By Midwife Cath Curtin

Babies are very clever! They know exactly what to do from the very beginning – one of their strongest primitive and natural reflexes is to suck and that is so they can live.

Yet, it can come as a surprise to some mothers when they discover breastfeeding isn’t always easy.

It’s important to remember that every baby, breast and nipple is unique. What works for one person, may not work for another. Everyone is different, and that’s okay.

Below you’ll find some information that’s good to know before you begin your breastfeeding journey.

What to expect when your milk ‘comes in’

Every woman experiences milk coming in, in a different way.

The body responds to the birth of the baby with the breasts becoming full. It’s not only milk but also an increased blood flow and extra lymph fluids in your breast tissue that makes them full and often feel very uncomfortable. When the milk ‘comes in’ the breasts become firm, warm and heavy.

This usually occurs 3-5 days after the birth, but the initial filling of the breasts, or the breasts feeling full and engorged, takes place on a different day for every woman.

In the early stages of breastfeeding, it’s very important that the baby feeds at the breast frequently to stimulate lactation and encourage the milk to ‘come in’.

All women will lactate, some with copious amounts of milk and at the other end of the spectrum, some women can have a lower supply. But, it is important to remember that lactation takes about six weeks to fully establish.

Midwife Cath Curtin is an expert in women’s health, pre-pregnancy, antenatal care and education, pregnancy, labour and birth, postnatal care, breastfeeding, and parenting.

Correct positioning and attachment

A baby is best positioned across the mum in a cradle hold so the baby can self-attach. This positioning and gentle introduction to the nipple will trigger the baby’s rooting reflex meaning the baby will maneuverer itself around to find and latch on to the nipple. Two fingers in the peace sign can be used to position the nipple in place.

It’s important that mother is relaxed and comfortable while feeding. Feel some pain or discomfort during the first few seconds of feeding is normal as baby is working to get the nipple into the right position. If pain does continue for longer, you may need to take the baby off, reposition and try again.

“What works for one person, may not work for another. Everyone is different, and that’s okay.”

Keeping up or increasing supply

The best and easiest way to keep the breast lactating is to keep the baby close and feed frequently. Lactation works on demand and supply. And, breastfeeding the baby frequently for a few days will certainly help increase the supply.

It is important to remain well hydrated and well fed when breastfeeding. Basically, the mother’s body is giving energy, life and weight gain to your baby so maintaining a satisfying and nutritious diet necessary.

It’s important to feed in a comfortable position and try not to feed ‘on the run’. If the baby is still searching for a feed, offer some ‘quick’ top up breast feeds…every little feed helps.

WATCH: Breastfeeding tips by Bounty Parents

Alternating breasts per feed

It is important to alternate breasts during a feed to keep the milk moving. Feeding from one side only can lead to mastitis as the brain does not discriminate when it lets down the milk into the breasts.

So, when the baby starts to suck and the brain lets the milk down (ejection of the milk) it lets down to both breasts. Remember the baby cannot “drain” or “empty” a breast, the brain lets the milk down in response to the baby sucking on the nipple that has very sensitive nerves that cause the oxytocin (milk hormone) to be released into the bloodstream and allows the milk to flow through the milk duct.

Tips and tricks

The best tip is to keep the baby close and feed the baby frequently. In the early days and weeks while establishing breastfeeding it is vital the woman rests and eats a healthy diet.

It is also very important for the woman to drink water – when feeding a baby, a woman experiences an increased calorie and nutrient needs – so food and lots of water is a must! Breast milk has all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of life.

Your baby may not require any added water or solid foods other than breastmilk in the first 6 months.

A good tip is to wrap a new born baby when breastfeeding. All babies have primitive reflexes, one of them is the startle reflex. This is where the baby may throw their arms everywhere, or jolt their body making attachment a challenge. Wrapping the baby and keeping them close to your body will keep them nice and calm.

When COVID-19 stopped face-to-face appointments and resulted in the cancellation of antenatal classes, Midwife Cath partnered with Cell Care to create Tummy Talks – free online antenatal classes and education session that expectant parents could access from the comfort and safety of their home. The Pregnancy and Birth classes were so popular, Breastfeeding and Postnatal classes have now been added.

For more information or to register visit: