Getting ready to breastfeed
How often should I breastfeed?
You can feed your baby any time they're hungry. During the first few weeks it's normal for a baby to feed up to 12 times a day. You can't overfeed a baby on breastmilk, and baby will let you know when they've had enough milk. If your baby is gaining weight and has at least 6 wet nappies a day, then that should indicate that they are getting enough milk.
How do I know when to feed baby?
There are several signs you should look out for: stirring and stretching, sucking their fingers, moving their lips, make sucking motions.
How long should I breastfeed for?
There's no hard and fast rule as to when you should stop breastfeeding - the decision is completely down to you and when you feel comfortable. It's recommended that from 6 months, alongside breastfeeding, you can start to introduce your baby to food. This will help to provide the balance of nutrients your baby needs as they start exploring solids.
Breast pumps allows you to collect your milk so that others can feed them when you're not around, or you're trying to sleep. You can store your breastmilk for up to 5 days, as long as you keep it refrigerated.
There are 2 types of breast pump - manual and electric. Manual pumps are suitable for occasional pumping, whereas electric pumps make regular pumping easier. They're also handy for working mums so they can express a lot of milk in a short space of time.
Introducing, the worlds first silent wearable breast pump, by Elvie
Now breast pumping can be one less thing to worry about. The Elvie wearable pump means you can get on with other things (or have a few precious moments of peace) whilst pumping. And because it’s silent, no one would ever know.
With some clever hidden feeding features, such as nursing layers and cut-out holes, Tu offers a range of maternity clothing that’s both pretty and practical. Helping to make nursing that little bit easier.
Are there any foods to avoid when breastfeeding?
Anything you eat or drink while you're breastfeeding can find its way into your breast milk, however there's no specific food that you should be avoiding. A healthy diet is recommended, and it’s best to go easy on coffee and wine.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can make your baby restless, so doctors recommend limiting yourself to less than 200mg a day (a mug of filter coffee is 140mg). Although eating fish is good for you and your baby's health, Doctors also recommend restricting yourself to no more than 2 portions a week of oily fish (fresh mackerel, sardines, trout or salmon).
How to breastfeed
Getting into position
Make sure your back and arms are supported with cushions, as feeds can last a long time. It can help to raise your feet a little by using a foot stool or putting them on a cushion. Hold baby close to you, with their weight against your body. Turn them slightly so their mouth and nose faces your nipple, without them needing to turn their head.
Helping baby to latch on to your nipple
You can encourage them to open their mouth by brushing their lips with your nipple. Their mouth should open, causing their head to tilt back. Draw them onto your breast while their mouth is open, chin first, while supporting their neck. They should then be able to take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.
What if my nipple gets sore?
It's not uncommon to experience soreness 3 to 7 days after birth. It's usually a sign that baby is pulling on the nipple and not feeding from the right position. It's best to contact a midwife and breastfeeding specialist if soreness persists to get advice.
Once baby has had a feed, they’ll likely need to be burped, or winded. You can burp baby by putting them over your shoulder, or sitting them on your lap, and gently rubbing or patting their back, but it’s likely to take some time to find the method that suits you and your baby best. It’s also useful to have a muslin square to hand in-case they bring any milk back up.
The different breastfeeding positions
The most common position, with baby held across your lap. Leaning baby against your elbow, you draw them up to your breast. Best for - full-term babies who were delivered vaginally.
Lie on your sides, tummy to tummy. Cradle baby's head with your top arm and guide them to your breast. Best for - night time feeding or if you find sitting up uncomfortable.
Your arms are lightly folded, and you use your hand to guide baby's head to your nipple. Best for - small babies and babies who have trouble latching on.
You tuck your baby under your arm, like a handbag, supporting and guiding their head to your nipple with your hand. Best for - if you've had a caesarean or find it less comfortable to have baby on your stomach.
Lean back comfortably and gently lie baby on your chest with their mouth on your nipple. Best for - women with smaller breasts or if you're tired and want to relax.
