One of the joys of breastfeeding is that you are ‘the equipment’ and little else is required! However, there is a bewildering array of products on the market designed to aid breastfeeding in one way or another. Listed below are some things which you may find useful:
Feeding or nursing bras: while breastfeeding, you will find a feeding or nursing bra useful. These have special cup openings that you can undo to reveal your breast without having to undo the whole bra. There are lots of different bras available at varying prices. Try some on to find the one that is most comfortable, and then practice undoing it and doing it up again with one hand. Once you have found the one you are happy with, it’s a good idea to buy several.
Breast pads: leaking breasts are a natural, If sometimes slightly embarrassing, part of breastfeeding. It is very common to leak a little either during a feed or even when you’re not feeding. Breast pads prevent milk leaking onto your clothes. They fit inside your nursing bra to absorb excess milk and prevent damp patches staining your clothes. Breast pads are available as either disposable or machine-washable. They are usually made of cotton and may have adhesive on one side to keep them in place.
Feeding pillows: this is a V-shaped cushion that you place on your side, with one arm of the V underneath your feeding breast and the other around your back. It helps with breastfeeding by bringing your baby up to the right height to feed and helps support the weight of your baby, which makes it easier for you to get into a comfortable position and relax. It’s also good for propping your baby up before she can sit up for herself.
Breast pumps: these are machines that ‘express’ milk from your breast into a bottle, so that someone else can feed your baby. They are used to increase the supply of breast milk if it is low. There are many different types of pumps available for hire, too. Otherwise, opt for a manual pump or try expressing by hand. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter for more information.
Nipple shields: if you have inverted nipples, these thin plastic or rubber cups, which fit inside your bra, help push out your nipple and make breastfeeding easier. They are also used to protect sore nipples when you are feeding. Instead of attaching herself to your nipple, your baby attaches herself to the nipple shield and sucks the milk through it.
Muslin cloths: most babies will ‘spit up’ a bit of milk after a feed at some point. An absorbent muslin cloth worn over your shoulder, beneath your baby’s chin will help to protect your clothes.
Popular positions for holding your baby:
Try the following positions and use the ones you find most comfortable:
Cradle position: this is the most commonly used sitting position, for feeding a newborn baby. Using the arm closest to the breast you want to feed on, hold your baby ‘tummy to tummy’ so that she is turned on her side with her tummy facing towards you. Her head should lie in the crock of your arm, while your inner arm runs along her back and your hand supports her bottom. Your baby’s mouth needs to be at the same height as your arm to help support your baby. Your free hand can cup your feeding breast in a C-hold with your fingers underneath your breast and your thumb on top.
Rugby hold: so-called because you hold your baby under your arm like a rugby ball! It’s actually a very good position for beginners or if you’ve had a caesarean birth because the baby doesn’t lie against your tummy. Firstly, put your baby on a pillow or cushion beside you with her head in front of your breast and her feet pointing behind you, tucked under your arm. Use your hand to support her head and the rest of your arm to cradle her close to you. Your spare hand is used to hold your breast in C-hold.
Cross-cradle position: this is another popular sitting position because it gives you the most control in holding your baby. Again your baby should lie with her tummy facing towards you, but this time use the arm on the opposite side from your feeding breast to support her. Put your hand on the back of your baby’s neck with your thumb and index finger behind each ear. Your free hand can support your breast in the C-hold again
Lying down position: this is a great position for feeding during the night when you’re tired or unwell, or if you have had a caesarean birth. Both you and your baby lie on your sides facing each other, tummy to tummy. Cradle your baby in the arm closest to the side you’re feeding on and bring her in close to you. Use your free hand to hold your breast in the C-hold.
The first time you feed your baby
No one can explain the marvel of meeting and hold your baby for the very first time. You may be feeling all sorts of emotions, and be exhausted after a long labour, but you will want to see your baby, touch her and hold her. Putting your baby to the breast soon after she’s born and offering her a feed is as much a part of the process of getting to know each other as it is about actually feeding her.
If you are keen to breastfeed, you should write this down in your birth plan, so the hospital staff can help you. In most cases, your midwife will lift your baby onto you as soon as she is born and the skin-to-skin contact you have with your baby will help her to breastfeed.
Hold her close to your breast to see if she ‘roots’ for it – opens her mouth looking for your breast - which is a natural reflex in newborn babies. If she does and latches on, then that’s wonderful. She probably won’t suck for long but enough to give you an idea of what it feels like.
Don’t be surprised if you feel strong contraction-like pains. Breastfeeding stimulates your uterus to contract, to go back to its pre-pregnancy size, which is sometimes what causes these after-pains. You may feel these pains every time you feed for the first few weeks, but then they should stop. However, not everyone feels them, and they are often less painful for first babies.
If your baby doesn’t show any interest in feeding straight away, don’t worry. She might be sleepy to begin with, after the tiring experience of labour, or she might be very alert and more interested in looking at the world around her. Enjoy holding her and looking at her – the skin-to-skin contact alone is enough to stimulate your milk supply. You can try offering her your breast again later.