10 Tips to ensure breastfeeding success
Doctors, health organizations and childbirth educators all agree: Breast milk is best for babies. A mother’s milk contains nutrients needed to enhance her child’s immune system, protect against chronic disease and increase the bond between mother and baby. According to the 2013 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, 77 percent of newborns are breastfed. Lamaze International offers the following tips to support you as you begin to breastfeed.
1. Discuss it. Talk to women who are breastfeeding or who have breastfed, and learn from them. If possible, watch babies at the breast to get an idea of the process. Take a class in your community or online. Breastfeeding support groups both online and in-person can provide information and support.
2. Contact is key. Keep your baby skin-to-skin with you immediately after birth, and nurse within the first hour. Sleeping in the same room as your baby and staying together as much as possible will also help with breastfeeding. Carrying your baby in a sling or a soft baby carrier during the first few weeks with your baby can also help the breastfeeding process.
3. Connect. In order for your baby to remove milk efficiently, a deep latch is necessary. Your baby comes to the breast chin-first, tongue down and forward over the lower gum line, head tilted slightly back.
A deep latch allows you to be comfortable while your baby gets all the milk needed. Your baby should be lined up tip of nose to tip of nipple, not mouth to nipple, which will cause “reaching” for the nipple by leaning back slightly and opening very wide.
4. Know the hunger signs. Babies will use cues when hungry, such as waking up wide-eyed and putting their hand into their mouth, drooling or licking, head bobbing “searching” for the breast, pushing their legs in a frog-like motion or crying. To begin breastfeeding, start with skin-to-skin contact, which will calm your baby more quickly, making it easier to breastfeed. Your baby may cycle through these cues several times before latching.
5. Your baby will need to eat often. Newborns can nurse as many as 16 times over the course of 24 hours for the first few weeks. They need to eat at least eight times a day. But don’t be alarmed if your baby nurses in clusters instead of about every two hours for the first month.
6. So will you! Once you start actively producing breast milk, you will be very hungry! On average, breastfeeding women should ingest up to 500 extra calories. To keep energized, have plenty of easy-to-eat foods around the house and close at hand when breastfeeding.
7. Don’t set limits. It’s important for your baby to nurse until satisfied. Limiting feeding to only 5 to 10 minutes on each breast could deprive your baby of needed nutrients. Your baby will instinctively pull away when full, so wait for that to happen rather than waiting for the timer to go off.
8. Hold the pacifiers and formula. A baby sucking at the breast stimulates milk production. Hold off on giving your child a bottle or pacifier until breastfeeding has been well established.
9. Find breastfeeding support. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you both learn to breastfeed. Seek help if you experience pain or any problems while breastfeeding. Most breastfeeding issues have simple solutions, but may require the input of a lactation consultant. Talk to your hospital, birthing center, midwife, doula, Lamaze instructor or friends to find a lactation specialist near you.
10. Even with a traumatic birth experience, a fulfilling breastfeeding experience is possible. Talk to a lactation consultant or another maternal health expert to help. Pumping milk or substituting skin-to-skin contact are great options if you are unable to breastfeed.
Stay confident during your breastfeeding journey! Breastfeeding is natural. Your baby and body know what to do. Give breastfeeding the time and patience you both deserve.
For more tips and resources, visit www.lamaze.org/NursingSchool.
Michele Ondeck, RN, Med, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE, is Lamaze International President, and Clinical Educational Specialist at Magee-Womens Hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. To take a class online or find classes in your area, visit www.lamaze.org.