Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Breastfeeding has many benefits, but it also can be challenging – and sometimes even frustrating – for new mothers. It is important to remember to be patient and try not to get discouraged. Ask for help from the maternity nurses or the hospital lactation consultant the first few times you breastfeed. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk your breasts will produce and the more natural it will feel to breastfeed your baby.
Why Breast Is Best
Breast milk is best for babies because infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months have lower risks of ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. Since breast milk contains the optimum balance of nutrients, it is easier to digest than commercial formula, and the antibodies in breast milk help boost your baby’s immune system. In the long run, babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop childhood obesity. Mothers who breast feed typically experience a delayed return of their menstrual periods, have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and may lose weight faster after giving birth.
To get started breastfeeding, wash your hands and cradle your baby close to your breast in a comfortable position. Use pillows for support if necessary. Make sure your baby’s mouth is wide open and he or she takes in part of the area around the nipple. Your baby is latched on correctly if you feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast and hear a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern. Try not to supplement with formula for the four to six weeks even if you feel that you are not producing enough milk and your baby is always hungry. Your body will make more milk in response to your baby’s increased need to nurse. To make sure your baby is getting enough breast milk, he or she should have six to eight very wet diapers per day and gain about one pound per month.
Newborns typically nurse every two to three hours during the first few weeks. Watch for signs that your baby is getting hungry, such as stirring, stretching, lip movements or sucking motions. Let your baby set the pace and thoroughly nurse from one breast until it feels soft (about 15 to 20 minutes). Try burping your baby before offering the second breast. If your baby is not hungry, start the next breastfeeding session with the second breast.
You may feel some tenderness at first, but breastfeeding should not be painful. To prevent soreness, let the milk dry naturally on the nipples and change bra pads often between feedings to keep them dry. You can apply lanolin after feeding if your nipples get dry or cracked. Remember to wash it off before feeding your baby.
Your baby will eat what you eat, so avoid alcohol and caffeine, eat a healthy diet and drink lots of fluids. Get plenty of rest and don’t smoke. Take medications only with your doctor’s approval. For more information about breastfeeding, talk with your doctor or visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website for women at www.womenshealth.gov.