How do I know if I am breastfeeding properly?

Breastfeeding is something many mothers want for their baby to give them the best start.

The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, but if you find it painful or your baby does not latch on or feed properly, what can you do?

To help you make breastfeeding your baby a success, Alessandra D’Angelo, senior midwife at The Lindo Wing, answers your most common breastfeeding questions:

Lindo Wing antenatal midwife

How do I know if my baby is latching on properly?

Your baby is latching on properly if they take a large mouthful of your nipple and the surrounding darker area. While feeding, you should be able to see that your baby has rounded cheeks with their chin touching your breast and their lower lip turned out. After a few days, you will be able to hear your baby swallow.

While breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, especially for first-time mothers, it should not be painful. Pinched, sore or bleeding nipples, or your baby still seeming hungry after a feed could all be signs they are not latching on properly.

What do I do if breastfeeding is painful?

Get a healthcare professional to look at how your baby latches on and your breastfeeding position. New mothers who have had their baby at The Lindo Wing can be visited by a midwife at home. Otherwise there are breastfeeding drop-in clinics and helplines for support. You can find your nearest service by searching online for ‘local breastfeeding drop-in clinics’.

The key thing is to get the latch right and simply adjusting your position may be all that is needed.

How long should I breastfeed on each breast?

Responsive feeding, which means breastfeeding whenever your baby wants to be fed, will ensure you have a good milk supply.

You should usually feed six to eight times every 24 hours with feeds lasting 10 to 45 minutes or more. If your baby comes off the breast, you can switch to the other one, as that can mean the breast is empty. Baby will make the decision whether to continue, not mum!

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?

Your baby should have a normal skin colour, seem relaxed during breastfeeding and after the first week they should have six or more wet, heavy nappies and at least two dirty nappies a day.

What do I do if my baby still seems hungry?

The most likely cause is that they are not latching on properly, so try adjusting your position or seek help.

To help your baby latch on, try skin-to-skin contact, as this will encourage your baby to feed, and will also keep mum and baby calm and comfortable. Put the baby’s nose close to the nipple so that they can smell the colostrum (the early form of milk produced) and squeeze some onto the baby’s lips. This will encourage your baby to latch on to the breast.

What is the best position to sit in when I am breastfeeding?

Experiment with whichever position works for you and your baby. You can sit upright, lie on your side or do the so-called ‘rugby ball hold’. Help your baby towards your breasts rather than you moving towards the baby. Make sure you are comfortable and that you have some water close by to drink during feeding, in case you feel thirsty.

What do I do if I am not producing enough milk?

It is important to get the latching on right in the early days, when milk production starts. Make sure you get help from the healthcare professionals while you are in hospital, if you need it.

You tend to produce milk when your baby is close to you so try plenty of skin-to-skin contact and keep your baby near you. Stay properly hydrated, eat well and get as much sleep as you can.

Where should I go if I still need help?

You can get support from local breastfeeding drop-in clinics, breastfeeding helplines, your community midwife and health visitor.

At The Lindo Wing, we offer breastfeeding workshops and antenatal classes exclusively for women booked to have their baby with us. We offer a two and a half hour breastfeeding workshop for small groups of up to four women, group antenatal classes that cover labour, delivery, potential complications, first aid, and baby care and massage, and bespoke one-to-one classes.

Please click here for more information, class dates and prices.