- Mothers and babies are made to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding has endless benefits for both mothers and babies. Babies are born expecting their mother’s milk. Women have breasts so they can make milk and nourish their babies. Babies instinctively find the breast, latch on, and remove milk. Breastfeeding is normal!
- Skin-to-skin contact is powerful.
Skin-to-skin contact helps trigger a baby’s natural instinct to latch onto the breast. It helps babies maintain body temperature, gain weight faster, and become more aroused to feed. Immunities are even passed through the skin from the mother to baby. Skin-to-skin contact increases the mother’s milk supply and can reduce postpartum depression.
- Fathers and other support people are key to breastfeeding success.
Studies show the biggest indicator of a woman’s success in breastfeeding is her support system. Surround yourself with people who support your parenting choices and can help meet practical needs, like healthy food and drink or a clean house. Creating a calm atmosphere in the first few weeks after your baby’s birth is vital for rest, healing and learning to breastfeed. There are many ways fathers can bond with their baby other than feeding with a bottle. Wearing a baby in a carrier, holding the baby skin to skin, giving the baby baths, changing diapers, burping the baby, and taking the baby for a walk are a few ideas.
- It gets easier and it’s worth it.
As babies grow, feedings spread out, babies become more efficient at removing milk, and they latch onto the breast effortlessly. The first few weeks can be challenging, but with the right information and support, it gets easier and easier. Raising a baby can be challenging and exhausting, but breastfeeding can eventually make life easier.
- Watch for hunger cues.
Calm babies latch and breastfeed better. Keeping your baby close and responding to his or her cues is the best way to ensure a good milk supply and a baby who latches well.
- Babies cry for reasons other than hunger.
When babies cry, parents are physically programmed to react. We want to do whatever we can to comfort our babies. Often, parents worry that their baby is hungry and end up supplementing and overfeeding the breastfed baby. Being able to identify when your baby is removing milk at the breast and making sure your baby is having enough wet and soiled diapers are keys to making sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk. Learning calming techniques for a fussy baby other than supplementing and understanding that babies cry for reasons other than hunger is important.
- You can’t force a baby to breastfeed.
Babies need time, patience, and a calm, supportive environment in order to learn to breastfeed. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother in a reclined position is the best way for a baby to learn to breastfeed, not only in the first hour after birth, but whenever a baby is struggling with breastfeeding.
In the early days, there may be some discomfort when nursing, especially when your baby first latches. If the pain continues, you begin to dread the next feeding, or you have any nipple damage, get help immediately. Often simple adjustments can make a big difference in comfort.
- Use it or lose it.
Frequent, effective milk removal is the key to a good milk supply. When milk is removed from the breast, the mother’s body begins to make more milk. Newborns especially need to nurse often and be kept close to their mothers. If you have concerns about milk supply, contact a board certified lactation consultant.
- Don’t wait to find support.
The majority of breastfeeding problems can be prevented. Take a good prenatal breastfeeding class and seek support as soon as you have questions or when problems arise. Basic questions can be addressed by mother-to-mother support groups like La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA, but issues of a clinical nature are best addressed by a lactation consultant. Make sure you hire an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). It can help to visit the lactation consultant’s website to learn about her philosophy and practice and to arrange a phone interview with her to make sure she is a good fit.