There is nothing more beautiful, exhilarating (& exhausting!) than new motherhood. Along with the joy of becoming a mother, however, there can sometimes be frustration around breastfeeding, as it’s a common misconception that feeding your baby this way is an intuitive, easy process. You already know the benefits of breastfeeding, but it can be tricky getting baby to have the same realization! Luckily, we’ve gathered some tips from lactation experts and fellow moms to guide you through the process.
Ask for help
… right away. Maternity nurses, in-hospital lactation consultants or your midwife can offer breastfeeding tips, starting with positioning the baby to make sure that he or she is latching on correctly. It’s all about the latch! First, cradle baby close to your breast while holding baby’s head with one hand and supporting your breast with the other hand. Tickle baby’s lower lip with your nipple to encourage baby’s mouth to open wide. Then, he or she will take in part of the darker area around the nipple. Baby’s tongue will be cupped under your breast and the nipple will be far back in baby’s mouth. Listen for the rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern, then it’s your turn to let out a sigh of relief!
Look to baby for cues
For the first few weeks of baby’s life, he or she will breastfeed every two to three hours. Let your baby nurse from one breast thoroughly (usually 15-20 minutes), though there is no set time. Next, try burping your baby before going to the other breast. If they are hungry they will latch on, if not, then start the next breastfeeding session with the second breast. If your baby prefers one breast to the other, try pumping from the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your supply.
Take care of your nipples
One of the worst things in life might be sore nipples. OUCH. After each feeding, it’s okay to let the milk dry naturally on your nipple which will act as a soothing agent. In between feedings, use breast pads, and when you bathe, try to minimize the amount of soap or shampoo that makes contact with your nipples. If your nipples become dry or cracked, use purified lanolin after each feeding. Not only is it soothing, but it will help your nipples retain moisture.
Make healthy choices
Taking care of yourself post-baby is just as important as it is during your pregnancy. Eat a healthy diet: choose plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to maintain your energy. Drink plenty of fluids: stay hydrated with water, juice and milk. A moderate amount of caffeine is okay, but keep an eye on it as you don’t want your coffee fix to interfere with baby’s sleep. Sleep when the baby sleeps: we all know this is a challenge, but try it if you can! You need your rest just as much as baby.
Give it time
If you continue to have a challenging time with breastfeeding, try not to get discouraged. Just remember that the more you breastfeed your baby, the more milk your breasts will produce, and the more natural breastfeeding will likely feel as you become comfortable. If baby isn’t gaining weight, consult your doctor or friends/family for a lactation consultant referral. Although your nipples will likely be tender the first few weeks, breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt in the long term. Good luck in this new feeding adventure!