How to breastfeed: Essential basics for new moms
Congratulations on your new arrival! The last nine months have been full of excitement, anticipation and possibly some anxiety about how to care for your newborn son or daughter. Bathing, changing, burping, clothing — these are all important steps to caring for your newborn, and perhaps the most important is feeding your baby. If you and your partner are new parents planning on breastfeeding, here’s a basic guide on how to breastfeed your newborn.
Nurse early, nurse often
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you make your first attempt at breastfeeding as soon as you and your baby are stable after birth. From then on, you should plan to nurse your baby eight to 12 times per day — about every one and a half to three hours, depending on your baby’s needs.
Find a comfortable position
There’s more than one way to breastfeed a newborn — you just need to decide which way is the most comfortable for you and your baby. The La Leche League provides several descriptions, complete with illustrations, of the various ways you can position your baby while breastfeeding, including some that are optimal for C-section moms.
While you’re still learning how to breastfeed, you may choose to stay with the one or two positions that are the most successful for you and your baby, but as you become more proficient, you can to branch out to others.
Getting the latch
Before you bring the baby to your breast, you may want to manually stimulate your nipple until you express some milk. This early milk is called colostrum, a thick, yellow fluid that is packed with nutrients for your newborn baby. Your regular milk will come in a few days.
Bring your baby close to your breast, comfortably in position. Tickle your baby’s mouth with your nipple to encourage them to open their mouth wide. Support your breast by holding around the areola with your hand in a U or C shape. The baby’s mouth should be open very wide, as if they’re yawning, and you should draw them quickly onto your nipple. Make sure to bring the baby to you rather than try to stretch the breast or strain your back by bringing your breast to him or her. To help you visualize this, the Department of Health and Human Services provides some helpful illustrations.
Your entire nipple, including some of the surrounding areola, should be in the baby’s mouth. This helps the baby stimulate the milk ducts and prevents painful, cracked nipples. An effective latch shouldn’t be painful, but you should feel a gentle pull.
Getting a proper latch is the key to breastfeeding, but it’s also the most difficult part. Don’t get discouraged if you and your baby don’t get it right away, it is perfectly normal for mastering this step to take some practice. Keep trying, and ask for help from your postpartum nurses or the lactation specialists at your hospital’s baby care center. They can provide you with tips for a good latch, make sure your baby is correctly positioned and encourage you to keep trying.
Remember, both you and your baby are beginners, and while breastfeeding is portrayed as the most natural thing in the world, you’ll need to learn together to have a successful nursing relationship. Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby, so don’t let the initial adjustment phase intimidate you. With a little practice, the two of you will be pros in no time.
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