Everyone knows that there are many benefits to breastfeeding. Womenshealth.gov reports that breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, diarrhea, ear infections, SIDS, and a host of other conditions. Knowing this, most new mamas want to nurse their babies, but quickly find themselves feeling unprepared and surprised by just how much work it takes (not-so-fun truths: babies don’t always latch on right away and nursing can be painful!). In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while 8 in 10 women nurse after their baby is born, only half are still nursing after six months. Success in breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy, especially during the first month or two, but there are ways to overcome some of the challenges. From finding the most comfortable nursing position to dealing with sore nipples, we’re sharing some of the best advice we’ve heard about nursing a newborn.
The first month of breastfeeding teaches mom to recognize baby’s signals for hunger. Babies will often indicate that they are hungry by rooting (which is when baby reaches with an open mouth for a breast when placed against someone – not necessarily mom, either), smacking their lips together, or by sticking their hands or fist in their mouth. If you can hear a sucking sound, then baby is probably ready to eat. Fun fact: crying isn’t the first sign that a baby will give to show they are hungry. It’s basically the final sign, and a loud reminder (how can something so small make such a loud sound?) that mom had better get prepped and ready.
HealthyChildren.org suggests that moms feed their baby every two to three hours, as the baby demands, and attempt to feed the baby eight to twelve times a day – that’s day AND night (so long, sweet uninterrupted sleep… at least for now). Expect the baby to eat for about 15 minutes and to fall asleep after eating. These general guidelines can help determine if baby is nursing enough. Still not sure? Schedule regular visits to the pediatrician to check on baby’s weight. An increase in weight is a good sign!
Supply and Demand
Supply is determined by baby’s feedings, and during the first month, moms should make themselves available to baby at all times. This “all-access pass” will keep baby full for a while, and will also serve to boost milk production. Babies’ tummies are small, and they’ll need to eat often, which means that mom’s body will get the signals that it needs to make more milk.
Moms may notice that their breasts will leak milk on one side while nursing on the other, when they hear their baby cry, or just at any time. If this is a problem, buy disposable or washable pads, and stick to patterned tops that hide leakage a bit better than solids. When baby reaches about three weeks of age, don’t be surprised if he wants to eat more frequently. This will mark the first of several infant growth spurts.
Just … OUCH
There’s no easy way to say this: mom’s nipples may really HURT – enough to make her contemplate throwing in the towel on nursing. Some things to remember: nursing is new for both the baby and the mama. In the early days, baby is just learning how to latch on and will be nursing for what seems like a constant 24-hour period, but eventually all moms and new babes find their groove. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get some nipple cream that will help protect your nipples and soothe aches. A poor latch may contribute to the soreness, so consider enlisting the help of a lactation specialist if the problem persists.
In the Right Position
There are several different nursing positions: the cradle hold, when baby is cradled in mom’s arms with bellies touching; the side-lying position, where mom can lay in bed on her side, with baby facing her while resting his head in the crook of mom’s elbow; and the football hold, which allows moms to position the baby on a pillow next to her side – which can be more comfortable for women who have had C-sections or who are nursing newborn twins. New mamas are encouraged to try them all and see which is the best fit for her and baby.
Help, I Need Somebody!
Nursing during the first month can be overwhelming – mom’s always on call and can hardly escape to just use the bathroom. This is a great time to enlist a partner or friend to help. An extra set of hands can prepare baby’s bath, get mom something to eat or drink, or just allow her to rest for a bit while someone else takes the reigns.
Moms who are experiencing some problems, who feel that their supply isn’t adequate, or who would just like some support can visit the La Leche League website and choose their state for a listing of group meetings and local leaders.