Breast is best, but breastfeeding can bewilder even experienced moms.
Here are five tips to help you understand why breastfeeding is important and how to get it right for you and your baby.
Breastmilk is a perfect baby food. It contains the right amount of nutrients, provides infection-fighting antibodies and is gentle on a developing stomach, intestines and other body systems.
Healthy full-term babies are ready to begin breastfeeding in the first couple hours after birth. They then go through a sleepy phase, which should not be confused with them not wanting to breastfeed. Babies will still show feeding cues, even while sleepy. Lactation consultants and nurses can help new moms identify these first, subtle feeding cues. Skin-to-skin contact in the first few days can help with mom’s milk production and baby’s latch.
A baby will eat at least eight to twelve times a day, and often not at regular intervals or times. Feedings may last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes and some may be grouped together in cluster feedings. These cluster feedings are normal. They help to establish mom’s milk supply and provide the baby with small amounts of antibody-rich first milk, called colostrum.
Breastmilk production increases dramatically about four days after birth. This is what people refer to as their milk coming in. It’s important when milk first comes in to remove it from the breasts often by breastfeeding on demand. This tells the body how much milk it will need to make to nourish the baby.
The best start to a good latch is immediate skin-to-skin contact after delivery and breastfeeding during that first hour. Latching at the first signs of hunger will also help a baby do well. A good latch takes practice by both mom and baby. Knowing the signs of a good latch is important to help meet breastfeeding goals. A lactation consultant can help evaluate a baby’s latch.
If a baby gets too hungry, latching can be difficult. Early signs of hunger include eyes batting in sleep, being awake, licking lips, rooting and hand-to-mouth activity. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
When breasts feel engorged, or full, the areola and nipple may become tight, making it harder for a baby to latch on. It can help to massage the breasts, manually express some milk or use a breast pump for a few minutes before nursing.
It’s best to let the baby set the pace. The number of feedings each baby needs will vary. Trying to force a breastfed baby to fit a particular schedule can lead to poor weight gain and decreased milk supply. A baby should suckle until releasing on her own. Self-detachment increases the amount of higher fat milk a baby gets.
Babies that suck nonstop may self-detach in 10 minutes, while other babies may take more than 30 minutes to finish with one breast. A baby will often breastfeed for a shorter time at the second breast or not want it at all. Mothers should switch between which breast is offered first.
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