It’s true that artificial milk (formula) is adequate ― but it has lots of disadvantages compared with mum’s breast milk.
Feeds don’t need to be timed. Baby should be left at the breast until he comes off himself. Then he can be winded and offered the other breast (some babies want to feed on both sides at each feed, others don’t).
Long feeds will not hurt mum’s nipples if baby is attached properly. Baby suckles on the breast itself and breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.
Breast milk is easily digested so baby will need to feed quite often ― usually at least 8 to 12 times a day in the early weeks.
Less frequent feeding can decrease mum’s milk supply, impact on baby’s weight gain and hydration and increase mum’s risk of blocked ducts and mastitis.
Baby needs to feed when he shows hunger signs (rooting, finger sucking). Crying is a last resort. The feeding action causes mum’s body to make more milk. The more baby feeds, the more milk will be on tap.
Breast milk is all the food baby needs in his first six months. Baby will be getting ready for first tastes of solid foods once he is sitting unsupported, taking food from your plate and feeding himself. This usually happens around six months or later.
Giving any solids or drinks (including formula milk) before six months is linked with later health problems. Introducing solid food early will result in breast milk being replaced by less nutritious first foods and baby gets fewer of mum’s antibodies.
Baby should not be given a bottle or a dummy in the first few weeks while breastfeeding is being established. Sucking on a plastic teat is a very different action to breastfeeding. Baby could get nipple confusion and have problems breastfeeding. There are some suggestions for other ways of helping mum below.
How can I help with my grandchild?
There are lots of ways you can help with your grandchild: cuddling, winding, bathing, and taking him out for a short walk. Any offers of help with housework, making a cup of tea or a meal will probably be gratefully accepted. Perhaps ask mum what she thinks might help.
Encourage mum to be comfortable feeding her baby in your company. Don’t make her sit in a bedroom or other private place for feeding ― it will make her feel left out of things. Mum will be able to breastfeed without ‘exposing herself’.
One of the best ways to help is to support mum in her decision to breastfeed. If mum has a problem, help her to solve it (if necessary with help from a breastfeeding counsellor, midwife or health visitor).
Nearly all women are physically capable of breastfeeding but breastfeeding can sometimes be a struggle without accurate information and without support from close family.
Be careful not to undermine mum’s decision to breastfeed by suggesting that she gives her baby a bottle. If you can support mum and help her self-confidence, she will be able to give your grandchild the love and care he needs and give him the best possible start by breastfeeding.
You might like to show your support for mum by giving her a gift subscription to the ABM. Her welcome pack will contain all our ABM breastfeeding leaflets and she’ll receive our ABM magazine (published three times a year).