Breastfeeding 101: Mastering the Precious Art of Baby Feeding

By  Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 30 January 2021

In today's Breastfeeding 101 post, I have broken down EVERYTHING there is to possibly know about... milk ↓, boobs and breastfeeding as well as...

Expressing ↓, getting a good latch ↓, signs of a hungry baby ↓... 

Positions ↓, benefits ↓, helpful tips... 

Weaning ↓, common issues ↓ and MORE!

This really is your one-stop-shop for all thing boobs and breastfeeding.

Now onto the good stuff.

Breast milk is amazing

Breastfeeding 101 ultimate guide pin

It is composed of millions of different components including fats, carbohydrates, proteins and minerals all of which are specifically designed to benefit your baby's well being and development. 

It has the capacity to adapt and meet the needs of your little one changing depending on the time of day, the age of your baby and even during the feed itself.

While breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, for many new mothers nursing successfully takes time and practise. 

We all know that 'breast is best' and with some determination, a healthy expectation of what breastfeeding will bring and taking advantage of any help there is out there, most mothers will breastfeed happily and successfully. 

So let's get down into everything and anything to do with feeding your little one!

When will my breast milk come in? The 3 types of milk

There are 3 main stages that your breast milk will come in at...

1. Colostrum 

After your baby is born, in the early stages of breastfeeding, you will produce colostrum which is the first of 3 stages of breast milk.

It is sometimes referred to as the 'golden liquid' due to its thick yellow consistency, but is packed full of antibodies to protect your baby from bacterial and viral illnesses as well as being high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. 

The colostrum stage only lasts 3 to 4 days and is relatively low in volume so your baby may need to nurse as often as every 2 - 3 hours.

2. Transitional Milk

Within 4 days, colostrum is replaced by a creamy high fat, high lactose milk which is known as transitional milk which will last for about 2 weeks. 

Transitional milk also contains high levels of vitamins and is higher in calories than colostrum. This high-calorie milk will help your baby regain their birth weight by 2 weeks of age. 

During this phase, your breasts will become firmer, larger and can feel uncomfortable. 

Regular feeding and ensuring that your baby is properly latched on is important at this stage to keep your milk production flowing and to avoid breast discomfort and pain.

3. Mature milk (Foremilk and Hindmilk)

Mature milk is the third and final stage of maturing breast milk and normally begins to appear towards the end of the 2nd week after giving birth. 

This milk is thinner and higher in water content than transitional milk consisting of 90% water and 10% carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

During a feed, your mature milk will change from foremilk which is packed full of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins and lots of water to prevent dehydration... 

To hindmilk, which is thicker and darker as the energy and fat content of the milk increases during the feed to allow babies to start to go longer between feeds.

Mature milk, with its magic combination of foremilk and hindmilk, will last until you wean your baby off the breast but cleverly as your baby eats more solid food and has other liquids your breast milk will adjust to your child's developing nutritional needs. 

It truly is clever stuff!

How to breastfeed baby

As much as breastfeeding sounds like it should come naturally, in reality, it is hard work for most new mothers both physically and emotionally. 

Making sure your baby latches on correctly from the start is key to avoiding some of the problems we have already looked at. 

Finding the right feeding position for you both is also critical in establishing healthy and stress-free breastfeeding.

This next section of the post will explain all of this in further detail!

Getting Ready to breastfeed

In the early days, it is important that you find a quiet place where you are relaxed in which to feed your new baby. 

Later on, you will get better at feeding in different locations but until that time and in order for you to establish breastfeeding, being comfortable, warm and relaxed is KEY.

  • If you are feeding in bed, make sure you have adequate pillows to prop you up.
  • If you are sitting in a chair, again make sure you have good support.
  • A foot rest often helps when sitting in a chair.
  • Try a nursing pillow.
  • Wear clothing that gives easy access to your breasts.
  • Make sure the environment is calm and peaceful with no distractions.
  • Make sure the room is warm.

How to establish a breastfeeding latch

To help your baby to latch on correctly follow these Breastfeeding 101 tips!

  • Make yourself comfortable with back support and pillows to support your arms and baby and a footrest if you are sitting in a nursing chair.
  • Bring your baby's head close to your nipple by supporting your baby's back rather than just the back of his head.
  • Check that your baby's ear, shoulder and hip are aligned.
  • With his nose aligned to your nipple. Touch his upper lip with your nipple to encourage him to open his mouth as wide as possible.
  • Once his tongue is over his bottom lip bring his mouth towards your breast aiming your nipple towards the top of his mouth.
  • He should then take a large portion of your areola into his mouth with his bottom lip and jaw covering most of it. Don't panic if you see some areola as we all have different size babies and different size areola.
  • Remember that not all mums will have the same latch as breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, but it is important to keep your baby close during nursing with his chin in contact with your breast so that he can breathe through his nose.
  • The latch, if correct, should feel like a slight tugging sensation and not be painful.
  • Watch as your baby feeds. They will start with short, rapid sucks to stimulate your milk flow and then the sucking will become more slow and deep with some pauses.
  • Watch to see if your baby's jaw is moving while feeding and listen for signs of sucking and swallowing.
  • If you do feel pain and discomfort the chances are your baby has not latched on correctly. To break the latch ease your finger inside the corner of his mouth to break the suction and try again.
  • Do not persist with an incorrect latch as this may lead to sore and cracked nipples and even mastitis later on.
  • If you are continuing to struggle with latching get some advice from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist.

