While breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it can be overwhelming for a new mother. You may have many questions about breastfeeding. In this article, we give you the basics of breastfeeding, from when to feed, how to feed, and how to know if you are doing it properly.
The Importance of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for your baby. Breastfeeding benefits include cutting the risk of lower respiratory tract infections by 72 percent during a baby’s first year of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthy Families British Columbia claims that “babies who breastfeed have better mental development and emotional security...and they also have better jaw and tooth development and stronger immune systems.”
New York state’s Department of Health lists the following benefits of breastfeeding:
- It supplies babies with all the necessary nutrients they need in the proper proportions.
- It protects against allergies, sickness, and obesity.
- It protects against diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.
- It protects against infections, such as ear infections.
- It is easily digested by babies.
Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby but good for you. It brings physical and emotional benefits to women, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some of those benefits include:
- Promoting faster weight loss after giving birth, burning about 500 extra calories a day to build and maintain a milk supply.
- Stimulating the uterus so it contracts and returns to normal size.
- Less postpartum bleeding and fewer urinary tract infections.
- Produces the hormones oxytocin and prolactin which promote stress reduction and positive feelings in the mother.
The Low Down on Breastfeeding
If you are feeling overwhelmed about breastfeeding, keep reading. We will give you breastfeeding tips so you can feel confident when you feed your baby.
Medical experts recommend feeding your baby after birth. Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts recommends breastfeeding your baby within their first hours of life because “your body will not continue to make milk if your baby is not nursing or if you are not pumping.” Nursing when your baby is wide awake is best. Make sure to tell your nurse that you want to start nursing your baby as soon as you can after they are born.
There are benefits to nursing your baby as soon as possible after birth, including:
- Babies are not born with much immunity and the antibodies present in breastmilk help protect them from disease.
- Colostrum, the pre-milk produced during the first few days of breastfeeding, helps develop a baby’s digestive system.
- Feeding shortly after birth helps a baby’s blood sugar level be stable.
- Babies who are fed after they are born will adapt easier to the latching-on process.
There is another added benefit to nursing your baby soon after birth. It gives skin-to-skin contact that organizations ranging from the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Neonatal Resuscitation Program highly recommend immediately after birth.
How to Breastfeed
Your breasts will fill with milk after your baby is born. Family Doctor recommends several breastfeeding positions:
- Cradling. Place your baby’s head in the crook of your arm, and support their back and bottom with your forearm. Your baby should face you with your breast directly in front of their face.
- Side-lying. Place your baby alongside you while lying down, with your baby facing you and close by you. A pillow can be used to prop up. Family Doctor recommends this position for women who have had a cesarean section (C-section).
- Football: Put your baby along your side and tuck them under your arm with their head resting in your hand. Use your forearm to support your baby’s body.
- Cross-cradle. With the arm opposite of the breast you are feeding your baby with, hold them while supporting their head and bottom with your hand and forearm. Your baby faces you in this position.
A breastfeeding pillow may be used to help you feel more comfortable and relaxed while you feed your baby.
When and How Often to Breastfeed
Feed your baby whenever they are hungry. You will quickly recognize their “I’m hungry” cry, but you can also look out for signs of hunger, which including making sucking motions with their mouth, turning toward your breast if you are holding them, and putting their hands in their mouth.
Because your baby’s tummy is very small, you will need to breastfeed your baby often, around eight to 12 times in a 24-your period, according to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Feeding your baby often is good for them and it will keep your milk production going. You can tell if your baby is getting enough milk by noticing if your baby is content after feedings and your baby is gaining weight. Keep in mind that the amount of milk your baby will need will change as they grow, so if your baby has a growth spurt, they may want to nurse more frequently and for longer. WIC recommends nursing as “long and as often as your baby wants and to let your baby eat until full.”
Breastfeeding while your baby is a newborn will take 20 to 45 minutes each time, according to Sutter Health, which recommends the following:
- Feed your baby on one breast until they stop suckling and seem sleepy and relaxed. Pull them away from your breast, burp them, and feed them on the other breast.
- Continue feeding your baby until they stop feeding.
What about putting your baby on a feeding schedule? La Leche League discourages putting babies on a feeding schedule who are exclusively nursing, particularly during the first six weeks. The reason is that feeding schedules are linked to slow weight gain. The organization encourages mothers to “watch your baby’s cues, as only the baby knows when his stomach is empty.”
Making Sure Your Baby Latches Properly
While you are learning to breastfeed, your baby is learning to eat. Even though suckling is an instinct, don’t be alarmed if your baby has trouble latching on. Here are a few tips to ensure your baby latches on correctly:
- While holding your breast, touch your nipple to your baby’s lips, which will kick in your baby’s rooting reflex so they will open their mouth.
- Place your opposite hand under your breast and use your thumb to push up underneath your areola, the dark area surrounding your nipple, so more of your baby has more of your breast in their mouth.
If your baby has latched on, their lips should “pout out and cover nearly all of your areola,” according to Family Doctor. You will see your baby’s jaw move back and forth, and they will make swallowing noises.
How to Know You’re Doing it Right
Signs you are breastfeeding properly, according to Healthy Children, include:
- Your baby’s mouth will be wide open and their lips will be turned out.
- Their chin and nose will rest against your breast.
- They have as much of the areola as possible in their mouth.
- They are suckling and you can hear them swallowing.
- Your nipple feels comfortable after the first few times your baby suckles.
Trust Your Instincts
You know your baby, so trust your instincts. If you are concerned about your baby’s growth, contact your baby’s pediatrician, particularly if your baby isn’t gaining weight, wetting at least six diapers daily, or having regular bowel movements.
Breastfeeding is Bonding Time with Your Baby
Breastfeeding is something special you share with your baby. Every time you breastfeed your baby, you are bonding with them. As you feed your baby, you communicate to them that you love them and will take care of them.