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Breastfeeding tips: Starting out right

Many new mothers worry about breastfeeding their baby and how to start. Here are a few tips from the staff at Natural Beginnings of things mothers can do to get breastfeeding off to a good start.

After your baby is born put them to the breast as quickly as possible. Even if you deliver by Cesarean, place your newborn to breast as soon as you are able to hold your baby.

Your baby may be sleepy, but you can wake your newborn by undressing him and using lots of skin to skin contact. If this does work, try gently massaging the baby’s back, arms and legs and by talking to your baby. Your baby heard you speaking for months in the womb and will quickly respond to your voice.

Feed your newborn often as emptying your breasts frequently will stimulates milk production. In the beginning your breasts are producing colostrum. Colostrum is a highly concentrated form of breastmilk that protects against infections and is packed with nutrients and immune factors. It is a perfect first food for tiny stomachs. Colostrum also clears meconium (baby's first bowel movements), and helps reduce jaundice.

Nurse often, we can’t say that enough! It is a great way to prevent or greatly reduce engorgement. If your breasts become extremely hard and swollen, use cold compresses or cabbage leaves in between feedings to reduce the swelling. If you notice your areola and nipples are so tight that your baby is have trouble latching on. Gently use pressure around the base of the nipple to push some of the swelling backward into the breast so your baby can latch. You can use two fingers at a time, rotating around the entire areola until it is soft. (see Reverse Pressue Softening online)

Breast milk is easily digested, and passes through your newborns digestive system quickly. It is totally normal for breast fed babies to need to feed every 2 to 2 ½ hours or more often. Especially with smaller babies cluster-feeding is common in the evening when milk fat is at its highest. This is also why breastfed babies need to wake at night to feed. Expect 8 to 12 daily nursings.

After your milk comes in, look for 5 to 6 disposable soaking wet diapers a day and at least 2 to 5 bowel movement per day.

To ensure an adequate milk supply, finish the first breast first, then offer a second breast if your baby still seems hungry. Look for vigorous suckling and swallowing. Listen for audible gulps or a cah, cah sound after your milk has come in. With some babies you'll see ears or forehead moving with each suck when they are nursing well. Don't worry if baby doesn't take both breasts right away each feeding in the first 2 weeks. Often they'll need a 20 minute nap between sides.

The best way to prevent sore nipples is to achieve a good, deep latch. Your baby’s mouth should open really wide to receive your breast tissue. A shallow latch will cause pain and nipple trauma. making it difficult for your baby to fully empty your breast during a feeding. Breasts that are not drained properly will not give your body the correct signals “to make more milk.”

If you are having difficulty latching your baby in the hospital, or if it hurts every time you breast feed, ask for one of the lactation consultants to come help you. If you had a home birth or are already at home, contact a local lactation consultant. Many practices like our own, do home visits for mothers. Home visits are a great way to receive one on one personalized care in your home without having to get dressed and leave the house with a newborn. You can have a trained board certified professional problem-solve your latching issues and work with you to achieve pain free nursing without rushing you.

Another pitfall new moms make is trying to do it all, your prolactin levels rise when you sleep especially late at night. Try to get as much rest as possible, sleep when your baby sleeps. Caring for your newborn is a full time job ... leave the dishes and laundry to someone else.

Learn to understand your newborns cues, babies cry not just when they are hungry. Babies cry when they are wet, tired, gassy or overstimulated which makes them fussy. Remember, your newborn has spent the last six months in a shadowy world where sound is heard but muffled. Everything is suddenly loud and bright. They are wearing clothes and being touched continuously. That is a lot to get use to in just a few weeks. Remember that the first 3 months, baby is still more like a fetus. Baby is happiest when being held close and secure hearing your heartbeat.

Remember, crying is a 'late' indicator of hunger. It is a lot easier to get a non-crying baby on the breast. Look for early feeding cues such as rooting, sucking on hands or starting to rouse.

Human babies are a carry species, they are meant to be carried continuously by their mothers and fed small frequently meals. Modern parents and primitive babies are the number one reason infants are prematurely weaned from the breast. Breastfed babies need to be fed on demand. Sleep schedules and breastfeeding are incompatible. Frequent feeding can also cause well-meaning family members to question your milk supply and give outdated parenting advice that is no longer recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. So watch out for unsolicited and often unhelpful advice from people who have never seen a breastfed baby. Think would you accept driving tips from someone who has used the subway their entire lives. Probably not!

Try to avoid pacifiers and so-called relief bottles in the beginning. They both undermine your milk supply. Research shows that mothers who had someone else give a 'relief' bottle to their newborn, actually got less sleep than mothers who learned to nurse lying down, practicing some form of co-sleeping (such as having a bassinet or side sleeper attached to the bed). Why?... because moms were fully roused to wake up the other caregiver to either alert them the baby needed to be fed or worse, listened to the entire feeding to make sure everything was going okay. Mothers who learned to nurse lying down stayed in a light twilight sleep and returned to a deeper sleep faster.

New parents can also benefit from a breastfeeding basics class before their new baby arrives. This is a great way for both of you to learn about breastfeeding together. Your partner will also become your biggest advocate as they understand how breastfeeding works and can help stop unwelcome advice from welling meaning family and friends.

Remember, breastfeeding should never hurt. If you have nipple damage or severe pain while nursing, get help. A lactation consultant can make a big difference in the nursing relationship between you and your newborn. Our goal is a happy nursing couple.

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