VIDEO CREDIT: HCA West Florida

6 Best breastfeeding positions

Equally as important as getting a good latch is finding the best feeding position for you and your baby. 

5 Breastfeeding Positions Infographic

The position itself may determine whether you can establish a good latch or not. Some of the most common options are:

1. Cradle hold

This is probably the most common and well-known hold for nursing. (If you have had a caesarean, for example, this may not be the best hold for you so try a side-lying or rugby hold instead).

  • For this hold, it is best to sit in a comfortable chair with armrests or in bed with cushions or pillows for support. If you are sitting in a chair use a footrest to stop yourself leaning forward.
  • Lay your baby across your lap.
  • Place baby's head on your forearm on the same side as the breast you are feeding on. Your arm should be supporting the whole of his body, with his nose towards your nipple.
  • Place your baby's lower arm under yours and check to make sure your little ones, ear, shoulder and hip are in alignment.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

2. Cross Cradle Hold

This is another extremely popular breastfeeding hold due to the fact that your baby is draped across your front and you can easily see if your baby is latched on correctly.

It is similar to the cradle hold above but in this hold, you support your baby with the arm on the opposite side to the breast you are feeding on.

This is also the easiest nursing position for feeding in public.

  • Bring your baby across your body so you are tummy to tummy.
  • If your baby is nursing on your left side you hold your baby supporting their neck with your right arm.
  • Support your breast with your left hand.
  • A breastfeeding pillow is often useful when using this position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Side-Lying Hold

This hold is good for night time feeding or if you have had a C-Section or a difficult delivery and are experiencing discomfort in a seated position for too long.

  • Start by lying comfortably on your side with your baby lying facing towards you.
  • You can place some cushions or pillows behind you for support and a rolled-up baby blanket behind your baby to help you support them.
  • Check that your baby's ear, shoulder and hip are aligned and not twisted.
  • Tuck the arm you are lying on under your head or pillow and use your free hand to guide and support your baby's head towards your breast.

4. Rugby Or Football Hold

The rugby hold or 'clutch hold' is a very good position if you are feeding twins or have had a C-Section.

  • Sit in a chair or propped up in bed with a cushion or pillow along your side /sides
  • Position you, baby or babies, at your side, under your arm keeping their hips close to your hips.
  • As always your baby's nose should be close to your nipple.
  • Support your baby's neck with the palm of your hand.
  • Gently guide them to your nipple.

5. Laidback Hold

This is another hold that is preferred by mothers who have a C section or difficult birth.

  • Lie back on a comfy sofa or bed in a semi-reclining position supported by pillows or cushions
  • When you are comfortable place your baby on his front on your body so that his feet are near your thighs and your baby's head is resting somewhere near your breast. Bending your knees may help as your baby's feet should not dangle. Alternatively, support your baby's bottom with a free hand.
  • Make sure your baby's chin is touching your breast and his nose is in line with your nipple.
  • Rub your nipple on your baby's upper lip to encourage your baby to open his mouth wide and guide your nipple into your baby's mouth.
  • Although the baby feet down position may be the best to start off with if you have had a vaginal birth, you can also reposition your baby to any angle (over your shoulder for example) to keep him off your wound if you have had a C section. Treat your nipple like the centre of the clock dial and move your baby around the dial until you find the position that suits you both best.

6. Upright Hold

This hold is sometimes called the Koala hold or upright football hold and can be used when carrying your baby in a sling although this does take some practice and is better for older babies who are well-established feeders.

  • Have your baby sit in front and facing you with legs straddling your knee.
  • Support your baby with the same arm on the same side as you are feeding.
  • Support your breast with your other hand and help you, baby, to latch on.

Experiment with these holds to see which one suits you and your baby best. The position you settle with may change as your baby gets older or you heal from a difficult birth or C section.

Different positions also suit mothers with different breastfeeding issues, for example, if you have large breasts the side-lying position or rugby hold usually works best.

If you baby suffers from reflux, colic or is very windy, then an upright or semi-upright position such as the laid back position or upright football hold, followed by keeping your baby in an upright position for 20 minutes after a feed can prove helpful.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

There are so many benefits to both you and your baby when you breastfeed...

Benefits To Baby

  • Breast milk contains antibodies to help fight infection.
  • Breastfeeding helps your baby become a lifelong healthy eater. As your diet will directly influence the composition of your breast milk the tastes you introduce your baby to when nursing may impact on how your baby responds to new tastes during weaning and beyond.
  • Nursing reduces the chances of your baby developing diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of SIDS, type 2 diabetes and childhood leukaemia.
  • It may help reduce the risk of your baby developing heart disease, eczema, asthma and other allergies later in life.

Benefits To You

  • Breastfeeding will help you lose any weight you gained during pregnancy.
  • Nursing will help you bond with your newborn with skin to skin contact regulating your baby's heartbeat and body temperature. In addition, it has been scientifically proven that levels of oxytocin (or love hormone) increase while you breastfeed, which in turn is thought to increase your feelings of love towards your baby.
  • Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Nursing lowers the chances of postpartum depression.

As well as the benefits mentioned above, breastfeeding can save you time and money as well as being super convenient, as you don't have to carry around lots of feeding paraphernalia. 

Pumping and Milk Storage

Most mums will need to express milk at some point and for any of the following reasons.

  • To stimulate milk productions, especially in the early days.
  • To store milk if you are unable to be with your baby all the time (i.e. going back to work).
  • So that your partner or relative can feed your baby.
  • Because your baby is unable to suckle on the breast successfully.
  • Your breasts are engorged or uncomfortable.

If you are experiencing any of the above, expressing can ensure that your baby can still have the benefits of breast milk no matter what the situation.

Expressing

Expressing can be done by hand or with a manual or electric pump and can be given to your baby from either a bottle or cup, depending on their age, or even a syringe for smaller babies.

However, you choose to express, always make sure your hands are clean and that whatever equipment you are using is sterilised. 

It is also helpful to feel as relaxed as possible to stimulate the release of oxytocin which in turn stimulates the letdown reflex

Having your baby nearby, or holding or smelling your baby's clothes, can help if you are struggling to relax. 

Even a picture of your little one can do the trick.

The method by which you choose to express is really up to you and what you find easier and more comfortable.

Hand expressing can take some practise and is useful if you only have to express occasionally or relatively small amounts, whereas pumping can be more efficient if you need to express more regularly and some electric pumps even allow your pump both breasts at once. 

VIDEO CREDIT: Baby Friendly Initiative UK

When it comes to choosing the best breast pump for you, take time to research what is on the market and what you feel will be best suited to your needs.

If you’re stuck with where to start, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox for my top pick.

Whichever method you choose, expressing should not be painful and if you are experiencing discomfort or difficulty then consult with your midwife or a breastfeeding consultant. 

It is often helpful to get the midwife or health visitor to help you express for the first time, as they will be able to make sure you are doing it correctly.

When it comes to storing breast milk, always use sterilised bottles or specially designed bags. 

Always write the date and time on the container before putting into the fridge or freezer. 

Bear in mind that freezing breast milk does kill off some of the antibodies.

How long can I store breastmilk for?

Freshly expressed milk can be stored:

  • For up to 5 days in a fridge.
  • Up to 2 weeks in a freezer compartment.
  • Up to six months in a freezer at -18 C.

Frozen milk can then be thawed by placing in a jug of warm water or overnight in a fridge. It is not advisable to try and speed up the thawing process by using a microwave, for example, as this runs the risk of causing hot spots in the milk.

If after thawing, the milk separates, just give it a shake and always throw away any unused milk after a feed.

Whatever decision you make about expressing and how you choose to do it, remember that it may be the answer to ensuring your baby can be given breast milk for those all-important first weeks and later on, should you decide to return to work. 

It can also help to make your partner feel more involved and experience the bonding of feeding as they can sometimes feel excluded when you nurse exclusively.

How long should I let my newborn feed on each breast?

There is no set time when you should change sides and there is no such thing as a normal nursing session as this will differ from baby to baby. 

As you become more experienced, you will learn to spot the signs that your baby has taken their fill on one breast, when their active sucking and swallowing slows down or stops. 

You can then break the latch if they do not do it themselves and move to the other breast.

Some babies will show a preference for one breast or another. 

If this is the case, you may need to express the less preferred breast to ensure your milk supply is kept even in both breasts. 

At the end of the feed, your breasts should feel comfortable and soft.

How often to breastfeed a newborn

Your baby should be feeding approximately 12 times in a 24 hour period during the first few weeks or every two to three hours. 

Breastfed babies will usually need to feed more frequently than bottle-fed babies as formula takes longer to digest than breast milk.

Newborn babies have very small stomachs so need to eat little and often but after a few weeks, when your baby has adjusted to life outside the womb, they will gradually be able to take more substantial feeds. 

The frequency of feeds will also decrease and a less arduous routine will develop.

Signs baby is hungry

From the moment our babies are born our overriding instinct as a mother is to make sure they are well fed and nourished. 

