Congratulations on your new arrival! Now that your baby has made his/her debut, you want to give him/her the very best start. While breastfeeding is a personal choice, it delivers a lot of perks—for moms and little ones alike.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding may protect babies against several conditions, from diarrhea and respiratory tract infection to diabetes and childhood obesity. Benefits for moms also include decreased postpartum bleeding, early return to pre-pregnancy weight, and lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients, is easy for your baby to digest and can even boost his/her immune system. That said, breastfeeding can prove challenging, especially for new moms. To help ensure your success, Andi Springett, Professional Development Educator and RN, Holland Hospital Boven Birth Center, offers these tips:
- Speak up and seek support. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or express any concerns with your nurse, your doctor, a hospital lactation consultant, or other moms who’ve been in your shoes.
- Be aware of your baby’s hunger cues, such as restlessness, bringing hands to face or mouth, sucking motions and lip movements. For the first few weeks, most babies breastfeed every two to three hours.
- Get comfortable (e.g., support yourself with pillows). Cradle your baby close to your breast, or try some other common breastfeeding positions until you find one that suits you both.
- Encourage proper latch-on and sucking. With an effective latch-on, you should feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast (versus pinching or biting).
- Breastfeed on both sides. Let your baby feed from one breast thoroughly (until your breast feels soft). Then try to burp him/her. Next, offer the second breast. If he/she isn’t hungry, start your next feeding session with the second breast. If you notice your baby consistently nurses on one breast during the first few weeks, pump your other breast to alleviate pressure and preserve your milk supply.
- Understand the role of pacifiers. Pacifiers can sometimes disrupt breastfeeding (so you may want to hold off on giving your baby one for three to four weeks after birth). However, pacifiers can also reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Take good care of you. That means eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids (moderate amounts of caffeine; don’t breastfeed for at least two hours after consuming alcohol), resting as much as possible, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke, and checking with your doctor about any medications you’re taking. If your nipples are dry or cracked, limit the use of harsh cleansers and moisturize after feedings (breastmilk or purified lanolin is ideal).
- Keep your chin up. If breastfeeding is frustrating or going slower than you anticipated, try not to be too hard on yourself. Hang in there. Again, lean on a lactation consultant, nurse or doctor for guidance (particularly if your baby isn’t gaining weight or you experience pain with every feeding).