“I see several new mums each week in my role as a GP and know that breastfeeding can cause a huge amount of anxiety,” says Dr Tom York, a leading GP at GPDQ, the UK’s first doctor-on-demand app.
“Most women in the UK start off trying to breastfeed but roughly half end up stopping within the first week and switch to bottle feeding.”
If that sounds like you or you’re already worried about breastfeeding before your little one has arrived, we asked Dr York for his expert advice on breastfeeding for both mum and dad.
Breastfeeding advice for new mums:
Aim for the nose – “You should position the nipple at the level of your baby’s nose, not at their mouth. This encourages baby to tilt their head back to latch on,” says Dr York. “This should result in the nipple being in the roof of baby’s mouth which enables baby to give a nice strong suck.”
Relax into it – A baby has an uncanny ability to pick up on your emotions, so if you’re feeling stressed then baby will undoubtedly feel it too. “It can be easier said than done, but staying relaxed really can help baby to feel relaxed,” he says. “Stress can impair your milk production and can also cause baby to be restless which can then make feeding a struggle.”
Take a break – “You may be certain that baby is hungry, but sometimes, for whatever reason, they just won’t latch on. After trying for a while, rather than struggle on, getting more and more exasperated, give baby to dad, take a break and leave the room and do something else for 10 minutes,” advises Dr York. “When you come back to try a second time you’ll often find that it goes much easier.”
Watch a pro – First time mums can learn a lot from someone who is successfully breastfeeding – especially when they share that it wasn’t always plain-sailing. “If you’re a first time mum then it’s bound to take a bit of practice and watching someone who knows what they’re doing can really help you to improve your technique and will also likely fill you with confidence when they tell you about how hard they found it at first,” explains Dr York.
Speak to an expert – Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, breastfeeding might not seem to be working for you. If you don’t get into the swing of things in the first few weeks it can be worth seeing your midwife, health visitor or a lactation specialist, advises Dr York. “Sometimes there’s a simple solution, such as correction of a tongue-tie which can solve the problem,” he adds.
Breastfeeding advice for new dads:
Stay busy – Dr York says: “A newborn baby basically sleeps and eats, so mum is likely to be either breastfeeding or wanting to sleep herself. Most dads know their way around the cleaning cupboard but if not, now is your time to step up.” Try to take some time to clean the house, making sure the baby has clean clothes, the nappies are stocked and most importantly, taking care of your partner is key – make sure they’re fed and hydrated.
Be her rock – “If the breastfeeding isn’t going well, some mums will welcome suggestions, others will just want you to be present and available. You are an expert in your partner and you will know the best way to provide emotional support when things get tense,” says Dr York.
Get stuck in – After several weeks, mum might be at a stage where she can express. This is the perfect opportunity for dad’s to get involved says Dr York. “Volunteer to do the midnight feed. It will give you the most wonderful bonding experience with just you and your new baby together, not to mention giving your partner some well-deserved sleep.”