It is normal for new mothers to worry about whether their newborn is getting enough to eat especially when we are learning to breastfeed, trying to sort out day/night confusion and generally settle into a healthy baby routine

But, some signs your newborn is hungry are:

  • Turning towards your breast when being held
  • Sucking on lips
  • Sucks fists or fingers
  • Restless and squirming with agitated body movements
  • Moving head from side to side

Of course, crying is also a sign of hunger but it is usually a late sign

Knowing the signs above will help you avoid your baby getting to the crying for hunger stage when they might be too distraught to latch properly on or fall into an exhausted sleep before taking a full feed.

VIDEO CREDIT: HCA West Florida

How do I know when my baby is full when breastfeeding?

When breastfeeding it is even harder to assess how much your baby has had to eat, but there are some tips to help you feel more in control and at ease:

  • You can see your baby swallowing while feeding.
  • Your breasts feel soft and comfortable after a feed (if not, your baby may not be latching on correctly).
  • Your baby comes off the breast easily and is content at the end of a feed.
  • Your baby is alert when he is awake and a healthy colour.
  • Your baby has 1 or 2 heavy wet nappies in the first 48 hours.
  • Your baby has 5 or 6 wet nappies as of five days old.
  • By day 5 your baby's poo should be a yellowy mustard colour.
  • Your baby is producing 2 poops every 24 hours.
  • Your baby is gaining weight (although it is normal for newborns to lose weight initially, they should regain their birth weight by 2 weeks of age)

How to tell if baby’s getting enough milk (or not)

Signs to watch out for that may suggest your baby is not getting enough milk are:

  • Your baby is unsettled after feeding.
  • Your baby's wee is very dark and strong.
  • Your baby is having less than 5-6 wet nappies a day after 5 days old.
  • Your baby is pooping less than twice a day in the first few weeks and his poo is not yellow or runny. (It is normal for bottle-fed babies of a few weeks old to only poop once every few days but breastfed newborns should poop more frequently).
  • Your baby needs to be woken to be fed.
  • Your baby's skin looks yellow after the first week (this may be a sign of jaundice).

It is normal to feel anxious during the early weeks so always check with your health visitor or paediatrician if you have any concerns.

How long should I be breastfeeding for?

The question as to how long you should breastfeed for is a very personal one. 

It is generally recommended that you should aim to breastfeed for at least the first 6 months of your baby's life and in many countries around the world, it is common practice to nurse until your child is 2 years old. 

The WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 2 years or as long as mother and baby desire.” 

THE SIMPLE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS...

You should nurse for as long as you and your baby are happy to do so

Most babies can be fed exclusively on breast and or bottle until they are 6 months old, by which point they are probably ready for weaning and then, ideally, you combine solids and nursing, at least up until your baby is 12 months of age. 

With the help of ever more efficient breast pumps and the means to store breast milk, this is a very achievable goal even if you are returning to work or just need some time off from feeding occasionally.

It’s important to remember that...

Mothers stop breastfeeding for all sorts of reasons

If you are struggling to establish breastfeeding, then you should seek out the advice of a lactation consultant who will have lots of very helpful hands-on information regarding breastfeeding. 

Conditions such as sore, cracked nipples or mastitis may threaten to put an end to your breastfeeding journey, but there are things you can do to help you over these hurdles and continue to breastfeed successfully.

Always remember that formula is a great alternative to breast milk if you should feel for whatever reason that you are ready to stop nursing. 

Never continue to breastfeed if it is making you feel resentful, as this can be far more damaging to you bonding with your baby than not offering him breast milk.

When To Wean From Breast To Bottle

If you have been expressing then moving onto a bottle full time should not be an issue for your baby. 

When it comes to introducing them to a bottle for the first time then timing is the key.

Providing you and your baby are fit and well and you have been successfully breastfeeding from the start, you should ideally wait 2-3 weeks before introducing your little one to a bottle.

Whether you are introducing a bottle using expressed milk or formula, you should wait a few hours after a breastfeeding session, before you offer a bottle, so that your baby is hungry, but not gasping for a feed. 

Learning to suck from a bottle for the first time can be tricky for some babies and they need to be willing to feed, but not desperate, in order to not get frustrated. 

You might be lucky and your baby will take the first bottle you offer, however with some babies you need to experiment with different teats and flow rates. 

There are specially designed bottles and teats for breastfed babies that will help with the transition. Most babies will switch from bottle to breast quite easily once they get the hang of it.

Be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox if you’re not quite sure where to start when looking for bottles and teats for my top recommendation.

Offering breast milk rather than formula in a bottle to begin with will help your baby make the switch, as they will recognise the taste of your milk.

By having your partner, close friend or relative give them the bottle rather than you, may make it easier for them too as it is less confusing for them if you and your breasts are not near to hand.

If you are aiming to move from breast to bottle exclusively, take things at a gentle pace, to avoid getting engorged breasts. 

It is both kinder to you and your baby to take it slowly

Start by offering a bottle at the less important feeds such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon and start by substituting one feed a day for a week and increasing by one feed a week from thereon. 

Ideally, you should allow yourself a month, or even two to complete the weaning process.

