Q&A: Breastfeeding—August 2015

Q&A: Breastfeeding—August 2015

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (1 to 7 August) we sat down with Mater midwives and lactation consultants Julie Germain and Lyn Ahearn to answer some of your common breastfeeding questions.

If you have a breastfeeding related question that isn’t answered below, email it through to matermothers@mater.org.au and we’ll ask our experts.

I’m having trouble breastfeeding – what should I do?

Breastfeeding, like any new skill, requires patience and practice. It’s common to experience difficulties during the first few weeks, especially for first time mums. You’re not alone, so try not to be disheartened. There are heaps of great support networks available. Family and friends who have had experience breastfeeding are a great place to start. You can also seek professional advice from a GP or lactation consultant.

Lactation consultants are specialists in dealing with breastfeeding difficulties and work in partnership with you to help achieve your breastfeeding goals. Mater Mothers’ Hospitals has a dedicated Breastfeeding Support Centre staffed by qualified lactation consultants who are experienced in caring for newborn, preterm and special needs babies.

Are there any foods I should avoid when breastfeeding?

There are no specific foods to avoid when you are breastfeeding. However, we always recommend eating healthily, but treats are fine as well.

One of the main challenges for new mums tends to be getting the time to eat. It’s a good idea to have some healthy snacks and finger foods on hand that you can eat while sitting to feed your baby. It’s also a great idea to have some frozen meals handy for those days when finding time to prepare food is a challenge.

What is cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding is the term given for babies who are feeding at frequent intervals or extended periods at the breast. This is very common on days two to three after birth and is designed to stimulate your breasts to produce increasing volumes of colostrum (first milk) and then to ‘bring your milk in’.

The more frequently you feed during this period, the earlier your milk will come in and the better your milk supply will be. Most babies will periodically cluster feed throughout their breastfeeding journey as they stimulate the breast to increase milk supply to meet their current demands. The common times for this are around three and six weeks, four months and so on.

Lately my milk appears watery— is this normal?

Breast milk is natural, untreated and full of healthy living cells which nurture and protect babies. It’s the perfect combination of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates and sugars; all at the perfect temperature. Your milk changes as your baby grows and develops, and amazingly even changes from the beginning to the end of a feed. As your baby gets older, your milk will continue to change so that it meets all of your baby's requirements. Your milk will also change if your baby becomes unwell.

I have started my baby on solids and now he refuses to latch onto my breast as often during the day (although he still has a morning and night time feed). Could he be weaning himself?

It really depends on the age of your baby when this occurs. Current health recommendations are for babies to exclusively breastfeed to six months followed by gradual introduction of solid foods. Between six and 12 months, solids are experimental only, allowing babies to experience different tastes and textures as well as learning to move food around their mouth. The bulk of their nutritional intake remains from their milk.

If your baby is between six and 12 months, perhaps slow down the intake of solids until you meet a happy medium. It is also worth remembering that by six months, most babies will have reduced the frequency of feeds from about six to seven per day as a newborn to around three to five per day. If your baby is older than 12 months, solid foods have replaced breast milk as the main source of nutritional intake although milk continues to offer many benefits. At this time it is very reasonable to expect two, possibly three feeds per day.

My baby has started biting during feeds. It’s quite painful and I’m not sure what to do. Is this normal?

Biting during breastfeeding is relatively common and is generally developmental. Usually biting occurs in a playful fashion at the end of a feed, and your baby often doesn’t realise what they are doing.

It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s activity at the breast. If you’re nearing the end of a feed and you stop feeding at the first sign of your baby losing interest, your baby will be less likely to have an opportunity to bite.

If biting does occur, remove your baby from the breast and say ‘no’ firmly and quietly (try not to yell). Do not offer the other breast or other food (if your baby has commenced on solids) immediately. If you are breastfeeding only, wait at least 30 minutes before re-offering the breast and only if your baby is demanding a feed. Some babies may bite when their gums are sore from teething, if this is the case it may help to offer shorter, more frequent breastfeeds.

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