Breastfeeding might be a little uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t be painful or cause any emotional stress. A lot of new mothers struggle with breastfeeding at first, for different reasons. You already have enough on your plate, you don’t need any extra pressure or anxiety right now, so ask for help if you need it. Your healthcare professional can help find the right position for you, make sure your baby is feeding properly and give you any other support you need.
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
Don’t worry if it takes a little while for you to get the hang of breastfeeding, you and your newborn are both new to this. If all is going well, by the fifth day your baby should:
- be generally calm and relaxed while feeding and content after feeds
- have 8 feeds or more in 24 hours
- be feeding for between 5 and 40 minutes at each feed
- have a normal skin colour
- have wet and dirty nappies
- swallowing frequently during the feed, which you should be able to hear.
I feel like I haven’t got enough milk
One of the major reasons why women give up breastfeeding is because they feel they can’t, or are physically unable to produce enough milk for their baby.
Most women produce enough milk for their baby, but there are some reasons why some women have difficulties. The most common reasons are poor attachment and positioning, and not feeding your baby often enough.
Some babies start slow because of circumstances surrounding their birth such as type of birth, pain relief in labour and if they were separated from their mum at birth. Other factors that may make breastfeeding difficult include:
smoking and drinking alcohol while breastfeeding
anxiety, stress or depression
illness in you or your baby.
medical problems such as hypothyroidism or anaemia
You could try the following to increase your supply:
- express some breast milk after feeds once breastfeeding is established
- offer both breasts at each feed and alternate which breast you start with
- keep your baby close to you and hold them skin to skin.
- feed your baby as often and for as long as they want.'
- Why do my breasts feel painful?
- If your breasts feel heavy, it can help to feed your baby, massage your breasts or express by hand. But do not express regularly as it can increase your milk supply and worsen the initial problem.
A heavy build-up of milk can sometimes cause mastitis. This usually affects one breast and symptoms can come on quickly. These include:
a red, swollen area on your breast that may feel hot and painful to touch
a breast lump or area of hardness on your breast
a burning pain in your breast
nipple discharge, which may be white or contain streaks of blood
flu-like symptoms, such as aches, a high temperature (fever), chills and tiredness.
It’s common to develop mastitis in the first 3 months of breastfeeding, although it can happen at any time. It’s important to see your GP if you have any symptoms because you may need antibiotics. Most women recover quickly, but if mastitis isn’t treated properly you may need hospital treatment.
It also can help to:
stay well hydrated
take paracetamol or ibuprofen
avoid tight fitting clothes, including bras
continue to feed your baby and express any remaining milk after a feed.
Your GP, midwife or health visitor can also help you improve your breastfeeding technique to make sure your baby is well attached during feeds.
My nipples feel cracked and sore.
Sore nipples usually occurs between 3 to 7 days into breastfeeding. It happens because your baby isn't attached effectively to your nipples.
If your nipples are painful, you may find it helps to:
hand express a little milk at the end of a feed and massage it on to your nipple
let your nipples dry before getting dressed again
use breast pads and change them regularly
wear a cotton breastfeeding bra.
Some women treat cracks using soft paraffin, such as Vaseline. There are also some specialist nipple creams available.
It’s important to talk to your healthcare professional about this so they can look at how your baby is feeding. If your baby isn’t properly attached, your nipples won’t heal.
If the pain continues, you may have thrush and will need antifungal cream.
Can I breastfeed in public?
There is no reason why you shouldn’t breastfeed in public, but we still hear stories from women who have been made to feel uncomfortable.
If you don’t feel confident about breastfeeding, you may want to stay close to home, at least to start with. Your baby will need feeding quite often and will not be willing to wait until you get home!
There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public. In fact, in some countries, it is illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public space. Don’t feel like you should hide away, for example in a restaurant toilet. You wouldn’t eat there, so your baby shouldn’t have to either.
Some women find it helpful to take a supportive friend or family member out with them if they’re feeling uncomfortable, and for a pair of extra helping hands.
Can my partner help with feeds?
Your partner can help with feeding the baby. If you want to just breastfeed, there are practical ways they can help. For example, they can:
make sure you’re sitting comfortably and fetch extra pillows or cushions if needed
bring you a snack or a glass of water as you feed
take the baby when you’ve finished so you can adjust your clothes.
If you choose to introduce a bottle but want to carry on using just breast milk, try to practice expressing to gain confidence before you start your baby on the bottle.
I really don’t like breastfeeding. Is it okay to stop?
Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby, but don’t feel guilty if it isn’t for you. There are lots of reasons why some women don’t breastfeed or stop before they thought they would.
If you’re having problems breastfeeding but want to carry on, there is support available. But if breastfeeding is affecting your health or causing stress and anxiety and you want to stop, then you should stop. Your baby needs you to be happy and well.