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Breastfeeding: Back to Basics

Text: Beth Cooper Howell. Photography: Gallo Images/Getty Images; Elite Photo Agency. Article from the June 2012 issue of Living and Loving Magazine.

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s all the info you need to overcome the challenges.

Breastfeeding can be more convenient than bottlefeeding - no sterilisation or formula preparation is needed, and best of all ... it's free!Popular myths, misinformation, and increasingly rushed lifestyles are some of the reasons why the number of breastfeeding moms has drastically declined in the last 50 years. But numerous studies show that breastmilk is the best first food you can give to your baby – so what’s the most simple, effective way to get off to a good start?

Experts agree that mother’s milk is ideal because the benefits go beyond just basic nutrition. Breastmilk strengthens your baby’s immune system against ear infections, meningitis and tummy viruses, and reduces the risk of your baby developing childhood cancers. It helps to avoid later diseases like type 1 and 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol. Development of Chrohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis later in life has also been linked to a lack of breastfeeding. And preemies fed on breastmilk are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure later on.

Proper preparation

Although breastfeeding may feel awkward at first, it’s a natural biological process. To learn the art of feeding your baby, you’ll need patience, determination and a solid support group. To help you in those first months after your baby is born, attend antenatal classes, find a local midwife or lactation consultant (preferably internationally board certified or IBCLC) and, if possible, join La Leche League International in your area. La Leche also offers an excellent book called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

Getting yourself and your home station ready

There’s no evidence to support the theory that your nipples need toughening up for breastfeeding, nor any evidence to suggest that preparation is needed. Just check if they’re inverted, so that you can attend to this from early in pregnancy.

Have items like reading material, water or healthy teas like chamomile or RooibosIf they can be drawn out by wetting them with cold water to make them taut, then they aren’t inverted. Also try rolling them outwards with two fingers. Inverted nipples become an issue only if your baby finds it difficult to latch and to pull enough of your nipple and areola into his mouth.

Because breastfeeding takes up a lot of time, prepare a feeding station with a chair, pillows or cushions for your back and feet, and for your baby. Have items like reading material, water or healthy teas like chamomile or Rooibos, as well as healthy snacks, a cloth to wipe any spills, and your cell phone.

Benefits of “breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding moms  have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breastfed babies tend to have fewer allergic reactions than formula-fed babies.
  • Breastfeeding moms are less likely develop postpartum depression.
  • Various studies reveal that breastfeeding  may boost your child’s  intelligence.
  • The risk of sudden  infant death syndrome  than (SIDS) is lowered through breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding could reduce the risk of a child becoming  overweight or obese.

Breastfeeding can be more convenient than bottlefeeding – no sterilisation or formula preparation is needed, and best of all … it’s free!

Try to persist with breastfeeding without thinking it just isn’t for you or your baby. Some of the most common mistakes can be overcome with a little effort.


Incorrect latching is a common cause for babies crying, and for engorged breasts and painful nipples. Rectify this, and most other niggles should disappear.

Position yourself comfortably and ensure that your entire nipple and a large part of your areola is in your baby’s mouth.

“A good latching tip is to tickle your child’s cheek so that she turns her head towards the nearest breast”

Dr Nan Jolly, an international board certified lactation consultant, believes that experience and practice is the key. Also bear in mind that as long as you’re comfortable, it doesn’t matter if you and your baby are in a strange position – or you don’t look like the classic ‘Madonna and Child’ pose. If it doesn’t hurt and your baby is drinking and growing and you’re happy, then you’re doing just fine.

A good latching tip is to tickle your baby’s cheek or brush her nose so that she turns her head towards the nearest breast. Then place your breast inside towards her upper mouth, and gently press down on her chin to open her mouth wider.

Initial pain usually means incorrect latching, so gently break the suction by slipping a clean finger between your nipple and the side of her mouth, and try again until you feel more comfortable.

“Milk quantity is determined by the number of milk-producing glands – regardless of breast size.”


Whatever position works for you and your baby is the correct one. There are no hard rules.

Usually, the cradle or Madonna’ style works well, but it’s not always suitable for C-Section moms. Sit with your feet propped on a low stool, with a pillow behind your back. Arrange your baby, properly on a  pillow, so that she can easily reach your nipple and so that you don’t have to lean forward.

If you have a painful cessarean scar you can use the football hold. This is where your baby is tucked under your arm, feet pointing to the back of the chair, as if she’s a football. Propping her up with a pillow means your baby won’t struggle to latch. This position is also ideal for twins.

Feeding times

Milk quantity is determined by the number of milk-producing glands - regardless of breast size." Breastfed babies should be fed on cue. Your baby will always tell you when she’s hungry.

Scheduled feeds can interfere with milk production and put you at greater risk for breastfeeding problems like engorgement and mastitis.

Despite what some experts say, try not to be a clock-watcher. Many breastfed babies like to eat in courses, having a short nap after a small drink, then a ‘main course’, followed by another nap or nappy change, and possibly even some ‘dessert’ and a fourth top-up. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough milk to feed your baby – you’ll know all is well when she settles in for a longer sleep once she’s satisfied.

Myth or fact?
  • Working moms can’t breastfeed. False. One way is to express milk for use while you’re at work.
  • Breastfeeding is painful. This is not entirely true. Pain is often linked to incorrect latching.
  • Breastfeeding causes sagging breasts. This is a fallacy, as there are many reasons why breasts sag, such as genetics, age or body type. Pregnancy itself can cause breasts to sag.
  • Many women don’t produce sufficient milk. Most women produce more milk than their babies need. Again, incorrect latching is probably the cause of not producing enough. Only tiny percentage of women are unable to breastfeed.
  • Small-breasted women produce less milk. This is false because milk quantity is determined by the number of milk-producing glands, which is the same in most moms irrespective of their breast size.
  • A special diet is needed for breastfeeding. This is a myth. A balanced diet is the best choice. But you don’t have to ditch your favourite foods. Eliminate a few possible problem foods, like caffeine, if you believe that these are affecting your baby.
  • Breastfed babies require more water in hot weather. This is untrue, as breastmilk contains all the water your baby will need if she’s feeding adequately throughout the day.
NUK e-Motion Breast PumpPump it

When you’re unable to breastfeed, you can express milk with a pump and feed your baby through a tube, with a bottle or a cup.

Used correctly, a pump stimulates milk production.



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