Breastfeeding is one of the most precious ways to enjoy being close to your baby. There's no greater feeling as a mom than knowing you are helping your baby grow and become healthy with your milk. It's a gift that lasts a lifetime!
All babies are born with the drive to breastfeed, but they need to practice to develop the skill. As a new mother, you may feel like you need practice, too. Frequent feedings at the breast in the first days after birth help mothers and babies work together to get it right!
How to breastfeed
Babies were born to breastfeed. It’s not hard to get off to a good start when you follow some simple steps.
It’s easier for baby to latch when you lie back semi-reclined. Hold your baby with his body fully against your body. This triggers special sucking and feeding instincts.
How to Latch the Baby
Ask your nurse to help you hold your baby so his head and body are in a straight line. Your baby should not have to turn his head to reach your breast. Baby’s nose should point toward your nipple. Wait until your baby opens his mouth wide before bringing him in close to latch. His chin will be against your breast and his lips will flare out like “fish lips.” You might also hear your baby swallow your milk.
Signs of a Good Latch
If baby is latched well it will not hurt or pinch, so go by how it feels. Your breasts may feel a little tender at first. This is normal. If you feel pain, ask your nurse for help!
Get Help If You Aren’t Sure
It is normal to need some help to latch your baby right at first. Ask your nurse for help. If things do not get better, ask to see a lactation expert.
Be Her Eyes!
It can be very hard for a new mom to easily see how her baby is latched. That’s where your support is crucial! While mom and baby are learning how to breastfeed in the early days, you can watch to see if baby is latched well.
Watch for a Good Latch
When mom nurses the baby, look to see that the baby’s chin is against her breast. Most of the dark area under her nipple should be in the baby’s mouth. Baby’s lips should be flared out like fish lips. If baby is latched well, she will swallow and be content.
If mom says breastfeeding hurts, remind her to break the suction and try again until it feels better. Letting the baby nurse when it hurts will only make things worse. Ask your nurse for help.
You can enjoy breastfeeding even when…
You can breastfeed your baby no matter how you gave birth. If your incision is sore in the first few days, try holding your baby in the “clutch” hold. You can also lay your baby across your chest sideways so his knees and feet do not push against your belly.
If you want to breastfeed and use bottles later, try to start out just breastfeeding at first. Your baby will need around 3 or 4 weeks to learn how to breastfeed the right way. If you give bottles too soon she may prefer the faster flow of milk from a bottle and get frustrated at your breast.
When a baby cries it can be hard for him to focus on latching. Don’t try to force the baby to latch. Instead, calm the baby first. Hold him skin-to-skin. Sway him gently. Talk softly. Ask your champion to help you calm the baby. Once he is calm, he will be able to latch more easily.
Newborns often sleep a lot in the hospital, especially if you had medications during labor. If the baby does not wake to feed on her own after about 3 hours, go ahead and wake her. Your milk is digested after an hour and a half or so, and she needs your milk to grow. Watch for baby’s active sleep phase when her eyes flutter or she moves her mouth. Hold her skin-to-skin. Change her diaper. Talk to her, or gently try to wake her.
It’s natural to feel a little shy about exposing your breasts in front of other people. Speak up about what you want. You can ask your champion to help you get the privacy you need. Once you and baby get used to nursing, you may feel better about feeding in front of others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both you and your baby will learn how to breastfeed together. It may take a little time! If baby will not latch easily, try holding him on your chest skin-to-skin and lie back a little. Most babies will latch on their own when they are on mom’s chest skin-to-skin. If baby still has trouble figuring it out, ask your nurse to help you.
A new baby needs to eat often to gain weight and grow. Watch for baby’s cues she is ready to eat. When she sucks on her hands or shows other signs she is hungry, offer the breast. Offer the breast at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours.
New babies often take a while to nurse at first. As they get a little older they get better at getting the milk. Rather than timing your baby’s feeds, watch your baby instead. When he gets sleepy, gently compress or squeeze your breast to make the milk flow a little faster. Once he falls off the breast on his own, he is through with that side. Change your baby’s diaper or wake him gently and offer the other breast.
Some moms say their breasts are a little tender at first. But pain is a sign that something is wrong. If you feel pain or pinching, it may be a sign that your baby is not latched well. Ask for help!
And there you have it
Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time! You have everything you need to do it, too.