Breastfeeding has been said to be natural. With the invention of prepared baby formula, baby bottles and sterilizers, it is quickly becoming a lost art. The need for some mothers to quickly return to work can cause worry about initiating a nursing relationship, even though it is a natural, convenient and healthy form of feeding your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the entire first year of your baby's life, and exclusively for the first six months.
There are several reasons for this. First and foremost it contains all necessary nutrients for your baby, and is specially designed for your baby's digestive system.. Breast milk also provides baby with many immunities that the mother has acquired. Breastfeeding assists the mother in losing weight gained in pregnancy. No mother must eat a special diet in order to breastfeed, only watching that she eats a variety of healthy foods and drinks plenty of water. Not eating well will impact the mother, and not, except in extreme cases, the quality and quantity of the breast milk. Many mothers also continue to take prenatal vitamins, and watch their consumption of alcohol. There are very, very few medications that are contraindicated for a breastfeeding mother. If any medical professional suggests that a nursing mother should wean before taking any medications, there are several trusted web sites where medications can be researched by generic name.
- Feed newborns regularly and frequently. All newborn babies typically need to nurse at least every two to three hours and may sleep 5 hours in a row once every 24 hours. Awaken the baby during the day at first every few hours so the long sleep period will be at night. Babies vary in the amount of time they take to nurse at each feeding. Let the baby decide he is finished with the first side.
- Note that the breast has natural anti-bacterial properties. No mother in her own home needs to wash her hands and breasts before each nursing. The breast has Montgomery glands that keep the nipple bacteria free.
- Making a nursing station. Try feeding when sitting in a large comfortable chair, recliner or sofa; any of these will make it easier to settle down to nurse. Keep a large water bottle nearby, or even a good snack to fight the hunger that can come suddenly to a new mother.
- Keep it simple. The fewer items of clothing between you and the baby the better. Nursing bras are appropriate when going out in public, but are fussy and you don't have to wear them at home. Soft, comfortable button-down shirts work well, as it can make for easy access without bunching. At home, you don't need blankets to hide under. Any guests coming to see the baby can be warned to go into another room if they do not want to see you nurse. The baby will be happy in just a diaper and a t-shirt or a one piece outfit. The more skin to skin you share with the baby, the more stimulated the baby will be.
- Avoid hunching to feed. The best place for your baby to nurse is in your own arms, lifted up across your body, tummy to tummy. Do not place the baby on a pillow (even if you have received one as a gift) as that will cause you to hunch over the baby. Your goal is to be sitting straight up, and then leaning back a bit, so that you feel relaxed and comfortable. If you are hunching or leaning over, it will be painful for you and difficult for the baby to latch. You can have a pillow in your lap to support your arms, but not the baby.
- Position the baby supportively. There are many effective ways to hold a baby and nurse, called positioning. Whatever position you choose, look for a straight line, from ear to shoulder to hip. Hold the baby close so that his chest is close to yours and he is looking straight ahead or up a little.
- When he opens wide, aim your nipple towards the top of his mouth so that it basically lays down on his tongue. Pull him towards you with pressure on his back, not by pushing in his head. When he latches, it should feel like pulling, not pinching.
- Let baby feed as as long as he wants on the first side Some babies are more "efficient" than others, some like to nurse longer. Depending on how much milk a mother makes, a baby may not take the second side.
- Dependng on how much air the baby takes in through his nose while he is nursing, he may or may not need to burp.
- Be prepared for a feeding and sleeping routine at the beginning. A newborn baby will mostly nurse and sleep. You know when the baby is "getting enough" when he wets 8-10 diapers a day and give several seedy or creamy bowel movements. Look for the quiet alert times when he is content to gaze at you and his new environment. What goes in must come out and those creamy bowel movements mean that your baby is nursing down to the cream in your milk.
- Stay calm and confident. Women have been nursing babies since the dawn of time.
- The baby will nurse every two to four hours or so as a newborn, and soon you and the baby won't have to think much before sitting down for a snuggle or nursing before a nap. As the baby gets older, he won't have to nurse quite so often.
