The Right Start: Breastfeeding
Thinking about breastfeeding? Here are some tips to get you started...
Your decision to breastfeed your infant is one of the most important choices that you will make as a new parent. Breastfeeding provides the best possible nutrition for your infant and allows you special uninterrupted time to bond with one another. Breastfeeding has numerous long-term benefits for your infant, too.
- Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of asthma and food allergies.
- Breastfeeding provides protection against diarrhea, gastrointestinal infections, and respiratory infections.
- Breastfeeding enhances nervous system development and increases IQ.
- Breastfed babies are at lower risk of developing some childhood cancers.
- Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS
Here are some tips for getting off to the right start breastfeeding during the early days following delivery:
Nurse Your Baby as Soon as Possible
Babies are often alert during the first hour after birth and display a strong sucking reflex that is not as strong again until approximately 40 hours later. Nursing soon after birth will help your uterus contract by stimulating the release of oxytocin. This first time at the breast is a time to introduce your baby to breastfeeding. Don’t expect too much or try to practice everything you’ve read or learned. Some babies will just nuzzle and lick the breast, while others will latch on immediately.
This means that you and the baby stay together in the same room while you are in the hospital. There is no medical reason for healthy mothers and babies to be separated after birth. Mothers are usually more rested and less stressed when they are with their babies. This allows you to wake up naturally when your baby wakes for a feeding, and to respond to your newborn’s early signs of hunger, such as stretching, rooting, or a change in his breathing pattern.
Practice Latching On
Getting your baby to latch on well is key to successful breastfeeding. Before you leave the hospital, you should be able to tell whether your baby is latching on properly, and whether he is getting colostrum or milk from the breast. Colostrum is the first, very nutritious milk. If you and your baby are leaving the hospital without knowing this, or if you have very sore nipples, seek help immediately. Remember that pain is not a natural part of breastfeeding; it is an indication that something is not right and needs fixing now.
Avoid Artificial Nipples
Artificial nipples (pacifier or bottle) should not be given to your baby, at least until breastfeeding is well established (about 4 to 6 weeks). Supplements of water, sugar water, or formula are rarely needed if your baby is taking the breast properly and getting the milk that is available. Remember that milk production is a supply and demand situation. If your baby is being given a supplement, he is not stimulating your milk supply, and your milk supply will decrease.
Feed On Demand
When you leave the hospital, do not restrict the length or frequency of breastfeedings. Nursing frequently and in an unrestricted manner will stimulate your milk supply, and also may help relieve engorgement. Babies know when they are hungry and how long they need to nurse. An exception to this rule is when you have a newborn and/or special needs baby who is sleepy and must be awakened so that they nurse often enough. In the beginning, your baby should be nursing about every 2 to 3 hours, with at least eight feedings in a 24 hour period.
Get Enough Rest
This may be easier to say than to do, but taking care of yourself is important for breastfeeding to succeed. Make sure that you have help at home, especially during the first few weeks. Hopefully, your spouse will be able to take some time off from work. Your only job should be to get to know your baby and get breastfeeding well established. Let someone else take care of all of the other household duties.