With older babies over six months, offering solid foods before the breast helps with the normal weaning process.

Some mothers supplement breastfeeding with formula so that they can continue to breastfeed for longer, whether it be because of sore breasts, going back to work or are struggling with milk supply. 

Again, take it slowly, starting with small amounts and check with your doctor or midwife so you know how much formula to be giving depending on how many feeds you wish to supplement. 

It can take some juggling but breast and formula feeding can work in tandem.

Moving over from breast milk to formula full time is easier, but again you should take it slowly and gradually, by introducing formula one feed at a time. 

The bedtime breastfeed is usually the last feed to go.

Remember that reducing slowly, gives your body time to adjust to producing less milk and your baby's digestive system will have time to adapt to the new diet.

5 Common Breastfeeding Issues For Mothers (And Their Boobs!)

These are 5 of the most common issues breastfeeding mothers face. Even I had the really not very fun situation, of mastitis with my own son.

1. Flat Or Inverted Nipples

If you have flat or inverted nipples you may find it difficult to establish a good latch. 

There are some tricks you can use to help your nipples provide a good latch such as:

  • Touching your nipple with an ice cube before feeding to make them more erect.
  • Expressing by hand or with a pump for a few minutes before a feed to pull the nipple out.
  • Roll the nipple between your fingers and squeeze the nipple gently behind the areola to help push your nipple into your baby's mouth.
  • Consider using nipple shields until feeding is established.
  • If all else fails again consult a feeding specialist or lactation consultant.
  • If breastfeeding appears to be impossible then expressing is the next best thing for your baby. While you are unlikely to want to express for 12 months, 4 months is usually sustainable.

Flat or inverted nipples are more prone to infections and your breasts becoming engorged, so you need to be extra vigilant in making sure they are kept dry and clean after and between feeds.

You also need to make sure that your breast is emptied at the end of each feed. This may mean you need to express after a feed until breastfeeding is well established.

On a positive note, repeated pumping and nursing can change the form of your nipples so eventually, breastfeeding can improve.

2. Sore And Cracked Nipples

If your nipples are sore or cracked, it usually means that your baby is not latching on correctly or they are not correctly positioned. 

Breastfeeding should not be painful and although it is normal for your nipples to feel tender at the start, they should soon toughen up. 

If your baby is not getting a good latch on your nipples, they will want to feed more often as they will not be getting as much milk as they need during a feed. 

This in itself will cause your nipples to become sore.

Other causes may be:

  • sucking problems caused by anatomical issues such as tongue-tie.
  • baby positioning their tongue incorrectly during nursing.
  • nipple confusion (this can happen when you mix breast and bottle feeding or offer a dummy).
  • Dry skin or eczema on your nipples.
  • Thrush affecting both you and your baby.

Cracked and even bleeding nipples can be caused by dry skin or eczema which may be irritated by creams, soaps or the washing detergent in your clothes. 

A little expressed breast milk or purified lanolin cream or ointment applied to the nipples after feeding can aid the healing process.

If you are using a breast pump ensure you are expressing correctly. 

Again, this should not be a painful process so try different suction levels to ensure you find a comfortable setting. Also, check if the funnel is big enough for your nipples as you may need a larger one than the one that is supplied with the pump.

Dry flaky nipples with a burning feeling after you have fed, maybe an indication that you have a thrush infection. 

If you have thrush then it is very likely that your baby will have it too. 

Signs your baby has thrush are that they may be finding it hard to settle while feeding and have white patches on the tongue and gums that can't be wiped away. 

Ask your doctor or health visitor for advice and they will prescribe treatment for both you and your baby and give support while you work through what can be a very uncomfortable episode. 

One short term solution may be to express milk for a few days while you get on top of the infection. 

During this time, you should feed your baby freshly expressed milk and not store or freeze your milk, as freezing does not kill off the fungus that causes thrush.

How To Treat Cracked Nipples

If you are struggling with sore and cracked nipples and can't get your baby to latch on correctly, or find the right feeding position for you both, then seek out the help of a lactation consultant or speak to your health visitor. 

There are also breastfeeding drop-in centres that can give help and advice for breastfeeding mums. Some home remedies to try are:

  • Apply freshly expressed breast milk immediately after a feed with clean hands (Note: if you have thrush this is not a recommended solution).
  • Apply a warm compress after a feed by dampening a washcloth in warm water and placing over the nipples.
  • Apply a homemade saline solution after a feed to promote healing. Mix 1/2 teaspoon for salt to 250ml warm water. Make a fresh batch of saline every 24 hours.
  • Use a purified lanolin ointment after feeding.
  • Make sure you change your nursing pads regularly and look for pads made of 100% cotton.

3. Mastitis

I know from experience how painful mastitis is and sadly for me I did not seek advice soon enough and it resulted in my having to abandon breastfeeding after just 6 weeks. 

