Breastfeeding 101

4:02 PM

Making the decision to breastfeed your baby is so beneficial for both of you. It is the perfect nutrition for his or her needs and even changes over time. It contains antibodies and boosts the immune system. It also helps you lose the pregnancy weight quicker and allows for excellent bonding time for the two of you. It is easy to digest and has been proven to decrease baby's risk of diabetes, asthma, infections and obesity.

That being said, intending to breastfeed is a whole different story than actually committing to it despite challenges. In my own experience, a sudden drop in weight from birth to day 3, and cracked nipples from poor latching had me almost ready to throw in the towel. It is so important to do your homework while you're still pregnant or trying so that you're equipped by the time baby arrives.

A good start

The best thing you can do for your breastfeeding success is to try to feed as soon as possible. In the case of a natural birth this can hopefully be a few minutes after birth. If you're in the care of a midwife chances are they will be able to assist you with this. If for some reason your baby must be taken away from you for any length of time after he or she is born, request that a bottle of sugar water or formula not be offered. As a last resort you can request a breast pump and ask to have it fed to your baby. Don't worry if it's not possible to breastfeed your baby right away - plenty of babies go on to have wonderful breastfeeding success even though they did not start right away.

A good latch

The way the baby attaches onto your breast is of utmost importance. If it is not right the baby will probably not receive as much milk as he or she could, and it will definitely cause a lot of current and future pain to mom. Start by getting comfortable yourself. Make sure your back is straight, not leaning back or hunching over. Choose a hold (cross, football, laying down) and position baby's face at the breast. When he or she shows the rooting reflex (a wide open mouth) bring baby to your breast making sure he or she gets a big mouthful of more than just nipple. The attachment should be somewhat asymmetrical with more areola showing above your baby's mouth. Lips should be puckered outward and nose should be close to your breast but not touching. With this latch your baby's jaw is pressed up close to the breast and is able to do the work of sucking. Make sure baby's head, neck and back are in a straight line - any twists (body straight with head turned) will make it difficult to swallow.

A good feed

Once the latch is right everything gets easier. It may be painful at first when baby starts sucking because your nipple is being stretched but after a few seconds the pain should subside. (This initial pain shouldn't last longer than a few weeks - if it does you may have a latch problem). It is important to see baby swallowing - you can also hear this with a slight "ahh" sound every few seconds. If you baby doesn't show much interest but you know he or she is hungry try doing compressions (slight squeezing of your breast) to bring some milk down and encourage baby to keep trying. If baby's sleepy you may want to feed him or her in only a diaper or do other things to keep them awake (play with their arms, keep a conversation going, give encouragement). When baby's done eating they will unlatch. Don't finish a feed just because it has been a certain amount of time. If you must finish a feed before baby wants to (someone comes to the door, etc.) slip a finger in his or her mouth to break the suction - never just pull them off because that will really hurt. You can always offer the other breast once your baby's done on one. It's a personal choice.

A good plan

Baby should be feeding 8 - 12 times a day, approximately every 2 - 3 hours. Oliver and I have found a good schedule called cluster feeding in which he feeds every hour or so in the evening so that he can sleep longer during the night. We both love it. A typical day for us would be 6:30am, 8:30am, 10am, 1pm, 3pm, 5:30pm, 7pm, 8:30pm, 9:30pm, 11pm. Don't worry about times, just let baby eat when it's time (you can tell because they will fuss and open their mouth to the sides). If baby cries for food, he or she is already very hungry - try feeding before that point because an overly hungry baby is harder to feed. You can tell your baby is getting enough milk by weight gain and wet/dirty diapers. If there's a concern talk to your doctor or midwife but just know that most new moms have concerns about their supply and chances are you're just fine. If you've had latch problems in the past but they have since resolved (like me) you may be suffering from sore nipples. Try lanolin ointment. Change breast pads often. Leave a bit of breastmilk on your breast after a feed and let it dry out before you re-dress. Sleep naked at night. These are good tips for healing quickly - it shouldn't take long but everyone's different.

I hope I've provided lots of information about breastfeeding because I think it's so important but it's also a big challenge. If you come across any trouble don't hesitate to call your local La Leche League representative. They are volunteers who will often email information, talk to you on the phone and even come to your house if you need it. Breastfeeding is very rewarding - don't give up!

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