6 August 2020
You can give your baby a great start to life by breastfeeding. When you breastfeed, you are giving your baby the ideal mix of nutrients he or she needs to grow and develop.
And scientists are investigating other benefits, too. They believe breastfed babies have fewer allergies, ear infections, go to hospital less and have less health conditions when they get older.
However, everyone will have a different experience of breastfeeding. It’s not always as easy as it looks in the movies. For some people it can be difficult or painful initially, and others may not be able to breastfeed for other reasons.
Children’s Health Queensland lactation consultant Judy Cunningham says breastfeeding can be challenging in the early days – as babies and mums learn to feed – but many of these issues can be overcome with some help.
“It is often a learned skill,” she says. “If you get the right help and support you can usually overcome any difficulties and continue to breastfeed for a long as you would want to.”
Here are some of the most common questions, challenges and obstacles women face when breastfeeding and some tips for tackling them:
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
In their very first days as a newborn, babies only drink very small amounts of early breastmilk, called colostrum. You can check your baby’s nappies to find out if they are getting enough milk. On the baby’s first day, the poo is sticky and green-black. This will change over the next five days to softer and greener in colour, then a more yellow colour. Here’s a guide to the typical baby poos and wees you can expect.
If your baby is not getting enough milk, their wee will be yellow and dark with a strong smell. Seek medical advice if this is happening.
It’s normal for newborn babies to feed between 12 or more times in a 24-hour period, including more frequent feeds overnight. Most babies can lose up to 10 per cent of their weight in their first few days after birth but should be back to their birth weight by 14 days old. As the milk supply increases and changes, look out for at least five wet nappies with pale-coloured wees each day. If you are using cloth nappies, you can expect between six and eight wet nappies.
After the first six weeks, babies are getting enough milk if they are putting on enough weight for their age. The general guideline for a baby to double his or her birth weight by four to six months old, and triple their birth weight around their first birthday.
Am I producing enough milk? Or too much?
Most women produce enough milk to feed their baby even though many mums are concerned about it. Your milk supply responds to feeding from the baby – the more the baby feeds, the more milk is made. It can help to monitor the baby’s poos and wees (as above) and their growth.
Oversupply can be a problem for some mums, especially in the first few weeks, causing feeding difficulties for the baby and over-full, lumpy or tight breasts overnight. Once your baby is older than six weeks, if your baby is growing then you are producing enough milk.
My baby keeps vomiting up milk. Is this normal?
Babies often spit up or “posset” their milk after feeds. They can bring up the milk suddenly. This is because their system is not yet mature and is totally normal.
In the event your baby is bringing up a large amount of milk after most feeds, appears in pain or fussy, it could be reflux disease.
My baby wants to feed all the time
Sometimes your baby will feed more or less at certain times of the day, instead of in a regular pattern. They may cry, fuss, and want to feed many times. Some babies can cluster-feed – wanting short feeds within a few hours – from the afternoon to the evening. Others want to feed more times overnight than during the day. This is all normal. In time, your baby may develop into a pattern so you can plan your day around their feeds, or they may change their feeding patterns back into a more regular pattern.
I have painful and sore nipples. Why is this happening?
When you and your baby are learning to feed together, it can be difficult or uncomfortable. Cracks or bruises can happen if the baby is not attached to the nipple correctly. Nipple shields can help to protect your body in the early days, or you can try breastmilk or some commercial creams to heal the skin. For techniques or devices to assist, you can contact the child health nurse on 13HEALTH or you can visit your local child health nurse at Parenting Support and Early Feeding Drop-In Clinics.
For more information and support
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
- 13HEALTH: A child health nurse is available through the Queensland Health hotline from 6.30am to 11pm on weekdays