To be fair, my situation was exacerbated by the fact that my son was born 5 weeks prematurely and had to be fed expressed milk from a bottle, which he much preferred to my breasts! 

This along with, what I now know was inadequately expressed, led to a build-up of milk that caused blocked milk ducts and red swollen patches on my breasts. 

I developed a high fever and flu-like symptoms which required a heavy dose of antibiotics. I was in such intense pain that I felt I had no choice but to stop breastfeeding.

So the key to continuing to breastfeed if you show signs of mastitis is to act early. 

If you have any of the following symptoms try some of the home therapies below and consult your doctor if there is no improvement within 8-24 hours:

Symptoms of Mastitis

  • Red patches on your breast.
  • Hard sore lumps in your breast.
  • Breast is warm to touch.
  • You feel achy.
  • You have a temperature.

How to treat Mastitis

  • Applying a warm face cloth before feeds and a cold compress for up to 20 minutes between feeds.
  • Keep breastfeeding even at night (at least 8-12 times in 24 hours) to make sure your breasts are not becoming over full. Your breast should feel soft and comfortable after a feed.
  • Make sure your baby is latched on correctly and that you are both comfortable.
  • Massage your breast gently where it is tender.

Mothers who develop blocked ducts or mastitis are often doing too much, so try and rest and look after yourself to ensure you have enough time to give your baby frequent, full, relaxing feeds. 

Sleeping close to your baby at night will make night feeding easier too. 

If you suspect you may be developing a problem from engorgement, ensure your breasts are feeling soft and comfortable after a feed and if necessary express.

Continuing to breastfeed through mastitis is a tough ask but many mothers succeed. 

However, if like me you have to abandon breastfeeding altogether, there are many excellent formulas and bottles on the market to help you transition to formula feeding and above everything else... DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. 

Even a few weeks of breastfeeding is better than none at all.

4. Milk Blisters

Milk blisters are white spots that appear on the nipple caused by thickened milk that block milk flow near the opening of the nipple and can be linked to mastitis.

Hosever, if it does not hurt, then it may resolve itself after a few weeks. 

Soaking the nipple in warm water may help, but I would advise getting medical advice before attempting to open the blister yourself.

5. Leaking Breasts

When your breasts leak it is due to a natural process called the letdown reflex which is triggered by the oxytocin levels in your body after birth. 

Until your breasts become practised at opening their ducts at the correct feeding times (i.e when your baby is nursing) they may leak at any time without warning. 

This can be triggered when you hear your baby cry; when your breasts become warm whilst you are showering or taking a bath, or if you are feeding on one breast the other may start to leak.

Most mothers find that the leaking stops between 6-10 weeks but how long for and how much breasts leak can vary.

There is no fail-safe way to prevent leaking breasts but feeding regularly and ensuring your baby is well latched and taking a full feed may help.

Wearing breast pads can help avoid embarrassing leaks and making sure you always carry a good supply of pads and a clean top and bra to change into can help you relax. 

There are even specially designed night time pads to help with night time leaking.

The good thing about leaking breasts is that it is normal, does not last forever and is a good sign that you are producing plenty of milk for your little one.

5 Common Breastfeeding Issues For Mothers (And Their Boobs!) infographic

7 Frequently Asked Questions About Breastfeeding

Below are my answers to the top 7 questions and worries mothers have when they breastfeed.

1. Will I have enough milk for my baby?

Most mothers produce enough milk for their baby. 

The more you feed in the early days the more milk you will produce. This can often be confusing for new mothers as they think that their baby is not getting enough to eat and therefore keeps wanting to feed. 

However, the truly calorie-rich and filling breast milk comes in later. 

As long as your baby is gaining weight as they should then all is fine. 

If however, your baby is not gaining weight as they should then ask your health visitor or paediatrician if they think supplementing with some formula might help.

2. Is breastfeeding painful?

It is completely normal to experience some short term pain and discomfort when you first start to breastfeed. 

Tender and sore nipples are normal and they will soon toughen up and then you should no longer experience discomfort. 

Cracked and bleeding nipples are a different story however and will need some attention but even these can heal while breastfeeding so should not mean you need to stop. 

Avoiding pain and discomfort during breastfeeding is usually down to whether your baby is latched on correctly so it is important to get the latch right.

There are other issues to look out for especially if you are struggling to establish breastfeeding and your baby is not taking a full feed.

Mastitis can be extremely painful, as can a blocked milk duct which can become infected. These conditions can sometimes be avoided by expressing. 

ExpressingExpressing a little before a feed can make it easier for your baby to feed on as a fully taught breast is sometimes more difficult to latch onto in the early days.

3. Will A Dummy Hinder Breastfeeding?

The world of parenting is divided on dummies and I have to admit...

During my training at Norland, dummies were a complete no-no. BUT...

My own son was a thumb sucker and that proved to have its own set of problems when it came to trying to get him to stop and the subsequent effect it had on his orthodontic development. 

I personally believe that dummies have a real purpose, but that their use must be carefully monitored.

