Breastfeeding is best for baby, but it takes time to get the hang of it.
As new parents are told, breast is best! Breast milk provides optimal infant nutrition and cannot be duplicated. There are immeasurable and long-term health benefits for both baby and mother. But in addition to knowing why to breastfeed, new parents need to know how.
Breastfeeding is certainly natural, but it does take some time to get the hang of it. Without proper support and information, some women give up. The best thing you can do to ensure breastfeeding success is to educate yourself and take advantage of community supports (see resources).
Essential tips for breastfeeding
Breastfeed your baby within the first half hour after birth. Do this before the baby is diapered or weighed. This imprints breastfeeding and starts lactation by stimulating the prolactin receptors that ensure a good supply of milk. Allow the baby to spend an hour or two having skin-to-skin contact with you, not a mere few minutes. Any routine medical procedures can wait. This is of utmost importance.
If you are unable to get the baby to the breast within the first three hours, hand express your milk, or get a breast pump and remove your milk frequently. A delay in stimulating your breasts will delay your milk. Feed the baby expressed milk by medicine cup or feeding tube. Do not use an artificial nipple/bottle, which often interferes with the baby’s ability to suck at the breast.
For a couple of days after the birth, the breast makes colostrum, a very valuable, thick and rich first food for babies that encourages digestion. Sometime after the second day, colostrum changes into mature milk, which has more volume. The breasts can become engorged and the nipple area can become very full and hard, sometimes making it more difficult for the baby to latch. You can minimize this by applying heat to the breast briefly before breastfeeding, gently massaging the breast towards the nipple during feedings, feeding frequently to soften the breasts and applying cold packs to the breast between feedings. Engorgement will subside in about 30 hours. If it doesn’t, seek help.
Feed newborns eight to 12 times during a 24-hour period. The tiny tummies of newborns empty quickly. Feed your baby when he wakes – don’t wait for him to cry. This is a late cue to feed.
Obtain a good and pain-free latch. Hold the baby very close to the breast and with his mouth wide open, pull him onto the breast, leading with the chin and with the head tipped back slightly. The baby should take more in over the bottom jaw than the top. A good latch is comfortable and allows the baby to get milk. How can you tell if the baby is getting milk? His sucking will be deep and slow with regular swallowing, he will suck actively for a good many minutes and he will soil sufficient diapers. By the sixth day of life, babies will make six or more wet diapers and two or more dirty diapers within 24 hours. Babies will want to suck for at least 10 to 20 minutes and often more. They usually come off the breast by themselves when they have filled their tummies.
Get help to correct a painful latch. Breastfeeding should not be painful. Breasts may feel sensitive or tender for awhile, but not painful. Pain indicates a problem, most commonly incorrect positioning or an anatomical challenge.
Avoid bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks. These teach ineffective sucking patterns and contribute to latch problems, insufficient intake of milk, and early weaning.
Feed on demand during growth spurts. Babies have regular growth spurts as they double their weight in the first six months. When a growth spurt happens, babies will want to feed more frequently for a few days. Simply let the baby feed on demand and your milk will increase as her needs increase.
Breastfeeding should be a pleasant experience for both mother and baby. Seek help right away if a problem occurs. Ideally, breastfeeding will continue until the baby outgrows the need. Canadian doctors and the World Health Organization recommend that women breastfeed for six months without supplements and continue with complementary foods for up to two years and beyond.
Breastfeeding is so much more than the milk. It is a relationship. Enjoy this very special time in your parenting – your baby will.