Breastfeeding is a skill that mother and baby learn together, so it’s easier for some than others. Many factors influence a breastfeeding relationship, from the mother’s anatomy and health to the baby’s size and temperament.
Breastfeeding must be learned because, unlike bottle feeding, there is no measuring of how much your baby receives, and it can’t be done by anyone else. Also, how much milk is produced depends on how often the baby breastfeeds. You may find that you produce more when your baby is younger or if you are separated from her for a few hours.
Breastfeeding frequency also varies by baby — some breastfeed as little as four times per day while others breastfeed up to 18 times per day.
Here are some of the baby breastfeeding tips to help you start off right:
Learn the basics before the baby arrives
While you are pregnant, begin to educate yourself on breastfeeding. Get advice from other moms who have breastfed and attend a childbirth class that covers breastfeeding topics.
Soften your areola and breast by massaging it before your infant latches on.
Feedings at least every two hours will help stimulate milk production and keep up your supply of breast milk. If your breasts feel very full between feedings, pump for a few minutes to release some milk. This will also help reduce discomfort.
Do not limit the amount of time your infant nurses at each feeding or the number of feedings per day. Allow the infant to determine when he or she is finished nursing each time. Your body will increase its production of breast milk based on how much your infant feeds. The more your infant feeds, the more milk you will produce.
Support the back of your baby’s head while you cradle her body
This encourages her to tilt her head back slightly and opens up her mouth wide.
Choose a comfortable position for both of you.
You can try sitting in a chair or lying on your side.
Hold your breast
Hold your breast so that your nipple is centered at the base of your baby’s mouth, pointing toward the roof of her mouth. This makes it easier for her to take in more of the breast.
Don’t pull your baby off the breast
Instead, gently break the suction by pressing your finger into the corner of his mouth or inserting a clean cloth between his gums to loosen the seal between his mouth and your breast.
Look For Your Baby’s Hunger Cues
Many parents wait until their baby cries before feeding them but sometimes this can leave a baby too hungry, making it harder to breastfeed. Instead, watch out for cues that your baby is ready to feed such as licking his lips, moving his head from side to side, or waking up after sleeping.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthily
The best way to keep yourself hydrated is by drinking water throughout the day and especially after nursing sessions. For example, keep a glass by your bed at night so it’s easy to drink right after you wake up to nurse your baby at night. You should also drink water while you are nursing your baby as this will help.
While most mothers are not shy about breastfeeding outside their home, some new mothers may be reluctant to feed in public or in front of other family members. Breastfeeding is a natural and essential part of being a mother, so don’t feel embarrassed or awkward when feeding your baby.
Milk production will increase within 48 to 72 hours after birth. Feeding your baby frequently — every one to three hours or when he seems hungry — helps stimulate this increase in milk supply.
Wear Nursing Bras
If you’re planning to breastfeed, it’s important to get ready before your baby arrives. One thing you can do is buy nursing bras and wear them as soon as possible. Nursing bras have extra hooks and clasps that make it easy for breastfeeding mothers to open or close their shirts quickly and efficiently. They also have a lot of giving in the fabric, so they don’t need to be removed when the baby-nurses.
Invest in a Good Breast Pump
In these instances, it’s essential for mothers to have a good breast pump. Breast pumps mimic the actions of nursing babies, so mothers can pump milk for their infants when they aren’t around.
Avoid giving your baby artificial nipples
Pacifiers, bottles, or sippy cups during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. This can cause nipple confusion and affect how well your baby breastfeeds.
Gently touch or tickle your baby’s lower lip
Gently touch or tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple to encourage him or her to open their mouth wide (like a big yawn). This is called “rooting.” Your baby should have as much of the areola (the darker area around the nipple) in his or her mouth as possible. If needed, you can break the suction by placing a finger gently into the corner of the baby’s mouth, then try again.
Smoking, drugs, and alcohol
Do not smoke during pregnancy or after you deliver — second-hand smoke can be harmful to your baby as well. Avoid all recreational drugs during pregnancy, too. Recreational drugs can harm your baby’s brain and other organs.
If you have questions about how a specific drug might affect your breastfeeding baby, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. In addition, avoid alcoholic beverages while you’re breastfeeding.
Involve Your Partner
Breastfeeding is about more than just feeding your baby; it’s about bonding with her as well. If possible, involve your partner in the process by asking him to burp or change your baby after feedings so you can spend some quiet time together while still providing the nutrients she needs.
The best way to know if breastfeeding is right for you and your baby is by learning everything you can. Reading up on available support, finding a good lactation consultant in your area, and asking other nursing moms in your life questions are all great ways to kick off your breastfeeding journey.
And remember, even if it takes a few weeks to get the hang of things, it’s totally worth it.