Whilst breastfeeding it is advisable to not introduce a dummy until feeding is well established and your baby is gaining weight. 

Sucking on a dummy and sucking on the breast do require slightly different sucking mechanisms and if you are struggling to get your baby to latch on correctly, giving them a dummy may make the process even harder.

There are advantages to using a dummy, for instance, many babies that suffer from colic find comfort in a dummy as it is thought to help relieve pain. 

There is also some evidence that the use of dummies and breastfeeding can help in the prevention of cot deaths (SIDS). 

While the jury is out on whether dummies really do have an impact on SIDS, it has been suggested that because dummies might prevent babies from rolling onto their front, that sucking on a dummy keeps the tongue forward and that parents who give their baby a dummy are more likely to check on their babies often. 

This may be the real reason that the use of dummies is vicariously linked to helping in the prevention of cot deaths.

The main disadvantage of using dummies when you are breastfeeding is that they can interfere or inhibit breastfeeding, hence the advice to introduce a dummy at the appropriate time. 

Dummies can also be a source of infection if not kept clean, as they can harbour harmful germs resulting in recurrent ear infections, for example.

It is advisable to wean your baby, if possible, off the dummy by about 12 months old or at the very least by the time they are 2 years old. 

Any later will involve a lot of creative thinking on your part to persuade your little one that their dummy is no longer an acceptable means of comfort.

4. Can I breastfeed after a cesarean?

YES. You can most certainly breastfeed after a cesarean. 

This most important thing is to find the correct feeding position as the surgery site may make some feeding positions uncomfortable. 

If you have had a cesarean it is especially important to make sure you are comfortable. 

Some feeding positions that mothers who have had a cesarean find most comfortable are side-lying, cradle or crossover hold or football hold with the aid of a breastfeeding pillow. 

You will need to experiment to find out which works best for you.

5. Do I need to wake my baby for feeding?

As tempting as it may be to let your new baby sleep as long as possible in the early days, your newborn baby will need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours during the day and night or if you are lucky, every 3-4 hours during the night, for at least the first 2 weeks. 

You should not let your baby go for longer than 4 hours between feeds until they have surpassed their birth weight and are steadily continuing to gain weight.

Some baby’s, particularly premature babies, will sleep through their hunger, so it is vital that you wake them until they have reached the criteria above. 

Once they have established a healthy weight gain pattern you can relax and let your baby take the lead.

In addition, while establishing breastfeeding it is important that your breasts are emptied regularly to promote milk production so regular 2-3 hour feeding is essential in the early days. 

6. Can I take medication while breastfeeding?

Most over the counter medication is safe to take while you are breastfeeding as they will not enter your breast milk in high enough levels to harm your baby. 

Even prescribed drugs are generally safe to take. 

However, as a rule, I would suggest that you try to restrict the amount of medication you take while breastfeeding

It is thought that drugs used to treat depression or sleep aids should be avoided if possible. 

In addition, pain medication containing Codeine should also be substituted for ibuprofen instead. 

For reassurance and guidance on taking any medication while breastfeeding, you should check with your healthcare professional.

7. Are there any reasons why I should NOT breastfeed?

While breastfeeding is by far the best for your baby there are a few reasons why some women can’t or should not breastfeed. They are:

  • Low or inadequate breast milk supply
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Drug or alcohol dependency
  • Certain infections such as breast herpes or HIV

Equally, there are some conditions that may make it impossible for your baby to breastfeed such as:

  • Conditions which affect the baby’s ability to digest breast milk
  • Congenital deformities of the mouth or palette

While all of the above are extreme and rare cases, the most common reason mothers may find themselves questioning breastfeeding is when it is not going smoothly. 

If you feel that to continue breastfeeding is impacting on your mental wellbeing or ability to bond with your baby, then you should consult with a medical professional or lactating specialist to consider your options, moving forward.

If breastfeeding turns out not to be for you for whatever reason...

It is important not to feel guilty but to focus on the positives of your decision.

10 Extra Helpful Breastfeeding 101 Tips

And finally... My Top 10 Breastfeeding 101 tips to give you the confidence to start or continue your breastfeeding journey with all the right knowledge.

1. Be prepared

Ensure you have all your breastfeeding requirements before your baby is born i.e. breast pads, lanolin cream for sore nipples, pump, bottles or bags for storing milk. 

Buy a nursing chair and stool if you are able to or ensure that you will have a suitable, comfortable place to breastfeed when you first come home.

If you're not sure where to start, or feel overwhelmed by the sheer choice out there, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox for my top recommendations for everything you could possibly need.

2. Watch The Real Thing

If you have a friend or relative who is breastfeeding, ask them if they are comfortable to let you watch them feed. 

Seeing the real thing in action will help you visualise the process better when it comes to your turn.

3. Don't Let Baby Doze

Tickle your little one’s feet to make sure they stay awake to take a good feed. Sleepy newborns that don't take a full feed could lead to your breast becoming engorged.

