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2 Things You Need To Understand About Breastfeeding

As you move into the last stretch of the pregnancy, the reality of breastfeeding starts to hit home and you may be worrying about what you need to know to be able to breastfeed with confidence.

Latch and normal feeding patterns are two important breastfeeding basics that underpin breastfeeding success, and it's a good idea to understand them before you get started. I am briefly going to explain them so you understand what they are and why they are important.  

It is also a great idea to take a class before the baby arrives so that you can learn more about these and other breastfeeding basics in order to be fully prepared and confident!

1. Latch

Latching is how the baby attaches to the breast. The baby takes the nipple into his mouth and draws it all the way to the back of the mouth, the baby’s lips will create a seal around the breast and the tongue cradles the nipple protecting it from the lower gum.  

When the baby is latched on correctly the mouth should be wide open (as wide as a yawn) and the jaw pressed deeply into the breast and both the upper and lower lips should be folded outwards, this is sometimes called duck lips!  It is vitally important to know that with a correct latch the breastfeeding should be comfortable; all the mum will feel is a gentle tugging sensation.  

The nipple is not meant to get damaged during breastfeeding and when the baby is finished feeding the nipple should not be squashed or hurt in any way, if it does it means the baby is not latched correctly.

If the baby isn’t latching on correctly then mum needs to take baby off and re-latch the baby, if breastfeeding remains painful then it is imperative that mum gets help from a lactation consultant who will show her how to help her baby latch correctly.

Correct latching is also important because it will ensure that the baby is getting plenty of milk, with a correct latch the baby’s lips and tongue work in tandem to create a vacuum in the mouth and this is how the milk is transferred from the breast to the baby.  

If the baby is not latched correctly it can result in poor milk transfer and this, in turn, can affect the baby’s feeding pattern and even their weight gain.  

2. Feeding Patterns

It is important to understand that breastfed babies need to feed very often. New-born babies have tiny tummies and they can only take in small amounts of milk at a time, also breast milk is very easy to digest and this is another reason the baby will need to feed frequently.  

The normal feeding pattern for a breastfed baby is at least 8 to 10 times in a 24 hour period but it can often be much more frequent that this, sometimes up to 14 or so times in on 24 hour period.  

It also important to know that there is no routine to the feeding pattern; in fact, we shouldn’t really call it a feeding pattern because there is no pattern either! It’s just feeding! The baby will indicate the need to feed by turning his or head toward the breast or bringing the hands to the mouth or latching on to anything that vaguely resembles a nipple and also crying.  

The baby knows when he or she wants to feed and how long each feed will be and each feeding session will vary, anywhere from 10 minutes up to 40 minutes is completely normal.

Over the first six weeks a feeding pattern will emerge and also the feeding frequency may ease off but it is vital that a new mum understands that frequent feeding is completely normal. 

Have you any other tips for getting started with breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

A Registered General Nurse, Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over twenty years experience. For the past ten years Clare has been teaching antenatal classes, breastfeeding preparation classes and providing breastfeeding support for moms in Ireland.

"I love my work, it is a privilege to help women during this important time of their life."

To find out more visit www.breastfeedingconsultant.ie

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