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Learning to breastfeed is a skill both you and your baby will learn together. Although breastfeeding may feel relentless, exhausting and complex in the beginning please rest assured that it does get easier. While some discomfort, soreness and aching is normal we certainly recommend getting yourself and baby checked out by a lactation consultant as they will be able to identify if there are any issues with yourself and baby that may need some additional attention. You’re not alone if you’re finding the whole process overwhelming right now; in those first weeks and months your baby will be feeding regularly not only to build your milk supply but also to comfort them as they adjust to life outside of the womb.
When does latching get easier?
A successful latch involves you and your baby being in a comfortable position for every feed. If this is your first experience of breastfeeding and you haven’t witnessed many babies being breastfed before then you may find it takes you a little while longer to get this comfortable positioning right first time. Your baby’s latch affects how well they are able to drink the milk and thus how successfully they are able to drain the milk from your breasts.
A poor latch not only impacts your baby’s growth and development but can also cause sore, damaged nipples and blocked ducts. We strongly recommend asking a healthcare professional to check your attachment at the first available opportunity or at any time that you have a concern and to stock up on cream.
If you can be around other breastfeeding mums (there may be a breastfeeding group in your local area) then this can really help you to get into comfortable positions and find latching easier. If you can’t be seen by a lactation consultant Medela have some excellent tips for how to help your baby latch on the breast successfully.
How long does it take to get the hang of breastfeeding?
It takes around 4-6 weeks for your milk supply to become established; this is often around the time that most women would say breastfeeding got easier for them. In those early days your baby’s stomach is growing at a vast rate meaning they will be feeding often. Getting support from a lactation consultant can help with positioning and baby’s latch which will also help you to feel more in control of the process. Your baby is learning how to efficiently withdraw your milk whilst you are learning positions you feel comfortable feeding in. A lot of mums say that at some point between 6-12 weeks of feeding their baby, it got much easier to the point that breastfeeding their baby felt easier than making or sterilising bottles.
When does breastfeeding get less painful?
Breastfeeding may feel uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be painful. If you are in pain whilst breastfeeding we advise getting checked by your GP or speaking with a healthcare provider. Initially, your nipples won’t be used to strong and frequent sucking and this can cause discomfort. Additionally, you might find that your breasts can feel firm initially while your milk supply is settling. If your breasts become sore and tender this may be because they are engorged; feeding frequently will help with this. In some cases, a tongue-tie can cause discomfort for the mother; many mothers have commented on breastfeeding feeling more comfortable after their baby’s tongue-tie has been rectified.
When does breastfeeding get less frequent?
Initially, your baby will be feeding around 12 times during a 24 hour period; these feeds can vary from 10 minutes up to an hour. Frequent feeding of a newborn not only provides your baby with nutrients and comfort but it also helps to increase and establish your supply. It’s worth understanding that your newborn’s stomach is growing at a rapid rate in these first few weeks which will also require more frequent feeds to help ‘fill’ their growing stomachs. Frequent feeding in the first month is demanding, especially at night, and draining but so normal: not only is your baby showing they want to be nourished but it is also a way to calm and comfort them as they are exposed to new and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
To breastfeed is one of the greatest and most selfless acts; you are providing your baby with all of the comfort and nutrition they need. In those first few weeks and months though it can be hard to see or feel the benefits of breastfeeding and many are overwhelmed at how challenging it is. Newborns feed frequently for nourishment and comfort but also to help build your milk supply. Meeting with a lactation consultant can really help in ensuring your positioning and latch are accurate and offer you the reassurance you need. If you have any concerns about your baby’s feeding or your discomfort then do visit your GP. Enjoy all those cuddles; the nights are long but the years are short.