Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both mother and child. It is cheaper than bottle feeding and boosts the health of both mom and baby. It helps to reduce the amount of blood that new mothers lose from their uterus after delivery, and enables it to return to normal more quickly. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce mom’s chances of developing ovarian cancer and other diseases later in life.
Mother’s milk increases baby’s new immune system, making them more resistant to colds and other infections. Breast milk can also make your child less likely to develop childhood leukemia and obesity, or develop diabetes when they grow older.
While many new moms want to claim these benefits for themselves and their children, sometimes even the most motivated new mother experiences difficulty when they first start breastfeeding their child. The following tips for breastfeeding can increase your chances of success and make the experience a more enjoyable one for both you and your baby.
You’ll want to try to let your baby nurse within the first hour or so after delivery. When you are breastfeeding, it’s important that baby learns to latch on correctly. Cradle your baby close to your body, supporting their neck and head underneath with one hand, and holding your breast with the other. Gently brush baby’s lip with your breast to encourage them to open their mouth.
Place the nipple and most of the darkened circle of breast tissue, known as the areola, inside baby’s mouth. It’s important that the bottom portion of the areola is inside your baby’s mouth as they begin to nurse. While in the hospital, ask a nurse or lactation consultant to check to make certain that baby is latched on properly.
Latching on correctly will stimulate your production of milk and ensure that baby gets enough milk during feeding. It will also contribute to the reduction of pain and soreness that often comes from nursing. If your baby continues to have difficulty latching on correctly, you may need to use a breast shield, or similar device.
When your baby first begins to breastfeed, allow them to nurse on the first breast for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until your breast starts to feel soft. Then swap to your second breast and allow them to continue to feed. Gently place your finger between your breast and your baby’s jaw to break the connection when swapping, to decrease pulling on the breast tissue. This will reduce tenderness and pain as well.
If your baby isn’t hungry, be sure to start with this breast the next time that you feed your child. Continue alternating which breast you offer to baby first when they nurse. In general, your baby will want to feed about every 2 to 3 hours both day and night for the first few weeks of life. Offer to breastfeed more frequently if they show signs of hunger, such as smacking their lips.
You will also want to offer to breastfeed often, especially in the beginning, to encourage the production of milk. Swapping which breast you offer first will also protect your supply of milk, and reduce tenderness and sensations of fullness in your breasts.
You will know that your baby is feeding successfully and getting enough nourishment when they produce around 6 to 8 wet diapers a day and have a loose bowel movement 2 to 5 times daily. They should also begin to gain weight after the first week of life and seem satisfied and content after nursing.
Take Good Care of Your Breasts in Between Feedings
Practicing good self-care in between feedings will reduce dryness and cracking, which can lead to soreness and tenderness in the nipple and surrounding breast tissue. When breastfeeding, it’s important to expose your breasts to fresh air and allow the nipple and breast area to fully dry after breastfeeding, as well as when bathing or showering.
Avoid harsh soaps and shampoos while nursing to decrease irritation. Applying lanolin or another specially formulated breast cream to the nipple and areola after feeding can reduce pain and discomfort in your breasts. Wearing breast pads after nursing, and changing them frequently through the day, will keep your breast area dry in between feedings.
Sometimes, despite the best of care, it is possible for one or more ducts within the breast to become blocked. Frequent breastfeeding, or using a breast pump to express your milk, will help to clear this blockage in a few days. Warm compresses or a shower will relieve the sensation of fullness if your breasts have become engorged and any subsequent pain from a blocked duct.
If your breast becomes hot to the touch, and you begin to have a low-grade fever, you may have an infection of the breast tissue, known as mastitis. Check with your doctor if this condition develops as you may need an antibiotic to clear up the condition. Continue to breastfeed your baby unless your doctor specifically advises against it.
Rotate Feeding Positions Frequently
While it’s important to support baby’s head and neck while feeding, there are a number of positions that allow you to do this while breastfeeding. It’s a good idea to rotate the position that you hold baby while nursing to reduce potential soreness in your breast, as well as the muscles in your back and neck.
In addition to cradling baby in your arm, you can also place your baby so that they are facing you while you lie down and offer to breastfeed. You can also tuck your baby under your arm and hold their head with your hand to help them latch on correctly and reduce the strain on your body. There are a number of devices that can make it easier to hold and support baby while you breastfeed, such as specialty breastfeeding pillows.