If you have decided to breast feed your newborn, congratulations! What many mothers believe will be an easy and effortless task, may prove to be more challenging that they ever imagined. A few simple tips can help eliminate frustrations for mom and baby, all while encouraging bonding and providing baby with perfect nutrition.
Find Early Support
Most mothers decide to breast feed while still in the hospital. Your hospital may have a lactation consultant on staff—a nurse or other healthcare professional who has received special training to assist with the early days of breast feeding and help new moms learn the ins and outs of nursing. You may also find a variety of breast feeding information online. Check with your local hospital to find out if there are any breast feeding support groups in your area too—having support can mean the difference for breast feeding success.
Practice Makes Perfect
The most effective way for mom and baby to learn to nurse well is to do it—a baby must latch to the breast and nurse for 10-20 minutes, at least every 3 hours in the first days of life in order to stimulate milk supply. A simple mistake many new moms make is not nursing often enough or for long enough. In some cases you must work with your baby to encourage longer nursing sessions until proper milk supply is established. Some babies become very sleepy while nursing, or have difficulties latching on. If you notice these problems, seek out a trained professional to help as soon as possible to train your baby correctly before they develop an ineffective habit.
Take Care of Mom
In order for a new mother to develop a quality milk supply, you must care for yourself. Eating frequent small meals will help keep blood sugar levels stable, and provide your body with plenty of energy. It is only necessary to consume about 500 extra calories a day when breast feeding—half a peanut butter sandwich is equivalent in calories. Getting as much rest as is possible by sleeping when the baby sleeps will also help. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day is also necessary to have enough fluid for the milk supply.
Follow The Baby
Many first time breast feeders are often concerned about baby’s nutrition. During the first days of life, a baby only needs a teaspoon of colostrum (the high -fat, high-nutrient first milk that a mother produces) in order to be full. Because breast milk is more easily digested for a newborn they will need to eat more frequently as their body processes each meal—usually every 2-3 hours initially. For first time mothers, it can take up to three days for a full milk supply to develop.
Watch your baby for signs of swallowing, and your breasts will feel warmer and more full as your milk comes in. Keeping tabs on wet and dirty diapers is also another accurate way to know if your baby is getting enough. By the first week of life your baby should have 6-8 thoroughly wet and dirty diapers every day. Stools will be thin and yellow—this is normal for a newborn. Breast milk may also have a laxative effect in the early days and your baby will typically dirty their diaper immediately after eating.
Relying on your baby’s cues for hunger is a good way to ensure a thorough nursing session. So watch your baby for lip smacking, restlessness, and sucking on their hand. If you will nurse before your baby begins to cry, you will find it much easier to latch and calm the baby.
Seek Out Help
If you are concerned about your babies nursing habits or you develop a problem like pain when nursing, or engorgement, seek out help to fix the problem so that you can continue nursing with success. Your pediatrician will be able to suggest resources, as well as the valuable lactation consultants in your area. If your hospital did not have an LC, check other local hospitals—many lactation consultants will be glad to help you no matter where you had your baby. Family and friends are another fantastic resources and can take a great load from every day tasks while you are recovering from birth. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and use those who offer.
No matter if you choose to nurse for two months or twelve, these simple steps can put you on the path to breast feeding success. Remember to reach out, be patient and remember that this is a learning process for everyone—and you can succeed!