4. Take Things Slowly

Breastfeeding takes time to establish and cannot be rushed so accept that in the early days that it will be all-consuming but that eventually it will become second nature and fit seamlessly into your daily routine. 

Newborns feed A LOT.. but remember it will get easier and that it is normal to have difficult days. 

Always hold onto the fact that you are doing the very best for your little one.

5. Prepare An Extra Pair Of Hands

It is a good idea to make sure you have help when you first come home. 

Having another pair of hands to do everyday tasks such as shopping, cleaning and washing are essential for you to have time to bond with your baby and establish your breastfeeding.

Having others around to help will mean you are less stressed and can take time to enjoy the all-important early days getting to know your little one.

6. Follow A Healthy Balanced Diet

The importance of following a healthy balanced diet goes without saying when you are breastfeeding. Check out my post about what Foods to Avoid when Breastfeeding for more details!

Remember the flavour of breast milk changes depending on what you are eating, while the flavour of the formula remains constant. 

Therefore, a breastfed baby will be more used to new flavours when it comes time to wean than a baby who has just experienced the taste of formula.

When it comes to your diet there are some foods to avoid while breastfeeding. These include highly spiced foods, caffeine and gassy foods such as cabbage, for example. 

What foods impact on your baby's digestion may also be dependent on your cultural background, as the foods you ate while pregnant may determine your baby's tolerance of them whilst being breastfed. 

It really is a case of trial, error and observation, as you will notice if your baby is more windy than normal or restless after a feed and in turn may be able to link it back to something you had eaten or had to drink earlier.

7. Choose A Suitable Bedside Crib

Bedside cribs such as the 'Snoo' or 'Chicco Next to me' could be your best breastfeeding friend especially if you and your baby are able to successfully nurse in the side-lying position. 

While we all know that having your new baby sleep in bed with you is very dangerous, there is no doubt that co-sleeping by having your baby nearby, is beneficial to your baby's emotional well-being and development in the early weeks and months.

Babies that sleep near their mothers often learn to sleep through the night faster and feeding at night is far smoother and relaxed if your baby is just an arms reach away and can be pulled close for nursing. 

In addition, it is easy to settle your baby back to sleep with them close by. 

For mothers who have had a caesarean section delivery, not having to get out of bed to bend over a crib, has played a huge part in their recovery and the general safety of their baby.

However, if you do decide to go for a bedside crib, it has to be stressed that you must always return your baby to lie on their back in the crib once you have finished nursing.

8. Breastfeeding In Public

Once you are confident at breastfeeding then feeding in public should not be a problem. 

At first, you will find it easier to feed publicly in a supportive environment such as when visiting a mother & baby group or meeting a friend in a cafe. 

Before venturing out, lookup breastfeeding friendly locations, department stores and babywear shops as they often have baby-feeding rooms and nowadays many restaurants and cafes welcome breastfeeding mothers too.

9. Buying Nursing Bras And Choosing A Nursing Wardrobe

There is no need to spend huge amounts of money on a breastfeeding wardrobe but purchasing two or three good fitting nursing bras is advisable. 

In order to get a good fit wait until the last month of your pregnancy before you buy.

When it comes to nursing tops you do not need to buy specifically designed clothing, but make sure you have tops that allow easy access to your breast without making you feel exposed. 

Wrap-around tops or those with a neckline you can pull down rather than lift will help you feel less self-conscious about exposing a wobbly post-birth tummy. 

Even a stretchy camisole that can be pulled down under a loose-fitting top, can work well. However it is important to find what works best for you, so try practising at home first in front of a mirror so you can see what you look like.

10. Motivating Words Of Advice

There are many benefits to breastfeeding your baby and knowing them will help you through the early days when you may be struggling. 

Keeping in mind the health benefits, understanding what your body is going through, and knowing how to care for your breasts, plus the knowledge that it will get better with practice will help you persevere.

Getting Help

There is a lot of help and information out there, so tap into it

Breastfeeding cafes can be a wonderful source of support as there are counsellors on hand to help and advice on all your nursing issues.

The NCT and La Leche League for the UK both provide excellent support to nursing mums and in the USA, PEPS is a good place to start option. 

Of course, there is always your doctor, midwife and health visitor to turn to for advice. 

They can also refer you to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counsellor or there may even be a drop-in clinic at your local health centre.

Top Tip

Make sure you have the contact number of a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group BEFORE you give birth.

If you enjoyed this post and know other parents who would enjoy this content, be sure to give it a share using the buttons below.

As I mentioned in this post, if you're looking for products for your little one and you're not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox.

Within it I have compiled all my favourite products which I've tried to ensure are all non-toxic, eco friendly, sustainable and, of course, baby proof!

Do you have any blog recommendations that you'd like me to write about? Drop me an email: [email protected] and let me know. I love hearing from you!

Thank you for your continued support!

Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula Mclaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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