Breastfeeding Basics

Dominique W. Brooks
breastfeeding

Although breastfeeding is considered the natural way to feed your baby, it may not be so easy to do in the beginning. Many new mothers get discouraged with their attempts at breastfeeding and simply give up. While breastfeeding isn't for everyone, The American Association of Pediatrics advocates breastfeeding as the preferred method of nutrition for newborn babies if at all possible.

Colostrum: The Beginning

Once your baby is born, you will not immediately have a supply of breast milk. Instead, your breasts will produce a thick, sticky, yellow substance called colostrum. This pre-milk substance is rich in antibodies, and it will sustain your baby until your milk does come in, which will happen within the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours. Your breasts will become very full when your milk comes in, and you may have to breastfeed often in the beginning.

How Soon Can You Breastfeed?

More and more doctors and midwives are encouraging mothers to begin breastfeeding almost immediately after the birth of their baby, as noted by Sutter Health. Although the nursing staff may whisk your baby away to check his vital signs and overall health, along with cleaning him up a little, you will probably have a chance to try nursing him right after that.

Though you may have family members and friends impatiently waiting outside your door to meet your new bundle of joy, you and your partner should take some time together with your baby first. Go ahead and try to nurse your baby during this time. You may find that he isn't very hungry and that he doesn't latch on very strongly. Healthy babies aren't usually very hungry right after they are born. You should simply enjoy the closeness that you are sharing with your newborn, and you can try nursing again later.

Breastfeeding Technique and Position

Sore and cracked nipples can occur if your baby isn't latching onto your breast correctly. You will have to help her learn how to nurse and guide her with the right technique, as noted on WhattoExpect.com.

Here are a few tips:

  • Because babies have a natural rooting reflex, you can usually tickle her mouth with your finger or nipple, and she will turn towards your breast and open her mouth.
  • As soon as she has opened her mouth wide enough, pull her quickly to your breast.
  • Her mouth should be opened wide enough to latch onto the nipple and the surrounding area called the aureola.
  • If she only latches onto the nipple, you will need to break the suction by inserting your finger in the corner of her mouth, and then try the whole process again.

It is important that she takes the aureola as well as the nipple into her mouth. This position will ensure that she is getting milk, and it will help to prevent sore, dry, and cracked nipples. However, don't be surprised if your nipples are still sore for the first few weeks, even if your baby is latching on correctly. You can keep them soft and lubricated by using a breastfeeding ointment that contains lanolin.

A Boppy

Many products are on the market now to help you when it comes to breast feeding. Two products that can help you hold your baby while breast feeding are the Boppy and My Brest Friend. The Boppy is a curved pillow that you can place around your waist to help you hold your baby. My Brest Friend is a similar pillow, but it also has a strap that holds the pillow in place.

Establishing a Breastfeeding Schedule

Because breast milk is easily digested, your baby will probably need to nurse more often than if he is bottle fed, according to KidsHealth.org. You will probably breastfeed your newborn every two to three hours for the first few weeks. You might want to start out nursing for fifteen minutes on one breast and then switch your baby to the other breast for another fifteen minutes. If he still seems hungry though, you may want to let him nurse longer on the second breast. You should begin your next nursing session with the last breast that he nursed on. Some mothers will place a safety pin on their shirt over the breast they should begin nursing with as a reminder.

Common Breastfeeding Problems

Although breastfeeding is a natural experience, you may still encounter a number of problems as you are learning:

  1. Latching on: If you are having trouble helping your baby latch on, you might want to set up an appointment with a lactation specialist. She can help you and your baby learn how to nurse correctly. Many hospitals and pediatrician's offices have lactation specialists.
  2. Breast refusal: Also known as nursing strike, there are many reasons why your baby may refuse the breast. Typically, breast refusal lasts between 3-5 days. If you are unable to resolve a nursing strike, you may need to contact your pediatrician. Nursing strikes aren't uncommon in older babies or toddlers. They usually don't last long and aren't serious. But this is a very rare and serious condition in a young baby, especially a newborn, and it often indicates illness. You should consult your doctor quickly if a young baby refuses to nurse.
  3. Sore nipples: While sore nipples aren't uncommon, cracked and infected ones can lead to problems. If your nipples are cracked and bleeding, you should consult your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant. They will advise you on ways to quicken the healing as well as better latch techniques to avoid further damage.
  4. Clogged milk ducts: You may notice a red, swollen, triangle shaped area along the side of your breast. This condition is most likely caused by a clogged milk duct. You can relieve the pressure and pain by applying warm compresses against your breast. You should also let your baby nurse more often on this breast until the duct has cleared.
  5. Mastitis: If you begin to run a fever, you should contact your doctor immediately because you could be suffering from mastitis, according to the MayoClinic.com. This is an infection in your breast which will need antibiotics for treatment.
  6. Leakage: Your breasts will probably leak some milk in between feedings. You should buy either washable or disposable nursing bra pads to use during the first few months. If milk begins to leak, you can quickly stop it by pressing over the nipple with the flat of your hand or wrist.

Finally, don't become discouraged if breastfeeding doesn't come easily to you. You may find that after a few weeks have passed, you are much more comfortable nursing your baby. You may also be able to speak to a lactation consultant to get some tips to help with breastfeeding basics and to improve your experience. If you simply do not feel comfortable nursing your baby, do not feel guilty. There are many wonderful formulas available for you to give to your baby.

Breastfeeding Basics