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Your question:

Can I start breastfeeding if I gave baby a bottle first?

Expert’s answer:

The desire to recommence breastfeeding is completely normal and can be achieved with work and support. Here are some suggestions:

Contact someone who can guide you through the process

Start by finding a IBCLC who can help with starting to breastfeed. An IBCLC is a lactation consultant who has completed the gold standard education in breastfeeding management. Your PHN may have the IBCLC qualification or your breastfeeding counsellor at the breastfeeding support group. We would strongly recommend linking in with your local breastfeeding support group when you go home. A trained breastfeeding counsellor from La Leche League or Cuidiu will chat to you over the phone or may be able to visit you at home.

One of the biggest challenges that faces breastfeeding mothers is the support that they require and deserve after the birth especially during the early days.

Skin to skin

Not all new-borns are breastfeed immediately after birth. The way a baby is born, the medications given in labour and during caesarean can affect the baby’s alertness after birth and the degree of separation between mum and baby for whatever reason can all influence a good start to breastfeeding. The most important stimuli a baby needs to set up a good breastfeed is the mothers smell, and skin to skin contact which provides warmth and security. When baby is in safe skin to skin contact with mum it stimulates baby’s responses and you will see baby rooting, turning her head, licking, moving her legs, massaging your skin with her hands. If you have your baby in a cot right now why not, take her clothes off and leave her in the nappy. You and baby snuggle together on the bed making sure baby’s skin is in contact with your skin. Cover your baby’s back with a blanket and enjoy skin to skin contact together for a while and see what happens. Your nurse or midwife will be happy to support and assist you.

Start expressing your milk to protect your milk supply  

As soon as possible after your baby's birth start to express your milk, ideally within the first few hours. Once you have started, you should express at least 8-10 times every 24 hours. This is how often in 24 hours a new born baby breastfeeds. Some mothers are unwell after birth and need specialist care themselves. Ask your midwife to help with hand expressing as soon as you are well enough and as soon as possible after birth.    

Using a breast pump – from Day 3 of your baby’s life

Your milk will start to change now from yellow colostrum to white breast milk. Now you can start using a hospital-grade double electric pump. Using the pump, continue expressing milk every 2-3 hours. This might seem like a lot, but newborn babies feed this often. It can take about 20-30 minutes to express your milk in the early days. You can pump milk from both breasts at the same time. This is called ‘double pumping’. Double pumping stimulates the hormone prolactin. Prolactin helps build and maintain your milk supply. Electric breast pumps are available on the post-natal ward in the maternity unit, and in the neonatal unit.

The nurse or midwife in the unit will:

  • Demonstrate how to carefully wash your hands,
  • Show you how to use the pump,
  • Provide you with a double pumping set, and
  • Provide you with containers for collecting your milk and labels to record your baby’s name and date you expressed. You will also need a hospital-grade electric pump at home. You can rent a hospital-grade pump. The nurse or midwife in the post-natal ward or neonatal unit will give you information on renting a pump.

Starting to breastfeed

  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin before your baby is due to feed.
  • Massage your breasts and express a little breastmilk onto your nipples just before you try to breastfeed. Support your baby in a position that will help baby attach on to your breast.
  • Make sure your baby is attached well at your breast and sucking effectively. Check out the following link:
  • Let your baby breastfeed for as long as they are actively feeding. If you can feel sucking and hear swallowing, your baby is actively feeding. At the start, your baby may only take small drops of milk, so breastfeeds may only last for a couple of minutes before your baby gets tired. Feeds will get longer as your baby gets stronger.
  • If your baby does not feed fully at your breast, offer extra expressed milk after breastfeeds. As your baby breastfeeds more fully and becomes satisfied after breastfeeds, you can gradually reduce the amount of extra milk given until your baby gets all their feeds at your breast. This can take many days or weeks but is worthwhile.

This situation is similar to mothers who are trying to breastfeed premature /sick babies. This link explains how to manage your milk supply and then eventually progress to breastfeeding:

Support Groups

Click here to find breastfeeding support in your area:

Expert help is available from an IBCLC lactation consultant, (your PHN or midwife at your maternity unit).  If there isn’t a support group available locally, contact the Lactation Consultant at your local maternity hospital or make an appointment with a private Lactation Consultant who will thoroughly check positioning, attachment and baby’s latch at the breast. Click here to find a lactation consultant in your area.

Latching baby to breast

Your baby is still getting used to life outside the womb and this does take time, hence his/her latch is good sometimes and not so good at other times. All babies can breastfeed, some just take a bit longer to get the hang of it.  Here is a great link to a video on latch:

The First Few Weeks

Most mothers worry that they are not producing enough milk for their baby. It is normal and expected that for the first 6 weeks that a baby will feed for the breast 8-12 times a day.  The supply is still building up so unlimited time at the breast is the right routine at the moment.  Here are some great links to information about the first few weeks:



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