in a laid-back position (rather than sitting upright). When babies are in this position it properly wakens up a baby’s feeding reflexes, and allows them to use these feeding reflexes to find their way onto the breast with a deep latch.

DID YOU KNOW: Your newborn baby can wriggle their way to your breast for feeding? Called ‘baby-led attachment’ this amazing phenomenon often happens just after birth, but continues for up to 3 months. If you feel you had a late start to breastfeeding, or medical interventions prevented skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, a consult with a lactation consultant can help.

Q. I’m thinking of using a nursing pillow for breastfeeding - how can I position it to make sure my baby feeds well?

“Some mums find it helpful to have a pillow or support for their baby when breastfeeding, but they are not essential. Any pillow you use needs to work with the size and shape of you and your baby. 

“If you are placing a baby on a pillow, make sure your baby cannot sink into it (which is a smothering risk), and that the pillow does not place a baby too high (or too low) to be able to reach the breast easily. Never leave a baby unattended on a pillow.”

Q. We’ve been feeding for a while now and my neck and shoulder are killing me! Can a nursing pillow support the weight of my growing bub to take the strain off my arm?

“Many mums find it is helpful to have a pillow to support their own body when breastfeeding. You might use one to support your arms, or to provide more support to your back or neck.”

TIP: The Butterfly Maternity Nursing Cover instantly converts your maternity pillow into a stable, supportive nursing pillow for baby and you. 

For more on breastfeeding, help for breastfeeding newborns and support for new mums, try these resources:

Shona Cassels, IBCLC

Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand

Australian Breastfeeding Association



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