The year has been especially difficult for both expecting and new parents. Friends and family may be far away, and attending mother’s groups, midwife appointments and parenting events is more difficult.

With over 20 years of experience taking care of babies, Cathy Shortt is a mother herself and a trusted expert in women’s health, pre-pregnancy, antenatal care, pregnancy, labour and birth.

Here are Cathy’s top 10 feeding tips:

1. Antenatal education

Similar to a birth plan, gaining some knowledge before you embark on your feeding journey sets you up for success. In a tailored education session, the practitioner would cover everything from anatomy, history, normal feeding behaviours, output, changes in your milk, positioning and attachment, along with antenatal hand expression to guide you and identify any possible challenges.

When it comes to successful breastfeeding, gaining some knowledge beforehand will help.

2. Skin to skin

Skin to skin is imperative and this really is the building block of lactation. Where possible, place your baby on your chest after birth; this allows for temperature regulation and early initiation of breastfeeding. Babies tend to be most awake the first hour following birth so it’s the optimal time to offer your baby an opportunity at the breast.

3. Identify the early feeding cues

The feeding cues are the language babies use to let us know they are hungry. The early feeding cues are subtle and can be a turning of the head, opening of the mouth or sucking of their hands – pop baby on your chest and if they are looking like a woodpecker, they’re using their rooting reflex to ask nicely for a feed. If unable to feed your baby during those early feeding cues, babies will often escalate to mid then late feeding cues where they will cry and be distressed. If your baby is distressed, gently calm them before attempting to feed.

Cathy Shortt is a mother herself and a trusted expert in women’s health, pre-pregnancy, antenatal care, pregnancy, labour and birth.

4. Positioning and attachment

There are many ways to attach your baby to the breast, so take the time to work out which position suits you and your baby best; getting this right will facilitate a happy feeding experience. Also ensure you’re comfortable before learning the art of feeding, and particularly, look after your posture and your back – you’re just as important as your baby! Make sure you are chest to chest, then tickle your baby’s nose with the nipple (watch the mouth open) and bring your baby gently to the breast. Your baby should have both nipple and areola in their mouth; the sucks and swallows should follow, indicating transfer of milk.

5. Ditch the clock and watch the baby

Unless clinically indicated, allow your baby to naturally wake for feeds and only feed when they are asking for it. Try not to time the feeds (we don’t time how long it takes us to eat dinner); instead, use this time to get to know your baby and when they have had enough to eat. Once your baby has finished having enough milk, they should look relaxed and their limbs will be lovely and floppy – hence the term, milk drunk.

6. Pain is not normal

When a baby is attaching, you may feel an initial pulling sensation as they draw the breast back towards the junction of the hard and soft palate in the mouth. If it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t – and especially if you feel any pain – it’s worth getting further assistance to navigate the challenges in conjunction with your nominated health care provider.

With breastfeeding if it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.

7. Give it time

Breastfeeding is a relationship, and all relationships take time. Try to remember if it’s your first baby or your first breastfeeding experience, that you are both learning.

8. Seek help and changes to the plan

If things don’t feel like they are working for you or your baby, please seek help! Your local hospital or early childhood centre may have lactation clinics and free breastfeeding support, and you can contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association or LCANZ to find an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in your area.

9. Outsource

Mums can’t do everything! Get as much assistance as you can with other household tasks so you can focus on feeding your baby. Have family or friends cook meals, drop off snacks, do laundry for you or dig out the vacuum. Don’t be frightened to draw on those around you, they often want to help but just don’t know how.

10. Breathe

And finally, don’t forget to breathe.

Cathy Shortt is currently hosting a series of ‘Tea Talks’ by the Children’s Panadol Care Club – an online event series where she and Sarah Kearns, a mum of three who is passionate about building a community of parents, chat with real mums and dads from different stages of the parenting journey to share useful information across a range of topics. It’s the perfect opportunity for parents to take time out from their day and relax with a hot cup of tea!

Episode 2 of the Children’s Panadol Care Club ‘Tea Talks’ will take place on Wednesday, December 2nd at 8pm. Tune in via Facebook LIVE where Cathy and Sarah will cover all things related to Fussy Feeding.