Breastfeeding your new-born baby just hours (or less) after going through the demanding experience of childbirth can feel a bit like diving off the deep end. But knowing how to begin nursing and getting the help you need can make the experience as rewarding as you’d hoped. Here’s a quick breastfeeding 101 to get you started on your journey to nursing your baby.
Get Help When You Start Out
You’ve probably done your fair share of reading about breastfeeding and learned techniques at prenatal classes or online. But nothing prepares you for the real thing. Like each pregnancy, each mother-baby experience is different. Be sure to make use of the lactation consultants and nursing help at the hospital so you’re settled before heading home. They’ll check if the baby is latching right, whether you’re positioning the baby correctly and help you get these techniques right.
Make Yourself Comfortable Before You Begin
Your state of mind when you sit down to nurse your baby can make all the difference to how a breastfeeding session goes. Here are some things that can help:
- A comfortable location where you won’t be interrupted - a quiet spot in your room that you can shut off if need be.
- A good chair or bed to support your back and arms well.
- Comfortable lighting and sound. Avoid harsh light, soft warm light can be lovely or a sunny room with fresh air during the day. Choose whatever makes you comfortable. Avoid sitting where loud noises can spoil the experience for you and distract your baby. Play some soft gentle music if you like.
- Get some pillows to help prop yourself up and position your baby well.
Position Your Baby Right
Hold your baby close to your breast with his/her head facing the breast. Be sure to support your baby’s head with your hand and use the other to support your own breast. Tickling the lower lip of a baby can get them to open their mouth and take the areola (the darkish area surrounding the nipple) into their mouth. The baby’s tongue is usually below your breast and the nipple deep in the mouth. Watch for a sucking and swallowing rhythm to set in. Ensure your baby’s nostrils are flaring and deflating, indicating normal breathing.
If It Hurts, You May Be Doing It Wrong
Breastfeeding should not be painful. A strong latch is never a bite - even later on as your baby starts to develop his or her milk teeth. See a lactation consultant if you’re finding it too painful to feed your baby.
If you’ve developed cracked or painful nipples, engorged breasts, blocked ducts, or red/sore breasts, check with your doctor for treatment.
Learn When To Feed (And How Much!)
In the early days, try and feed your baby 8-12 times a day to stimulate milk production. After a few days, your baby will start giving you cues to when they’re hungry. Watch for these signs to feed on demand. This may be every 1.5 to 3 hours or so. A typical feed lasts 20 minutes or so on either one or both breasts. As your baby becomes better at feeding, he/she may be done in 5 to 10 minutes on each breast.
Here are common signs your baby may be hungry:
- Opening mouth as if to feed when touched on the cheek, this is called rooting.
- Increased activity.
- Greater alertness.
- Rapid eye movements .
- Sucking on own hand/drawing hand to mouth.
- Crying(though this a later cue and means your baby has already been hungry a while).
Allow Yourself Time
If you’re wondering how so many new mums talk about the bonding experience that breastfeeding brings while you’re struggling with getting your baby to latch or stressing over whether the feeds are frequent enough or long enough, take heart. Bonding doesn’t happen overnight, but as you and your baby get comfortable with each other, you may actually grow to enjoy the unique bonding experiences breastfeeding allows you.
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