Both formula and breast fed babies can suffer from reflux, which occurs when milk that baby has swallowed comes back up his oesophagus or into his mouth. It is a common and temporary problem but can be very uncomfortable because of the acid in their stomachs that digests the food.
A muscular valve where the food pipe meets the stomach is the most common cause of reflux, babies grow at such a rate that the valve is not always strong enough to sufficiently seal the pipe to stop milk going back the wrong way. It causes baby to posset or vomit and can make them cough or have hiccups. As baby grows and the valve gets stronger the reflux ceases to be a problem.
Feeding in an upright position, burping during feeds, and keeping baby upright after feeds for twenty minutes or so can all help the milk stay down. If you are bottle feeding your baby, make sure the teat hole is not too large as this will increase the flow of milk which could be too fast for your baby to cope with.
If you are worried by the frequency or severity of vomiting after feeding see your doctor, who may suggest using a hypoallergenic or thicker formula, or explore allergies and intolerances with you to rule out other underlying issues. Elimination diets, where foods are omitted to see if the situation improves, should only be tried on the advice of your doctor as cutting food groups can cause nutrient deficiencies.
We’ve established that boobs are brilliant but that doesn’t mean things always go smoothly. An incorrect latch is the most common cause of sore nipples because things are being pulled and sucked in a way that is painful for you. Click here for expert advice on latching on.
Baby’s mouth needs to be wide open so that your nipple reaches the back of her mouth. If that doesn’t happen try not to pull your breast away, by placing your finger into the corner of baby’s mouth you can break the seal and try again without tugging yourself loose. Purified lanolin ointment can sooth cracked or bleeding nipples.
Mastitis is inflamed breast tissue caused by a build-up of milk and can be miserable. Symptoms include hot, hard, uncomfortable, sore breasts and can cause flu-like symptoms. With the right treatment it can clear up quickly but sometimes antibiotics are necessary.
One in ten breastfeeding mums gets mastitis at some point and bottle feeding mums are not totally immune. It is most common in the first three months when you and baby are learning the correct techniques.
Although it may seem counter intuitive keep feeding baby from the affected breast as allowing the milk to continue to build up can exacerbate the problem. Placing warm flannels on your breasts before you feed can help your letdown reflex and make feeding more comfortable for you. Try different positions to ease discomfort, making sure that baby latches on correctly.
Stay hydrated, consider expressing some milk and wear loose clothing to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
Thrush is another little teat that you may not have bargained for! Shooting, burning pains in your breasts may indicate thrush, which, if present, will also be in your baby’s mouth. Thrush is a fungal infection that occurs when organisms naturally found in your body spread out of control. Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal treatment to clear things up. Both you and baby must be treated to prevent it being passed back and forth.
Fuss free feeding
You may wonder if baby has had enough breast milk as you cannot be sure of the exact quantities consumed. If your baby is gaining weight you can be sure you are doing something right.
A full feed can take anything up to 40 minutes but the duration may vary depending how hungry baby is. Take a break if baby stops sucking and try burping them but don’t worry if they don’t burp every time.
Babies are programmed to like boobs, primarily for food but also because being close to mum is comforting. This can feel like a mixed blessing if baby cries whenever you need a few moments to yourself. Like so many areas of parenting, your response to comfort sucking (when a baby sucks to sooth rather than feed efficiently) comes down to personal preference and is of course dependent on your baby’s age.
You can help reduce the instances of comfort sucking by ensuring that at feeding times baby is kept alert; if baby nods off soon after latching on you could try stripping them from the breast, changing them, or tickling toes to keep them awake and working a bit harder.
If your baby is awake but not concentrating, you might need to help him focus; settle down somewhere calm and quiet and shield baby from what is going on around.
Mums can get distracted at feeding times too, so whilst you are getting the hang of it maybe find a quiet comfy spot away from TVs and radios. You’ll be a pro before you know it and able to catch up on your texting, emailing, reading or favourite TV when it’s boob o’clock!
Confidence and comfort for mum
Local support groups are your new breast friend! Chatting with other new mums in your area is a great way to increase your confidence, find out the best baby friendly cafes and swop tips on tops that make life easier.
Invest in a couple of nursing bras and stretchy strappy vest tops which can be layered under your usual tops. Maternity clothes can usually cope with the unique wardrobe requirements of breastfeeding; straps can be lowered and fabric can be moved for easy access and they are loose enough for baby to go under if you want to be discreet.
Muslin squares and nursing covers can shield you from public gaze if you feel embarrassed but remember that you are legally entitled to breastfeed in public. Most people won’t bat an eye and those that do risk the wrath of the Breastapo – very vocal suckling supporters that organize a feeding flash mob in a tit for tat reaction when establishments prove to be less than supportive. The mummy militia have your back, or should that be breast?!
Breast pads can be worn inside your bra to absorb leakages, they are thin and comfortable and definitely a better option than a soggy top!
Diet do's and don'ts
The most important thing is that you have a healthy and well balanced diet whilst breastfeeding. Traces of what you consume are passed on in your breast milk and some babies are fussier than others.
If something you have eaten causes a change in your breast milk that upsets baby, you might notice that they have wind or a different type of poo. Garlic, spicy foods and excessive amounts of citrus fruits are the common culprits.
As well as eating well it is important to stay hydrated as this can affect your milk supply. Dark coloured urine is an indicator that you need to drink more; herbal teas, water and milk are all fab and a couple of cups of coffee a day are fine, but excessive caffeine can make you and your baby jittery. Fizzy drinks are best avoided as they can give your baby indigestion and are not a nutritious option for you.
The good news is you can now enjoy the foods that were off limits while you were pregnant, so bring out the brie!
Breastfeeding burns 300-500 calories a day and causes the uterus to contract and return to its normal size much faster, but for those first few precious months focus on you and your baby’s wellbeing not wriggling back in to your skinny jeans. By choosing fresh whole fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish and wholegrains you are making the best diet decisions for both of you.
Whine, whine, wine
Many new mums want to know if they can safely enjoy a small glass of wine or occasional alcoholic drink while breastfeeding, and the answer is yes. However, your baby has a teeny immature liver so consumption needs to be considerate.
Time your vino so it is least likely to upset baby and enjoy one glass of wine a few hours before baby feeds, by drinking it at the end of a feed for example. Remember that alcohol dehydrates you and can disrupt the hormones involved in milk production so re-hydrate with a large glass of water after your wine.