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Successful Breastfeeding – Some Helpful Hints

Breastfeeding is the most natural, yet refined, process in the world. Some mothers and their babies fall into a comfortable routine so quickly you’d think they’d been doing it for years. For others, fine-tuning the rhythm of positioning, latching and timing takes more time, patience and support. This is in no sense a failure – but just a bump on the road to successful breastfeeding. In this article we strive to provide you with some useful hints to make the experience as rewarding as it should be for all concerned (Dad included!)

A baby nursing at a mother's breast... is an undeniable affirmation of our rootedness in nature.
David Suzuki


As always, attitude is everything. So set aside any fears and apprehensions - embrace the fact that breastfeeding is natural, healthy and a gift to both mother and child. Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth. For the first few days, your baby will enjoy colostrum.  Breastfeeding for the first time can be very daunting – remember that everyone is unique and it will take a bit of time for you and your baby to get to know each other and what works for you. If things don’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, don’t give up. Seek advice from a lactation consultant, something as simple as having someone to guide you and baby into a better feeding position can make all the difference.


Before positioning your baby on your breast, make sure you are in the best position. Ideally, you should breastfeed somewhere that allows you to feel calm and peaceful. Breathe deeply to relax yourself if you feel anxious and avoid stress wherever possible. Chat or sing to your baby while feeding and gently stroke his back and head.

Try various positions until you and baby find the best fit. Finding the perfect position is crucial to ensure baby gets enough milk and your nipples do not become sore. Avoid leaning over your baby as this quickly causes back and neck strain. Using pillows to support your arms, put your baby on his side with his body well supported by your arm and/or a pillow. Lean back comfortably and bring baby up to your breast level.


Successful latching is the cornerstone of successful breastfeeding. Make sure that a professional shows you how to latch your baby onto your breast before you leave the hospital. With your baby positioned on his side, tummy to tummy, hold your breast with thumb on top and fingers underneath. Touch your baby's lips with your nipple until his mouth opens wide. Quickly draw him onto the breast, ensuring that the nipple goes in straight and baby’s mouth closes over as large an area of the areola as possible.  Allow the tip of your baby's nose and chin to touch your breast. If you feel pain, or if your baby’s lips are tucked inward, gently detach him and try again.
Only use artificial teats and nipple shields if you have inverted nipples or have been advised to do so by a professional.


You will learn to recognise signs that your baby is hungry – such as stretching and ‘rooting’ before any crying begins. If your baby is already screaming, try to soothe him before you start feeding. Often letting him suck on your finger will calm him down enough to latch comfortably and start nursing. 


As far as optimal milk production is concerned – it’s quite simple – the more baby sucks, the more milk will be produced. Breastfeeding is truly the most efficient supply and demand system.  When a baby sucks at its mother's breast, she produces two hormones - prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin stimulates milk production in the breast; while oxytocin stimulates the ‘let-down’ reflex (milk moves through the ducts in the breast towards the nipple.) Therefore, nursing on demand – when baby wants and for as long as necessary – will ensure that your body produces exactly the right amount of milk to satisfy your baby.  Your baby will have at least six to eight feeds in a 24-hour period, with some babies feeding up to twelve times a day. Let your baby dictate the length of the feed, finishing the first breast before starting on the second. He will probably spend between 10 – 15 minutes on each breast. If you have a very sleepy baby, you may have to change his nappy or burp him after the first feed to encourage him to stay alert enough to move to the other side. Also, if he sleeps though a feed (longer than 3 hours) wake him to nurse. Try to avoid watching the clock; let feeding time be a relaxing time for you both. Before long, your milk supply will have been established according to your baby’s unique needs. A baby who latches well and is allowed to feed whenever he needs to will learn to drink well and won’t be on the breast for hours at a time.

Avoid using a dummy excessively until a routine has been established. Also, try not to supplement with formula. As long as you keep letting your baby suckle, your milk flow will increase to meet the demand and he won’t go hungry.


Breastfeeding, especially in the first few weeks, is taxing on a mother. She needs to remain as relaxed and happy as possible in order to help her baby relax and ensure that her energy is focused on producing enough milk. A supportive and helpful partner can help to alleviate stress by encouraging mom, recognising that this will be an emotional time for her and taking care of any other minor worries that she may have. Breastfeeding can allow Mom, Dad and baby to bond in a peaceful environment – baby will love hearing the gentle voices of his two favourite people! If this is not the first child, it is vital that Dad gives extra love and attention to siblings while Mom’s time is being taken up nursing (and napping with!) the new arrival.


A healthy diet is a major contributing factor to successful breastfeeding. Click here to read about nutrition and breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding can lead to sore breasts, which will hamper successful feeding. Click here to read about breast care that will keep you healthy and pain free.

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