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Breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby, so be patient with your baby and yourself. Educate yourself prior to the birth of your baby. Discuss any questions ahead of time with your obstetrician or certified nurse midwife. Try to learn, prepare, ask for help and enjoy! Some ways to do this might include:
- Be informed in order to be prepared; do not rely on others' experiences. Visit the library, or contact a support group such as Le Leche League. They offer monthly meetings free of charge, and ongoing support. They are a one of many resources you may find helpful.
- Take a breastfeeding class or prepare by reading (download our Guide to Breastfeeding Success).
- Learn the physiology of breastfeeding and the normal breastfeeding patterns of the first days.
- Nurse early and often. Nurse in the recovery room if you have had a C-section. Most infants are alert and eager to root and latch. If needed, ask your nurse for help. Infants will receive colostrum, the yellow-gold first milk. Some people consider this to be the infant's first immunizations because of the high concentrations of nutrients and immunities. While the colostrum is low in quantity (teaspoons, not ounces), it is close to the stomach capacity of the newborn, and is all most newborns should need. Frequent and effective emptying of the breasts is what governs milk supply. You should breastfeed eight or more times in 24 hours, following your baby's feeding cues.
- Learning good positioning and correct latching techniques are the keys to successful nursing and comfort.
- Watch the baby, not the clock. The baby will give you feeding cues, such as lips and mouth sucking motions and hand-to-mouth movements. Rooming-in with your newborn throughout your stay in the hospital will help you learn these early feeding cues. Crying is a late feeding cue. There should be no more than four hours between feedings. Most newborns are sleepy during their hospital stay, and you may need to learn gentle waking techniques. The hospital staff will help you with this. If more help is needed, lactation nurses are available.
- It is important in the early days/weeks of breastfeeding that the baby receives only the breast. Most newborns do not require any fluids other than colostrum. If there is a medical reason for supplementing, most lactation consultants recommend not using a bottle. Educate yourself about alternative feeding methods, such as syringe feeding, finger feeding or using a supplemental nursing system at the breast. Bottle nipples may lessen the baby's instinctive effort to open his/her mouth wide, and the mechanics of what an infant does with his/her mouth, tongue and jaws are very different. Some infants become "nipple-confused" or frustrated at the breast after receiving bottles in the early days. This also interferes with your milk supply. Once breastfeeding is going well, most infants can transition between breast and bottle without difficulty. (Wait approx. four weeks)
- Consult with your pediatrician and obstetrician about his/her philosophy on breastfeeding. You should be able to work with your pediatrician in order to have a positive breastfeeding experience.
Take pride that you are giving your baby the many benefits of breastfeeding. We are here to support you on your breastfeeding journey. We wish you a wonderful experience!