Breastfeeding should be a beautiful experience for both mom and baby. Breast milk raises infant immunity, helps prevent disease, and gets mom back into shape faster after having a baby. With all the benefits of breastfeeding, it is natural that many moms want to find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Here are some tips and tricks to start successfully breastfeeding from day one:
• Do Your Research
Just because nursing is natural does not mean it always comes naturally. The best way to do successful nursing is to do plenty of research before the baby is born. You can use online resources, baby forums, organizations like La Leche League, or books to get information. Mothers are also a great source for breastfeeding wisdom. Ask a trusted friend or relative who nursed what worked well for her and what she wished she had known before her children were born. When doing research, focus on methods to get your baby to latch properly and positions you would like to try once your baby is born. Before giving birth is also the best time to stock up on nursing essentials such as a positioning pillow, breast pads for leaks, and lanolin cream to treat cracked and sore nipples.
• Start Early and Nurse Often
Ideally, you should breastfeed your infant within one hour of birth. While this may not always be possible, let the medical staff present at your birth know that breastfeeding is important to you and that you would like to breastfeed as soon as possible following birth. From birth on, feed your baby on demand. By not following a strict feeding schedule for the first few weeks of baby’s life, your milk will come in faster and be more plentiful. Follow baby’s cues and let them try to nurse whenever they show signs of hunger. It is much easier to get a mildly hungry baby to latch than to wait until they are wailing and too upset to latch properly. Also, let baby do some non-nutritive nursing for comfort every once in a while. This skin to skin contact will comfort your baby and encourage your body to make enough milk to feed them through growth spurts, which usually occur around 10 days, 6 weeks, and 3 months.
• Get Comfortable
Stress and anxiety make it difficult to nurse. Before beginning a feeding session take a few minutes to unwind and clear your mind. If you find yourself anxious about feeding your baby, talk through your concerns with a trusted friend, spouse, or lactation consultant. It helps to nurse in a quiet room without any distractions for your first few feedings. This is a learning time for both you and baby, and the cell phone and television can wait until you both have the process down. It is also wise to limit visitors the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Well meaning friends and family can distract you from feeding your baby when needed, and right now it needs to be all about you and your newborn.
• Feed Your Body to Feed Your Baby
Nursing mothers need 300-500 more calories than normal when they are breastfeeding. You are undoubtedly worn out from the constant demands of your new little one, but take time to feed yourself good food. Eat when you feel hungry and listen to your body’s cravings. Don’t worry about trying to lose the baby weight the first six weeks of breastfeeding; you will be able to work off the weight soon enough. Focus on nutrient-rich, high protein foods with lots and lots of water. In fact, if you find you are not making enough milk, drinking more water and eating oatmeal may help. Remember that, just like in pregnancy, baby is eating whatever you are eating. Feed yourself and your child the best foods.
• Ask for Help If Times Get Rough
Nursing is uncomfortable at first, especially as baby is learning to latch on properly. Be patient with yourself and with your baby. Cracked nipples, engorgement, and painful latching will all subside quickly if you keep on nursing regularly. One of the best ways to get through rough times is to nurse even more. Frequent nursing eases engorgement, can help mastitis clear up quickly, and takes care of inadequate supply. Also, cold compresses soothe sore nipples and warm compresses can clear clogged ducts and pain from engorgement. Remember, you do not have to go through this potentially painful time without help! Find a lactation consultant or talk to your doctor if nursing is difficult for you. They can offer great advice and show you ways to make breastfeeding easier. There is no reason to suffer in silence, and most problems can be remedied with the help of a trained professional.
Every mother and every baby is different. Some mothers blaze into breastfeeding with no problems while some mothers seem to have difficulties. Whatever your circumstance, there is help available to you. While nursing is a worthy goal, do not feel bad if nursing doesn’t work out for you. Your primary goal should always be to raise a healthy, happy baby. Hopefully, this can include a mutually beneficial breastfeeding relationship for both you and your child.
Credits: Heather Hale
Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan and mom to three crazy boys.