Preparing to bottle feed
If you are unable to breastfeed, bottle feeding is still a good way to give baby all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. To bottle feed, you'll need to have several bottles and teats ready for multiple feeds. You'll also need to sterilise them before use. When preparing formula, carefully follow the instructions on the packaging. Any formula you make needs to be kept chilled and used within 24 hours.
Understanding the different bottles and their benefits can help you make an informed decision when buying a bottle for your baby.
- Takes both silicone and latex teats.
- Due to the narrower neck, can be trickier to clean and fill.
- Specially designed to reduce the amount of air swallowed whilst feeding.
- They usually have a vented base, tubes or bags that help to do this.
- Can be either a standard or wide-neck shape. Therefore, which teat material it takes, will depend on its shape.
Your baby will need different bottle sizes to accommodate their appetite and age. For example, a newborn will likely feed little and often as their tummy is so small.
There are several varieties of teats available. It may be a case of trying a few of them to determine which your baby prefers.
Ultimately, the teat choice will be down to your baby’s preference but are typically made from either silicone or latex. Whilst latex is considered a softer, flexible and more natural material, silicone is more durable.
There’s 2 main teat shapes – bell-shaped and natural.
- Bell-shaped teats generally have a slower flow and therefore tends to be a preferred choice for newborns.
- Natural teats mimic the shape of the nipple and breast making them best for when transitioning from breast to bottle.
When should I change a bottle teat?
- Teats should be changed if damaged or bitten.
How much flow do you need?
There are a few different types of teat flows that allow different quantities of liquid through at one time. For newborns you would usually use a slow flow and gradually build up as your baby grows and drinks more.
- Signs that it’s time to increase the flow include: baby taking longer than 20min to finish a bottle, falling asleep mid feed or tugging at the teat.
- Signs that you need to decrease the flow include: baby spluttering or choking whilst feeding.
Bottle feeding essentials
How to bottle feed your baby
- First, make sure you're comfortable.
- Hold baby in your arms but raise their body to an upright position, supporting their head with your hand.
- Brush the bottle's teat against their lips, letting them draw it in when their mouth opens.
- Hold the bottle up to keep the teat full.
- If the teat goes flat, gently poke your little finger into the corner of baby's mouth to release the suction.
How to sterilise baby bottles
Your newborn’s immune system is in its earliest stage of development and therefore extra precautions must be taken to prevent possible infection. There are 2 main sterilisation methods you can choose from.
- As soon as you can after every feed, first wash your bottles and teats in hot, soapy water.
- Use a dedicated baby bottle brush to help give a thorough clean.
- Or you can pop them facing down in your dishwasher.
- Rinse them in cold water before sterilising.
- It’s important to sterilise new bottles and teats before you use them to remove any bacteria.
- You will need to continue this sterilisation process until your baby is at least 1 year old.
Cold water sterilisation
- If using this method, read the manufacturer’s instructions first.
- This method usually requires a sterilisation tablet or solution.
- Fully submerge the feeding equipment and close the lid. The lid will also act as a plunger to keep them in place.
- Leave for at least 30 mins or until the manufacturer advises.
- Nowadays, this is the most common method which comes in the form of either an electric or microwave steam steriliser.
- Regardless of which you choose, always read the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Ensure the openings of the bottle and teats are facing down.
- The manufacturer will say how long the sterilising process should be and also how long you can leave the equipment in the steriliser unused before they need sterilising again.
Breastfeeding for fathers and partners
How can you help?
Breastfeeding builds a bond between mother and baby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a role.
- Make sure your partner is comfortable. Do they need anything to eat or drink, extra cushions or a nursing pillow?
- Be on hand to grab anything they might need, like a bib or muslin square.
- Once baby has finished feeding, help out with changing and settling them back to sleep.
- If your partner is expressing, you’ll be able to start alternating feeds with your partner.
Explore more baby and nursery advice ...
Every baby is different ...
Remember, nursing is an individual experience for every mother and baby, so what works for one mother may differ for another. If you do have any concerns, contact your local doctor.
Argos' pregnancy and baby club
The experience of pregnancy and parenthood is the most amazing time of your life and we’d love to come along with you on the journey. Sign up to our club for top tips, advice and offers sent straight to your inbox.