Don't assume that just because you naturally produce breast milk you will, without a doubt, know how to nurse your newborn. It doesn't work that way. For many mothers, breast-feeding takes time and practice before everything goes along smoothly. Then there are those mothers who grab their babies while on the birthing table, hold their newborns to their breast, and never have to think twice about nursing their children.
Keep these thoughts in mind when you're nursing your child:
- Breast-feed your baby immediately after birth.
- This first breast-feeding time may take up to an hour, but it's the first step in a healthy baby/mom relationship.
- Don't get nervous or upset if your baby doesn't latch on to your breast the first, second, or even third time.
- But do get help right away. Figuring out how this should be done is critical to a good breast-feeding experience.
- You and your baby are new at breast-feeding, and becoming accomplished at it may take coordination, time, and practice between you two. The older your child gets, and the more practice you have, the easier breast-feeding will be. Sometimes newborns seem too darn small and floppy to try to hold and feed at the same time. Just keep trying and get some help.
- Don't impose any restrictions on the length or frequency of breast-feeding.
- If a baby is nursing well and getting the milk, she won't be on the breast for hours at a time. If your baby is staying attached for a long time, she's probably not latched on well and not getting the milk. Not being latched on is kind of like trying to suck from a bottle with a nipple that has only one tiny hole. Babies also will use their mother as a pacifier or they may be feeding for a growth spurt.
- Don't assume that just because you've successfully nursed one child, the second child or the third one is going to be just as easy.
- Remember, babies are different people, and each starts as a beginner at nursing. They aren't able to get any good advice from their siblings.
- Don't feel pressured to succeed the first time you try to breast-feed.
- You'll probably have a nurse, husband, or a roomful of spectators anxiously waiting to see your performance. Try not to get nervous or flustered. But if you do, just ask your visitors to leave.
- Don't be surprised if you tend to sweat a lot during your first tries at breast-feeding.
- This state is a combination of your body going back to normal with hormonal changes, calories that are burned, nervousness from breast-feeding for the first time, and the let-down process your body goes through when it's time to nurse.
- Get comfortable when it's time to nurse.
- You'll be nursing quite a bit, so find a comfortable chair, couch, or bed, use pillows to prop yourself up, put pillows underneath the arm you're using to support your baby's head, lean back, and relax.
- Have your supplies ready.
- New mothers are busy, busy, busy. So, take the time while you're nursing to have a large glass of water and a snack. Look at it as sharing lunch with your baby.
- Don't forget the football hold.
- If you're having problems nursing your baby with the cradle hold (baby's belly against your belly), try the football hold. You hold your baby like you would a football, tucked under your arm: Your baby's belly is against your side.
- Take care of yourself.
- Nursing is not the time to go on a diet to shed those extra pounds. You have the rest of your life to diet. You need to be eating and drinking from 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day. Simple food is the best, so have plenty of fruit around for you to grab, keep bowls of nuts and raisins out, and keep a sports water bottle filled with water for you. Don't fill it up with soda pop. Your body needs pure, healthy water.
- Watch what you put in your mouth.
- Many things can be transferred to your breast milk: alcohol, medications, illegal drugs, and even some spicy foods. Always consult with your doctor before you take any medications.
- Drink lots of water.
- You're producing milk — a liquid. The more water you drink, the more liquid you'll produce. You should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Follow the basic rules of breast-feeding.
- Hold your breast with your thumb and forefinger behind the areola (the dark area around your nipple), make sure your baby's mouth is wide open like a little bird's, and quickly put the nipple in her mouth before she shuts it. Holding your baby tummy-to-tummy will ensure that she doesn't pull your breast or break away from it.
If you want to breast-feed but are having trouble getting started, consider using a breast pump and then finger-feeding your child. The pump keeps your flow of breast milk going, and you'll still be able to feed your baby. But, more important, finger-feeding also buys you some time so that you can continue working with your baby to get her to breast-feed without the fear of her going hungry.
Some hospitals have breast-feeding classes or lactation consultants to educate mothers about breast-feeding. They cover basic breast-feeding techniques, suggestions about how to reduce sore nipples, and plenty of other helpful information. You can also contact childbirth educators (like Lamaze instructors), midwives, or the La Leche League.