Breastfeeding Made Easier
You’ve probably heard it a million times: breastfeeding is a perfectly natural thing, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. No doubt you already know about the great number of benefits breastfeeding brings to you and your baby, and you should congratulate yourself on making this loving effort. You are most likely in for a few challenging days or weeks, given that both you and your baby are beginners in breastfeeding. Take heart in knowing that, given time and patience, nursing your baby will soon come naturally to you and your little one. Until then, seek out as much breastfeeding advice as you can: from family, friends, lactation consultants, websites, books, and of course, this article.
Perfecting Your Breastfeeding Technique
When you are still in the hospital, make sure you have a consultation with a lactation consultant. Have them show you the different positions for nursing: the cradle hold, cross hold, and football hold, and do your best to get them down pat. Experiment with each to find out which works best for you. Once your baby can self-latch, it’s a good idea to learn the side-lying hold as well: perfect for when your baby-care duties have left you weary, or for those late-night feedings.
Part of a good breastfeeding technique is getting your baby to latch on to your breast. A good latch is crucial to nursing, as it lessens nipple pain and ensures milk is drained thoroughly. Before you place your nipple in baby’s mouth, make sure he or she is opening wide. Once latched, your baby’s lips should be encompassing your entire areola, not just your nipple.
You can tell your baby is getting milk by noticing that his or her jaw is moving rhythmically and you can hear swallowing periodically. Allow baby to nurse as long as they want—cutting sessions short will only increase the number of feedings in a day, or cause your baby not to thrive as he/she should.
Once you get the hang of breastfeeding and don’t have to concentrate as much, think about keeping a book within reach of your nursing area. Keeping the book for reading exclusively for when you are breastfeeding can encourage you to look forward to those nursing sessions even more, and make them feel not as long. You will also be the ultimate multi-tasker: you will be nourishing your mind at the same time you are nourishing your baby! While nursing, though, make sure you take some time to make eye contact and bond with your baby—soon you will probably miss those lazy nursing sessions.
Establishing a Good Milk Supply
Engorgement is one of the most uncomfortable aspects of breastfeeding, but it is a necessary part of gaining your milk supply. It may be a shocker to see your breasts so large, and they may be so tender even touching them is painful, but remember it only lasts for a couple days. A warm compress can help the pain, and frequent nursing and/or pumping is important.
The first few weeks of nursing are crucial to establish a milk supply to meet your baby’s needs. Make sure you are feeding your little one on demand, and don’t go for a period longer than four hours without nursing. At this time is not a good idea to supplement with formula, unless it is needed. After about four to six weeks your milk supply will be tailored to your baby and you can relax a little, perhaps leaving your partner with a bottle of expressed milk one night so you can get some sleep, or letting your mother babysit while you go on a date.
Help for Sore Nipples
Even with a good latch, your nipples are bound to feel the strain of all that sucking, and it may take a bit of nursing before they toughen up. In my personal experience, the toe-curling pain I felt with every latch on was almost too much to bear. If you are having this problem, don’t despair: this, too, shall pass! In the meantime, take care of your nipples by exposing them to air after each nursing session, rubbing lanolin cream on them, and changing nursing pads frequently. If one nipple is in more pain than the other, start on the less-sore nipple, as a hungry baby sucks more vigorously. If the pain is really too much to bear, you can just pump your breasts and feed your baby with a bottle until your nipples feel better, but remember: the more you nurse, the sooner your nipples will strengthen up.
Stop Embarrassing Leaks
There you are, minding your own business in the supermarket line, when you look down and—hello! There are two huge wet spots on top of each of your breasts. I guess there’s no more obvious way to tell the world you’re breastfeeding, though I’m sure you would rather it not be like this. To keep a moment like this from happening, keep your bra lined with absorbent nursing pads. Wear dark clothing to minimize stain visibility. If you are leaking a lot, remember to try to avoid pumping, as this will only aggravate the problem because your body will produce more milk to meet the demand. Once your milk supply works out its kinks, leaking should diminish, but if your milk supply is established and you feel a leak coming on, crossing your arms or pinching your nipples (if you’re alone) can stem the flow of milk.
Breastfeeding in Public
Yes, it’s natural and healthy, and in theory you shouldn’t be embarrassed, but lifting up your shirt and exposing your breast in a public place can certainly be unnerving. To nurse your baby while out successfully, wear a nursing bra with a shirt that can be easily lifted or unbuttoned. Use a nursing cover or blanket to cover up (you can try practicing in a mirror before going out to make sure nothing is exposed). While you’re out, pay close attention to your baby and try to feed him/her at the first sign that they are hungry (licking lips, smacking gums, making sucking motions). Crying is a late sign of hunger and can attract more attention while you are trying to breastfeed.
Taking Care of Yourself
Remember, to provide the best nourishment for your baby, you need to be in good health yourself. A healthy breastfeeding diet is crucial—make sure your diet is well-balanced and you are taking in at least 1800 calories a day. Invest in a pump so that once your supply is established you can leave your baby in the care of others while still maintaining the breastfeeding benefits. Too much stress can inhibit your milk production, so make sure you get adequate rest and help with household and baby duties. Following the tips in this article can help you further care for yourself.
If, after trial and error, you don’t think breastfeeding is for you, you have still done a valuable service to your baby with your attempt: even a few weeks of nursing has a bounty of benefits. However, the longer you breastfeed your baby, the better. Every time you nurse, you are creating a bond and health benefits to last a lifetime.