Common breastfeeding questions, answered

How soon should your baby start feeding? Is it normal for latching to be so painful? How often should you breastfeed?

Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to all new mothers.

Here’s what you need to know to breastfeed with confidence.

1. How soon should you start breastfeeding your baby?

Having your baby latch onto your breast within the first hour of giving birth is strongly recommended. This is because your baby is most alert in those first few hours and the latching reflex is also at its strongest.

Breastfeeding soon after birth has several other benefits:

  • The skin-on-skin contact helps create a bond. Studies suggest that skin contact helps your baby to naturally gravitate and push towards your breast.
  • The first liquid your baby gets is called colostrum, which is the first fluid before your milk arrives. It’s an immune-booster which will help your baby fight off illnesses.
  • It provides you with an early opportunity to help your baby latch properly. It’s recommended that you breastfeed your baby for at least six months before introducing solids, although you can continue providing breastmilk until your child has reached the age of two.

2. Is it normal for breastfeeding to be painful?

There will be a period where you experience some sensitivity, particularly in the early days, but this usually subsides within a month. If you’re experiencing any pain after that, it may mean that your baby isn’t latching correctly, or there’s an underlying medical condition. An adjustment in your feeding position can help. It’s important to remember to gently break your baby’s latching at the end of a feed, as suction can damage sensitive breast tissue. If your child stops feeding naturally, your breast will automatically be released.

If you still have pain for longer than a month, talk to your doctor.

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3. How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?

It’s hard to measure how much milk your baby is getting, but these are the signs of a well-fed baby:

  • Your baby nurses between eight to 12 times a day.
  • Your breasts feel comfortable, often softer after feeds.
  • After feeding, your baby releases your nipple on his own.
  • You can see visible swallowing while your baby is nursing.
  • There’s an increase in the amount of urine and stools your baby passes. Note that bowel movement colour also starts changing when your baby is four to five days old.
  • Visible signs of weight gain.

4. How should you express and store your breastmilk? 

If your breasts feel engorged, or you have other reasons for needing to store your breast milk (going back to work, for example), remember that just like cows milk, your breast milk needs to stay fresh. You can store it in the fridge, freezer or even at room temperature. Make sure you use bottles or containers that have been completely sterilised before storing breastmilk in them. Keep records of the date you express your milk to keep track of its freshness.

Don’t store milk:

  • At room temperature: for more than six hours.
  • In the fridge for longer than eight days (it’s recommended that you stop at six).
  • In the freezer for more than four months.

Good to know

  • Your breast pump should be sterilised after each use.
  • Since breastmilk contains antioxidants that can easily be damaged by extreme temperatures, it is preferable to keep breastmilk in the fridge rather than the freezer.
  • When defrosting frozen breastmilk, avoid using a microwave. Instead, boil a pot of water and place the frozen breastmilk container inside of it to thaw naturally.

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