Many women assume that breastfeeding their baby for the first time will be easy and natural—and hopefully that’s the case. However, in some situations it takes time for you and your baby to master breastfeeding. That’s perfectly normal too. It might be helpful to review these breastfeeding basics so that you can get a great start from day one.
1. Start breastfeeding fast.
Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth. It generally takes 2-3 days for your milk to fully come in. Before your mature milk comes in, your body produces colostrum, a thick, nutrient-rich milk your baby needs. Allow your baby to nurse as often as possible in the first few days.
2. Find the right position.
Position your baby so that both of you are comfortable, and the baby has easy access to your breast. You might start with the cradle hold, with the baby’s head in the crook of your arm and your hand supporting his/her buttocks. Tuck your baby’s lower arm under yours.
3. Support your breast.
Support your breast with four fingers underneath and your thumb on top, being careful not to touch the areola, the dark area around your nipple.
4. Stimulate the rooting reflex.
Brush your baby’s lips with your nipple to stimulate the rooting reflex. When his/her mouth opens wide (as wide as a yawn), pull the baby into your breast. Make sure to wait until the mouth is open very wide to get as much of the areola as possible into your baby’s mouth for a good latch. If you don’t get a good latch, release the suction and try again.
5. Go tummy-to-tummy.
Make sure to support your baby so he/she is not pulling on your nipple, generally tummy to tummy. If you feel your baby needs more space to breathe, tuck your baby’s bottom in closer to you. Your baby’s nose is well designed for good airflow while breastfeeding.
6. Check your baby's lips.
Check to make sure your baby’s lips are splayed rather than tucked in. If your baby’s lower lip is folded in, gently pull back beneath his/her lip to position it properly and make sure you have a good, comfortable latch.
7. Let your baby finish.
Allow your baby to suckle as long as he/she will on the first breast before moving the the second. This will generally be about 10-15 minutes the first time. Start with the other breast next time you feed your baby. When your baby is finished eating he/she will release your breast.
8. If you need to stop, do it correctly.
If you need to initiate the release, slide your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction.
9. Switch breasts.
Switch to the other breast.
10. Make sure to burp.
Burp your baby when he/she is finished eating.
- Don’t worry if things don’t go perfectly the first time. Give yourself and your baby time to learn the breastfeeding basics and what works for you. Be patient.
- A good support system is extremely beneficial. Make sure you have family or close friends that will help make sure you are getting the rest and nutrition you need.
- Try different holds to change the pressure on your nipple and reduce soreness. Make sure both you and the baby are well supported with pillows. There are several options in addition to the cradle hold.
- Try to nurse in a quiet, relaxing environment. A stimulating environment could make focus and let-down (the release of milk from the breast) more difficult.
- After your milk comes in your baby could have 5-6 or more wet diapers every day. This is an indication that your baby is getting enough to eat. He/she will have 2-3 dirty diapers or more.
- If your breasts become engorged, massage them before feedings to soften for an easier latch, and use cold compresses between feedings. Nurse often.
- If your nipples are inverted or flat, consult with a lactation specialist or nurse.
- Enjoy this special time with your baby!
Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?
In most circumstances, your baby is getting enough breast milk. If you’re worried, or even just curious, there are several indications that your baby is getting the milk he or she needs, even when you can’t “measure” the results.
- Elimination Patterns After your milk comes in, your baby should have 3-6 loose stools every day for the first month. After that, stools could decrease in frequency.
- Satisfied Baby Your baby should be content or satisfied after eating rather than fussy.
- Frequent Feedings Feedings will be 20-30 minutes long every 2 hours. For the first few weeks, that can mean 8-12 feedings a day. As your baby’s stomach grows, feedings will naturally spread out.
- Weight Gain By the end of the 2nd week, your baby should have regained his or her birth weight and then continue to gain weight.
- Wet Diapers Your baby should produce 6-8 wet diapers a day after your milk comes in. Lack of wet diapers is a sign of dehydration.
- Softer Breasts After your baby is done eating, your breasts should feel softer rather than hard.
- Audible Eating Once milk letdown has occurred, indicated by a tingly or pulling sensation, you might hear your baby gulping or swallowing milk.
If you think your baby is not getting enough milk...
- No pacifiers Some babies might satisfy their sucking reflexes with nonnutritive sucking. Taking away the pacifier might help stimulate that instinct.
- Drain a breast each feeding Make sure your baby stays on one breast long enough to drain that breast in the course of the feeding. Then switch which breast you start with next time. Draining the breast completely stimulates increased milk production.
- Frequent feedings Feed your baby any time he or she is hungry. Take advantage of extra feeding times if you can.
- Massage Massage your breast at the beginning of the feeding to make sure your milk is flowing well. Burp your baby Your baby might feel full because of air bubbles. Burp your baby to remove the air bubbles and offer your breast again.
- Consider a galactagogue If you think your milk supply is a problem, consider using a natural galactagogue, like our popular Fenugreek Gold, to help increase your milk supply.
- Lactation Consultant If none of these tips work, find a certified lactation consultant who can help you further, or meet with your doctor.
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