Getting Started with Breastfeeding

If you are planning to breastfeed for the first time, you may expect it to come naturally to both you and your newborn baby. Not so! The most important advice we can give you regarding breastfeeding a newborn is that nursing is a learned process. Not even babies are born knowing how to do it instinctively. Newborns need to be taught how to latch on, just like you need to learn how to help them do so correctly. 

To increase your chances of success, try breastfeeding your newborn within a few hours of delivery. If you deliver in a hospital or birthing center, ask to have a lactation consultant or a maternity nurse on hand the first time you try. These experts will check how well your baby latches on during breastfeeding. They can help you find the right position that avoids pain for you and frustration for your baby. 

Initially, your breasts aren't producing milk but a fluid called colostrum. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that protect your newborn against disease. Your milk will come in three to four days after delivery. You'll notice because your breasts will suddenly grow several cup sizes. You will want to invest in several well-fitting nursing bras for comfortable support. 

Plan to breastfeed your baby at least 8 to 12 times in every 24-hour period. While your baby may not be an expert at breastfeeding, he or she does know how to give you hunger signals. Searching for your nipples, putting hands in the mouth, and looking increasingly alert are all signs that your baby wants food. Try to feed on demand. 

If possible, breastfeed in a peaceful environment until the process is comfortable for you. Some new mothers find their milk doesn't let down easily at first, and you'll feel more pressured if you're also in a stressful environment. After a while, all it will take for your milk to come is unhooking your bra for the baby, or even just seeing an infant crying.

Breastfeeding is great for your baby's health and development, and it benefits you as well.

  • - It encourages your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy shape

  • - It decreases post-delivery bleeding

  • - It burns up to 500 calories per day

  • - It can reduce the risk of postpartum depression

  • - It saves money versus buying formula

 

Still, many new mothers face discomfort and other challenges while breastfeeding. Below are a few common breastfeeding difficulties and how to tackle them. 

Sore and cracked nipples

Check the position of your baby when he or she latches on. If you hear a clicking or sucking sound, this may be a sign that your baby isn't latched on properly. Hold his or her head firmly so that their mouth conceals as much of your areola as possible.

Nurse for 5-10 minutes on each side initially, until your nipples toughen up. Make sure to let your nipples dry completely after each nursing session before putting your bra back on. 

If discomfort continues, try smoothing lanolin over your nipples after nursing. 

Blocked milk duct

To release some of the pressure caused by a blocked milk duct, try letting warm water run over your breasts in the shower, applying warm compresses, or laying cabbage leaves over your breasts. 

To prevent blocked milk ducts, consider pumping between breastfeeding sessions. 

Breast infection or mastitis

If you have the symptoms of flu and one breast is red, sore, and hot, you may have mastitis. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection. 

Low milk supply

Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body will make. When your baby hits a growth spurt and needs to feed all the time, your body takes that as a signal and will start to increase the milk supply to meet your baby's new nutritional requirements.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding is an adjustment and will take time to master. The real beauty of breastfeeding is when you and your baby figure out how to latch, hold, feed, and sit. Remember that when you're breastfeeding, you're doing something amazing.

To help support you in your breastfeeding journey, we shared a variety of breastfeeding resources during Breastfeeding Awareness Month. We hope you find it helpful. 

Do you have any advice for moms breastfeeding for the first time? Please share in the comments below.