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!
Learning How to BreastfeedLearning How to Hand Express Milk
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.
FOR THE MOM
This is the side-lying hold.
Hold your baby skin-to-skin as often as you can so baby can latch by himself.
Try other holds while you are in the hospital and help is near. This is the cradle hold.
This is the cross-cradle hold.
This is the clutch hold.
Make sure baby is ready to latch. Calm him first if he is fussy. If he is sleepy, hold him skin-to-skin to wake him.
Hold baby so he is close to you and faces your breast. He should not have to turn his head to reach your breast.
Support baby’s neck and shoulders with your hand so he can tilt his head back. Do not put your hand against your baby’s head.
Watch until baby’s mouth opens wide (like a yawn). Bring him in close. Your nipple will be against the roof of your baby’s mouth.
If it doesn’t feel right, place your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction and try again.
Give it time. You and your baby are learning a new skill!
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’ll love breastfeeding!
When your baby is positioned and latched well, feedings are comfortable for both of you!
You will make plenty of milk for your baby.
Your baby will be able to get more milk so he can grow.
It helps you prevent sore nipples.
It will help prevent your breasts from getting engorged.
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.
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.
Your best tools as a nursing mom are as simple as your own hands. Expressing your milk by hand helps you make more milk and keeps you comfortable. Best of all, you’ll soar with pride when you see those first drops of milk and know you are giving your baby your very best.
How hand expression works
Expressing your milk by hand is easy to learn. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and no fancy gadgets are needed. You only need a free hand. Here’s how...
FOR THE MOM
After washing your hands with soap and warm water, place a warm towel over your breasts. A newborn diaper wet with warm water works great!
Gently massage your breasts. This helps your breasts relax so milk can flow.
Pretend the dark area behind your nipple is a clock. Place your thumb at 12 o’clock and your index finger at 6 o’clock so they are opposite each other.
Press your fingers back toward your chest wall. Roll them toward your nipple.
Gently squeeze your breast as you roll your fingers forward. Repeat until you see milk drops. Stop when the milk no longer flows.
Move your fingers to other areas to find your “sweet spot” where the milk flows best.
The power of touch helps special hormones to flow. These hormones help release your milk so it will flow more easily. Some moms roll their nipple between their fingers a few seconds to help release the milk.
Giving the Milk to Your Baby
Your first milk will be small in volume. You will only express drops at a time, but each one is precious! Use a clean spoon to collect the milk you express. You can use the same spoon to gently feed the milk to your baby. That way not a single drop will be wasted. If you put the spoon up to his mouth, your baby will lap up the milk with his tongue. In a few days, when your body makes more milk, you can use a wide-mouthed container. Larger amounts of expressed milk can be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Ahhh! Relaxing Helps!
Many new moms do not know the power of relaxing. When mom is relaxed, a special hormone called oxytocin is released. This hormone causes her milk to “let down” so the it can flow easily. This helps her express more milk more quickly. As mom’s champion, your crucial role is to help her relax.
How You Can Help
As mom’s champion, there are lots of ways you can help her relax. Make the room restful by dimming the lights and turning down the TV sound. Help her get comfortable with extra pillows. Massage her back or shoulders if she is tense. Bring her a glass of water. Oxytocin causes women to feel very thirsty when they are nursing the baby or expressing milk.
You’ll love hand expression!
Prepare to be awed when the first drops of milk you’ve made for your baby appear right before your eyes. That’s when you’ll know you have just what your baby needs!
Hand expression helps you get quick relief if your breasts feel full or engorged.
It softens your breast so your baby can latch better.
Having the milk right there can also help a sleepy baby be more interested.
It may be easier than using a breast pump.
It helps your body start making more milk faster.
The milk you collect can be given to your baby by spoon so not a drop is wasted!
Expressing milk by hand should not hurt if it is done right. A common mistake some moms make is pinching their nipple to squeeze out the milk. Milk is not stored in the nipple, so pinching it might hurt. Instead, place your fingers further back near the outside of the dark area.
Most moms do not want others to see their breasts. Ask your champion to help you monitor visitors. They can step out of the room for a while to give you some privacy. You can also ask your nurse to put a sign on the door asking visitors to wait.
Hand expression is a great tool no matter how you are feeding your baby. Nearly all moms will bring in milk after a few days, even if they do not plan to breastfeed. This can be very painful if the baby is not removing the milk by nursing. Hand expression will help you get some quick relief from overfull breasts.
If your baby is not able to breastfeed in the first hour, you should hand express for the first time then. This tells your body to start making more milk. The milk you express can be fed to your baby when she is able. Your nurse can suggest other times to hand express your milk.
Each time you breastfeed the first day or so, your baby gets about a teaspoon of milk. This is perfect for your baby’s very tiny belly because it can only hold that much. That means when you express milk you will only get drops at first. The more you practice, the more milk you will be able to express.
Your milk needs to “let down” or release before you can express it. To help it release, relax and take slow, deep breaths. Place a warm (not hot) compress on your breasts. Massage them. If none of that works, gently roll your nipple between your fingers.
And there you have it
Hand expression is a simple skill that’s easy to learn and do. Moms the world over have expressed their milk by hand for centuries. Your amazing body will give you what you need, too!
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