Coming home with your new baby can be both very exciting and very daunting at the same time. Having the opportunity to learn about breastfeeding your baby while you are pregnant and in hospital in the first few days can help relieve some of the anxiety that new parents naturally feel. Before you leave the hospital the staff should let you know about the various ways you can get support once at home – from midwifery staff, local support groups or peer counsellors, and also by calling the national helpline numbers. From around 10 days, the health visitor will become involved in your care, taking over from the community midwife.
When you and your baby see the community midwife for the first time she will check whether you feel confident with breastfeeding. Depending on how many days after the birth this is she may do a formal assessment to make sure that your baby is breastfeeding effectively, in other words that he is attaching to the breast and removing the milk. She will make sure that you understand what to look for to make sure that your baby is feeding effectively by asking questions, for example about the frequency and length of feeds as well as wet and dirty nappies and your baby’s behaviour. Midwives will check on this each time they visit and, on or around day 5, will also complete a breastfeeding assessment form which they will discuss with you so that you can carry on breastfeeding in the knowledge that all is going well. If the assessment shows that more help is needed, the midwife will provide that additional help, or point you in the direction of more expert support.
Click here for more information about how to recognise your baby is feeding well.
At that first visit your midwife will check that you know how to hand express, just in case you should need to do this. By about day 4, many mothers find that their breasts are full of milk and this can make attachment a little more challenging. Although this fullness usually only lasts a day or so, it is really helpful to be able to soften the breast by hand expressing so that attaching your baby is easier.
At around 10 days you will see your health visitor for the first time since you gave birth. She is also trained and equipped to provide you with ongoing breastfeeding support. At her first visit she will carry out a further formal breastfeeding assessment with you aimed at checking that the feeding is going well.
My baby is 2 weeks old, but I still don’t seem to have got to grips with how to attach him properly.
Breastfeeding takes time to learn. Whilst lots of mothers are starting to feel more confident by this time, for others, both mum and baby are still learning a bit more each day. That doesn’t mean it won’t get easier over time. You may need a bit more help from either your health professional, a peer supporter or through a local breastfeeding support group.