- Crying is the last indicator of a baby's hunger. Don't wait until the baby cries to decide to nurse. Babies will mewl, call, lick their lips, and even rustle about to signal that they are ready for the next meal. Breastfed babies will root for a nipple when hungry. Sometimes the rooting reflex will go into action when any nursing mother is near.
- Consult your doctor if your baby does not appear satisfied or if there are too few soiled diapers
- Do not begin solid foods until about the middle of the first year, even if your mother or mother-in-law insists that the baby needs something, anything. Your pediatrician or your midwife can give you accurate and up to date information on safe first foods for a baby.
- Never pull baby off of breast while they are sucking, this will lead to sore nipples, rather insert your little finger (clean) in the corner of baby's mouth to release suction
- If your nipples are sore, this is a signal that the baby's latch needs to be adjusted. Watch closely how the baby comes onto the breast as the goal is to get the nipple in as far as possible. When the baby lets go at the end of a feed, the nipple should look rounded, the same as when it went in. If it is pointy or lipstick shaped, it's not far back enough. If your nipples become bloody or cracked, get help immediately. Many problems can be solved in just one phone call.
- Changing a wet diaper and exposing baby will help fully waken baby if it has been too long between feeds.
- Touching baby's cheek with your finger or nipple will elicit an in-built "rooting reflex"; that is: baby will turn head towards your nipple and grasp on.
- Gently squeezing your breast to express a small amount of breast milk will help alert baby to suckle if he is sleepy.
- Breast milk is produced on supply and demand. The more the baby nurses, the more milk you will make.
- Pumping can help increase supply as well. Pumps can often be rented from hospitals if you are looking to increase milk but don't need a pump for the long term. Or you can buy a personal pump. They vary in quality. Get some advice from a lactation consultant.
- Pumped milk can be stored in the freezer in an air -tight container for up to 3 months, in the refrigerator for up to 8 days.
- Thaw milk by letting warm water run on the bottle or overnight in the refrigerator - Do not microwave, as that will destroy the unique benefits of breast milk.
- Thawed milk may be gently shaken before feeding,
- Do not use A&D ointment for sore nipples, there are several lanolin based products that are specifically designed for use on the breast and are not harmful to the baby, such as Lansinoh. This does not have to be removed prior to breastfeeding.
- Be careful of soaps, perfumes, shampoos and scented bath products - all of these have the potential to strip your natural oils and dry out your nipples, thereby increasing the chance of cracking. They also interfere with the bonding pheromones between the mother and baby.
- If you are not comfortable with visitors observing you, tell them so and ask them to either leave or to excuse you temporarily.
- Be willing to trust your instincts and give your baby your best.
- Breastfed babies should have eight to ten wet diapers a day.
- Breastfed babies generally have loose yellow stools four or more times daily.
- Consult a lactation consultant, midwife or doctor if:
- Baby is still fussy after nursing.
- Baby is not urinating or having regular bowel movements.
- Breasts are cracked and nipples are bleeding.
- Baby is not gaining weight.
- Baby's skin and/or fingernail and/or toenail beds appear to have a yellowish tinge.
Things You'll Need
- Cloth diapers or towels for burping.
- Well-fitting nursing bra (purchased after you have the baby, because before you'll have no idea what size you are going to be).
- Patience and the desire to succeed.
Related Tips and Steps
- How to Make a Nursing Bra
- How to Store Your Expressed Breast Milk
- How to Soothe a Teething Baby
- How to Change a Diaper
Sources and Citations
- Breastfeeding.com - Information, support and attitude!
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
- INFACT Canada. Protecting, Promoting & Supporting Breastfeeding
- World Health Organisation - Exclusive Breastfeeding
- Human Milk Secretion: An Overview US National Institute of Health
- Breastfeeding Resources La Leche League International
- Breast-Feeding Content Resources WHO reports on Breast Feeding
- Health risks of not breastfeeding US Department of Health & Human Services
- The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals & organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.
- Breastfeeding: NHS Choices
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention Breastfeeding CDC
- LactMed, a database of the safety of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed, by the U.S. National Library of Medicine