Breastfeeding 101

breastfeeding baby

It’s common knowledge that breast milk is great for your baby. It’s rich in nutrients and antibodies that help protect your baby from infection, help boost their immune system and may help prevent certain diseases later in life. Breastfeeding can be good for mom, too; it can help you return to pre-birth weight more quickly and help your uterus shrink back to its previous size. Plus, it’s free!

However, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Here are some helpful breastfeeding tips that can help new moms get the hang of it and bond with their babies.

Breastfeed As Soon As Possible

Ideally, you should breastfeed your baby within one hour of giving birth. Ask if the hospital has a lactation specialist and get their assistance. Keep your baby with you day and night so that you can breastfeed as often as necessary (8 – 12 times a day). If keeping your infant with you at all times is not possible, have hospital staff bring your baby to you regularly for feedings. Instruct them to not give your baby formula or any other foods, unless medically necessary.

Make Skin To Skin Contact When Breastfeeding

When breastfeeding, dress your infant only in a diaper so you can make skin-to-skin contact. You should bring your breast to your infant, so they are comfortable and don’t have to strain or turn their neck to nurse. Be sure to keep your infant upright, with their head directly under your chin.

Avoid Nipple Confusion

Until breastfeeding has been established (usually four to six weeks), it’s best to avoid pacifiers and artificial nipples. You want to make sure your baby adjusts to latching only on your breast.

Sleep Near Your Baby

Sleeping in the same room as your infant can help reduce the risk of SIDS and make it easier to keep a feeding schedule. Most infants will need to nurse eight to 12 times in one 24-hour period.

Listen To Your Baby

Learn your baby’s hunger signs. Let them set the pace. Be sure you and your baby are both comfortable during breastfeeding. There are several different ways to hold a baby while nursing; find the one that works best for you and your infant. Some babies may nurse from both breasts during feeding, while others may only take one. Pay close attention and keep a breastfeeding chart to help you keep track when your baby prefers to nurse.

Know The Signs Of A Good Latch

If your infant is latched onto your breast correctly, it shouldn’t hurt or pinch. Both of your infant’s lips should pout out (like they’re making a fish face), not be pulled in over their gums. The baby’s mouth should be open very wide, and there should be little to no areola (the dark area around the nipple) showing. Correctly latched infants will make subtle sucking and swallowing noises — not smacking sounds. Your baby’s nose may touch your breast during nursing. This is completely fine; baby nostrils are designed to flare out during feeding to let air in and out.

Find the Correct Positioning

Successful nursing requires correct positioning. A lactation consultant can show you common positions — cradle hold, football hold, side-lying — and help you find a comfortable position for you and your baby. It can also be helpful to watch someone else breastfeed, but the key is to keep your baby’s head, neck, and back in a straight line, with his/her chest facing yours. Many nursing mothers use a pillow to help properly position their baby.

Take Care Of Yourself

Don’t forget: you’re the one producing the milk your baby will drink. Be sure you eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking, and keep the intake of alcohol and caffeine to a minimum. You’ll also want to protect your nipples by taking the following steps:

  • Make sure your baby is attached correctly.
  • Let any milk air dry on your nipples after feeding.
  • If possible, position cracked or tender areas in the corner of your baby’s mouth.
  • Wash your nipples daily with warm water.
  • Don’t use soap or lotion with alcohol. It can dry out your skin.
  • Avoid bras lined with plastic and change bra pads often to keep your nipples dry.
  • If your nipples crack or bleed, or if the pain persists, seek help from a lactation consultant.

Nurse Often

One of the most common issues new moms face is feeling like they are nursing all the time. In fact, it is normal for most newborns to want to breastfeed every one or two hours during the first few weeks, even during the night. Breast milk is digested more quickly than formula, and babies are used to being fed continuously in the womb. The best way to regulate your milk supply and keep your breasts from becoming engorged is to breastfeed on demand.

Some mothers stop nursing during the first few days or weeks because they feel they aren’t producing enough milk. However, if you can resist supplementing your baby’s diet with formula feedings for the first four to six weeks, your body will respond appropriately and produce an adequate supply of milk. Frequent nursing often helps prevent engorgement; however; if your breasts become hard, extremely tender and painful, and you run a fever or feel achy, contact your doctor or a lactation consultant for advice.

Don’t Get Discouraged

It takes time for some women to get it right.  If you don’t find immediate success with breastfeeding, you may want to talk to your doctor or see a lactation specialist.

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