Many moms want to breastfeed as part of the nurturing process that comes after pregnancy and birth. Some nursing mothers may experience a few unexpected setbacks when they begin breastfeeding. However, it’s possible to overcome challenges with know-how and patience. The first few weeks of breastfeeding are crucial to get you and your baby on the way to a great nursing experience.
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding:
1. Encourage your baby to latch on well.
If breastfeeding hurts after the first 30 seconds, your baby likely has a “latch problem.” Here are some ways to address problems with latching on:
Check your positioning and that of your baby. Start out by sitting up in your bed or a comfortable chair, and be sure you position your infant properly. For example, you can use the “cradle hold” —your newborn should be lying on his side, facing you with his knees pulled close to your body. Read more in helpful books, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding; I Make Milk. What’s Your Superpower? - The Ultimate Guide to Success in Breastfeeding; or The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know about Nursing Your Child from Birth through Weaning. You might also call your ob-gyn for guidance or connect with a lactation consultant in your area via the La Leche League (www.llli.org).
Once you and your infant are positioned correctly, urge your baby to open his mouth by moving him toward and then away from your nipple. Repeat this forward and back movement—until he opens his mouth widely. Gently pull your infant onto your breast/nipple, ensuring his chin is first.
If your nipple looks bright pink or red after nursing, and it continues for more than two weeks, you may have a latch problem. You can soothe sore nipples with Vitamin E oil, and contact a breastfeeding support center where a lactation consultant can give you tips for how to help baby latch on so you can avoid this problem.
2. Don’t starve yourself! Eat small portions frequently.
“It’s not what the mom eats or drinks that keeps up your milk supply, it’s what happens to your body when you go into starvation mode—it affects the thyroid and insulin levels,” says Jennifer Ritchie, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and founder of Milkalicious. According to Ms. Ritchie, a healthy snack is popcorn. It’s a good carbohydrate, which stabilizes blood sugar and is a fun food that doesn’t put on the pounds.
3. Prepare to breastfeed at regular intervals.
If your baby sleeps through feeding times, he (or she) will lose weight and energy! A nursing mother will probably be feeding her newborn up to eight times a day. This can continue until the child is eight months old and eating three regular meals a day. Don’t stress out! Your baby will become so efficient at nursing that he may drain both breasts in just a few minutes!
Research shows that more than 80 percent of mothers in the United States begin breastfeeding in the hospital, and that only 12 percent of babies get breast milk by the time they are six months old. This drop happens mainly because moms quit nursing because of breastfeeding difficulties or worries that the baby may not be getting enough breast milk.
4. Nap when your baby does--to keep making enough milk.
Sleep is essential for good milk supply. If the nursing mom can’t sleep, she might have post-partum anxiety – and she should talk to her ob-gyn. (It’s as common as post-partum depression!) Lack of adequate rest lowers your milk production. In order to catch up on any sleep you are losing at night, most experts recommend you take a nap during the day when your baby does. For those first few months, it is fine if your house is a bit messier or you don't get through your "to do" list. Your body has a job to do, and it needs rest in order to do it!
With guidance and moral support from breastfeeding experts who have been there, more babies can get a healthy start in life by being breastfed.