The Breastfeeding Guide

The Breastfeeding Guide

From initiation to weaning, and troubleshooting everything inbetween

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In Australia, breastfeeding is initiated for almost all babies (96%), but according to the ABS, just 35% are exclusively breastfed till 6 months of age. There are endless economic and societal reasons for this. Some are personal. Some are practical. Some are painful. Some are political.If you’d like to try to establish breastfeeding with your baby, it could be helpful to learn some basic tools, techniques and terminology so you can have a good understanding of this whole new weird, sometimes sore, definitely exhausting world.

When its initiated

After the birth of your baby and your placenta, your body will naturally recalibrate its hormonal balance. Pregnancy hormones will drop away (for example oestrogen, progesterone) and hormones that promote lactation (i.e. oxytocin and prolactin) will become elevated. From the moment your baby is laid on your chest, their natural reflex will encourage them to etch towards your breast, latch and start to feed. It’s an incredible demonstration of their connection to you in the earliest hours of their life.

Despite producing colostrum (breast milk's earliest form), it’s unlikely that your ‘mature’ milk will come in for a few days. As you wait for your boobs to fill, the colostrum is a nutritional feed which works to meet their needs.

Early Breastfeeding Dynamics: The Hormonal Shift and First Latch

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After the birth of your baby and your placenta, your body will naturally recalibrate its hormonal balance. Pregnancy hormones will drop away (for example oestrogen, progesterone) and hormones that promote lactation (i.e. oxytocin and prolactin) will become elevated. From the moment your baby is laid on your chest, their natural reflex will encourage them to etch towards your breast, latch and start to feed. It’s an incredible demonstration of their connection to you in the earliest hours of their life.

Despite producing colostrum (breast milk's earliest form), it’s unlikely that your ‘mature’ milk will come in for a few days. As you wait for your boobs to fill, the colostrum is a nutritional feed which works to meet their needs.

Transition to Mature Milk

Finding your rhythm

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Around day 2, 3 or 4, most women will notice their boobs becoming a lot fuller and firmer. Some women will experience engorgement, which is when the breast tissue overfills with milk and other fluids. Despite likely discomfort, this is actually a wonderful sign as your baby's food has arrived. You might find relief in ice therapy like these breast packs. Breast Ice & Heat Pack

It’s important to stress at this point that breastfeeding can be very tricky to get your head around while you try and find a rhythm that suits both you and your baby. It can be painful, frustrating, uncomfortable and it can lead some mothers to feel distressed or as if they’re failing. If this resonates with you - you are not alone. What you are experiencing is common and not a reflection of you, your love for your baby or your efforts. Patience and practice are essential aspects of breastfeeding during the early days and just because it’s ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it will come easily. But if a few days or weeks go by and you’re still not feeling comfortable, call your midwife or lactation consultant for some guidance and support.

Adjusting and Troubleshooting

Once you establish breastfeeding, your boobs will soften as they regulate to mirror your baby's needs. You can get into a rhythm and gradually become more comfortable and confident. For other women, due to a variety of reasons aside from pain and discomfort (e.g. problems with milk supply, an irregular nipple shape or issues regarding the baby’s physicality (for example if it has tongue tie or a cleft palate)), breastfeeding may be an exceptionally tough experience to navigate. If you want to persevere and keep going, good on you! As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to call a lactation consultant as soon as you can, to prevent further damage or pain.
You can also troubleshoot some common problems here.

If you want to stop breastfeeding and opt for an alternative, again, good on you! Your baby, your body, your call. Feeding your baby with a bottle and expressed breast milk (EBM) or formula are perfectly healthy options. Feed your baby, your way, and do what’s right for you and your family.

HOW TO INTRODUCE A BOTTLE TO YOUR BABY

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Everything else you need to know

For every breastfeeding twist and turn or 3am question, we’ve got the solution to help you feel good.