Breastfeeding – Hints to Help You Get Off to a Good Start
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What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has many benefits for your baby. Breast milk is rich in nutrients. It has antibodies, which help protect your baby against infections. It also can help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It also helps prevent your baby from having allergies. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight, develop diabetes, or asthma.
Breastfeeding has benefits for you as well. It’s cheaper than using formula. You don’t have to wash bottles or mix formula. It helps your uterus go back to normal size after stretching out during pregnancy. This can help you lose weight faster. It can delay the return of your periods. However, you shouldn’t count on it to prevent pregnancy. Breastfeeding helps make time for you to be close to your baby. Women who breastfeed have lower risks of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
How do I begin breastfeeding?
Once your baby is born, your breasts will start to fill up. At first, your body will produce a “pre-milk,” called colostrum. This can be thin and watery or thick and more yellow-colored. The pre-milk has a slower flow to help your baby learn to nurse. After 3 to 4 days of nursing, your real breast milk will come in.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to breastfeed.
- Wash your hands before each feeding.
- Place your baby in one of the breastfeeding positions (outline below).
- With your free hand, put your thumb on top of your breast and your other fingers below.
- Touch your baby’s lips with your nipple until your baby’s mouth opens very wide.
- Put your nipple all the way in your baby’s mouth and pull your baby’s body close to you. This lets your baby’s jaw squeeze the milk ducts under your areola.
How do I know if my baby is latched on?
When your baby is “latched on” the right way, both lips should pout out and cover nearly all of the areola. Instead of smacking noises, your baby will make low-pitched swallowing noises. Your baby’s jaw should begin to move back and forth. If you feel pain while your baby is nursing, your baby is probably not latched on correctly.
Your baby’s nose may touch your breast during nursing. Babies’ noses are designed to allow air to get in and out in just such a case. But if you’re concerned that your baby can’t breathe easily, you can gently press down on your breast near your baby’s nose to provide room to breathe. Your baby shouldn’t have to turn their head or strain their neck to nurse.
How should I hold my baby while breastfeeding?
You can hold your baby in a number of ways. Some of the most common positions are:
- Put your baby’s head in the crook of your arm. Support your baby’s back and bottom with your arm and hand. Your baby will be lying sideways facing you. Your breast should be right in front of your baby’s face.
- Tuck your baby under your arm like a football with the baby’s head resting on your hand. Support your baby’s body with your forearm as well as with pillows at the level of your breast. This may be a good position if you’re recovering from a caesarean section or if your baby is very small.
- Cross-cradle. Hold your baby with the opposite arm of the breast you’re using. Support your baby’s head and bottom with the palm of your hand and forearm. Your baby should still be lying facing you. This position can help premature babies or babies who have a weak suck. It provides added head support.
You can also lie on your side with your baby facing you. You can use pillows to prop up your head and shoulders. This is also a good position if you’re recovering from a caesarean section or an episiotomy.
See For More Information section for other resources for breastfeeding positions
What is the let-down reflex?
The let-down reflex means your milk is ready to flow. It makes breastfeeding easier for you and your baby. You may feel a tingle in your breast, and milk may start to drip from the breast not being used. These are signs that your milk has “let-down.” Let-down may also occur if a feeding is overdue, if you hear your baby cry or even if you think about your baby.
Let-down can be forceful enough to cause your baby to cough. If this is a problem, you can express some of your milk by hand before a feeding to bring on the let-down reflex before you start breastfeeding.
How often should I feed my baby?
Feed your baby as often as the baby wants to be fed. Learn how to tell when your baby is hungry. Crying can be a sign of hunger, but it may be too late. Babies who are crying or are upset have a harder time latching on. Watch out for early feeding cues. Your baby may:
- Stirring, moving arms
- Opening their mouth, licking
- Rooting, trying to reach things with their mouth
- Put their hands in their mouth.
- Turning head side to side
Your baby may be hungry 8 to 12 times a day or more. How often your baby wants to feed may change over time as they go through growth spurts. Growth spurts occur at about 10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months of age.
Let your baby nurse until they are satisfied. This may be for about 15 minutes to 20 minutes at each breast. Try to have your baby nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Make sure your baby finishes one breast before starting the other. Your baby should let go on their own once they are done.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
Your baby is getting enough milk if they:
- Act satisfied after each feeding.
- Gain weight consistently after the first 3 days after birth. (Your baby may lose a little weight during the first week after being born.)
- Has at least 6 wet diapers a day.
- Has at least 3 stools a day.
How can I increase my milk supply?
If you think your baby needs more milk, increase the number of feedings a day. It’s also important for you to get plenty of rest and eat right. Give your body time to catch up to your baby’s demands.
Don’t start giving your baby formula or cereal. If you give formula or cereal to your baby, the baby may not want as much breast milk. This will decrease your milk supply. Also, your baby doesn’t need any solid foods until 6 months of age.
What food should I eat while breastfeeding?
The best diet for a breastfeeding woman is well balanced. According to Loving Care’s Breastfeeding Basics, follow Canada’s Food Guide and drink to satisfy thirst. Health Canada recommends that anyone who could become pregnant take a multivitamin that contains 0.4 mg (400mcg) of folic acid daily.
What should I avoid while breastfeeding?
According to Loving Care’s Breastfeeding Basics, you may want to limit the caffeine you eat or drink if your baby is fussy or has trouble sleeping.
Medicines–even those you can buy without a prescription–can also get into your milk. Don’t take anything without talking to your healthcare provider first. Also, if you smoke, nursing is another good reason to try to quit.
What can I do if my nipples get sore?
It’s easier to prevent sore nipples than it is to treat them. The main thing that causes sore nipples is when your baby doesn’t latch on properly.
If your baby isn’t latched on the right way, you’ll need to start over. To take your baby off your breast, release the suction by putting your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth between the gums.
Other ways to help prevent and heal sore nipples are:
- Make sure your baby is sucking the right way. If the sucking hurts, your baby’s mouth may not be positioned correctly.
- Let your nipples air dry between feedings. Let the milk dry on your nipples.
- Offer your baby the less sore of your two nipples first. Your baby’s sucking may be less vigorous after the first few minutes.
- Change nursing positions.
- Wash your nipples daily with warm water. Don’t use soap or lotion that may contain alcohol, which can dry the skin.
- Avoid bra pads lined with plastic. Change bra pads between feedings to keep your nipples dry.
- Express milk until your let-down reflex occurs. This will help make your milk more available so your baby sucks less hard.
- Breastfeed often to prevent engorgement. Engorgement can make it hard for your baby to latch on.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have a red, sore or painful area on your breast, if you have painful engorgement (overfull breasts), if you have a fever or if you feel achy. These may be signs of an infection.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The First 6 Weeks
Nova Scotia’s Department of Health and Wellness Breastfeeding Basics
Loving Care E-books (via Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness)
Health PEI’s Breastfeeding Your Baby
La Leche League: