From the first latch to the first few weeks after birth, breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it appears. Here are some basic techniques for a good breastfeeding experience for mother and baby.
From the moment of birth, your baby comes into world pre-designed to breastfeed. So you assume that you just put the baby to your breast and the rest will take care of itself! In some cases, babies are “naturals” when it comes to breastfeeding and need little help in terms of techniques. Yet lactaction specialists report that there are some good basic rules of thumb that all new mothers should be aware of. Here are a few to help you get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Ten Best Breastfeeding Techniques
- Keep the baby on you after birth until she/he shows signs of readiness to nurse. Unless the baby needs immediate help or is having complications, research shows that babies who are left undisturbed on the mother’s chest until they nurse breastfeed more effectively and latch better. Signs of readiness include rooting, sucking on fist or fingers, mouthing.
- Delay the newborn procedures until after baby had breastfed. Most newborn procedures (even eye ointment) can wait for at least an hour or more until baby has nursed. Often babies will show readiness signs 15-20 minutes after birth.
- Nurse baby as often as possible in the first few hours and days after birth. Mothers wonder why babies cry a lot and always seem hungry in the first week. This is how your body is coordinated with the baby’s needs. Their demands to eat often will help your milk come in around day 2-5.
- To latch baby properly, turn baby toward you, stroke baby’s lower lip lightly with your nipple and wait to nurse until baby has a very wide open mouth. Do not let the baby suck on the tip of your nipple. Typically this will feel very “pinchy” if your baby is not taking nearly the entire areola in her mouth.
- Allow baby to nurse as long as possible on the first side. Once the milk comes in, the consistency of the milk changes throughout the feeding. At the end of a feeding, the milk has a higher fat content (called “hindmilk”) to help the baby gain weight. Limiting time on the breast may reduce the baby’s ability to gain weight.
- Try not to schedule feedings but watch the baby for signs of hunger. The baby is your best gauge for feeding schedules, not the clock. Babies only hold about 1-2 ounces of milk in their tummies at a time. In somes cases, this means that they may be hungry again after only an hour, especially if they have had a dirty diaper.
- Watch for at least 6-8 wet and frequent dirty diapers a day by the end of the first week. Listen for frequent swallowing during feedings and signs that the baby is content after feedings to know that your baby is getting enough. Most pediatricians look for the baby to gain back enough to reach his/her birth weight by two weeks to know that baby is on the right track with weight gain. Read signs that baby is getting enough for more information.
- If breast soreness happens, review techniques for good latching, change positions frequently, use lanolin-based ointments or hygrogel pads. Be sure to consult with a lactation consultant if the breast soreness continues.
- Avoid giving the baby a bottle or pacifier for at least 2 weeks after birth. Even then, baby should be latching on well, suppply of breastmilk should be well-established and everything going well before baby has any artificial nipples since they can confuse babies.
- To make more breastmilk, nurse more frequently and for longer periods at each breast. Occasionally mothers can become concerned that they do not have enough milk, so the easiest way to increase milk is to increase the “demand” for breastmilk.
Breastfeeding is a natural process but it does not always come without a learning curve for many mothers. It is rare that mothers do not have any difficulties breastfeeding. The key is to stick with it, get support and guidance from a lactation consultant and be careful to not introduce bottles or formula unless you have tried everything else first.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit the complete series of breastfeeding articles.