Read these 18 Breastfeeding Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Pregnancy tips and hundreds of other topics.
Breastfeeding is a time for mother and baby to connect. If you are a new mom (or dad!), here are some things to know:
Before you begin breastfeeding, try taking a breastfeeding class or reading books and pamphlets. While breastfeeding is natural and instinctive, it does require some breastfeeding advice, practice and patience to get it right. Tips include breastfeeding your baby within the first few hours of birth (your nurse will help you attach the infant to the breast and get your breastfeeding experience started). You cannot overfeed your breastfed baby, and research shows that babies will breastfeed 8 or more times a day.. You will know that your baby is getting enough breast milk if they feed 6-8 times a day and make 2-3 bowel movements per day. Call your physician if you have any concerns.
During the beginning of pregnancy, your breasts begin to produce a milk-like substance called colostrum. This is a thick, yellow-orange milk that feels sticky to the touch. After you have birthed and breastfed your baby a few times, the colostrum begins to change into the more mature breast milk.
Many women find that their breasts begin to leak around 12 weeks of pregnancy, while others may not have leaking breasts at all. If your breasts are leaking, you can use nursing pads to help prevent wetness on your clothing and to help you stay comfortable at night. It is common for colostrum to leak on its own or if you massage your breasts. During sexual arousal, your breasts may leak more.
Leaking breasts do not affect how much nourishment your baby will receive when you breastfeed. You cannot 'run out' of breast milk or colostrum. You may find that your breasts do not leak or produce colostrum until after you have birthed the baby, this is also normal. Whether your breasts leak often or do not leak at all, don't be concerned as every woman's body and pregnancy will be different.
A bit of history here, during our parents' and grandparents' era, bottle formula was marketed as being healthier than breast milk, and parents were told that children should be given bottle formula sooner rather than later. It was during this period of time that mothers made the transition from breastfeeding a child until they were toddlers (2-3 years) to bottle feeding between 6 months and 1 year.
So, in the days before formula, it was common to see a 3 year old still breastfeeding. During the last few decades, it has become uncommon--in part because many mothers are in the workforce and breastfeeding is not convenient, but also because of a growing stigma surrounding breastfeeding that took hold around the 1950s.
Thanks to research from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes and La Leche League, more mothers are rediscovering the joys and benefits of breastfeeding. All three associations mentioned encourage give breastfeeding until your baby is at least six months old, but preferable one year old. However, this is not a finite science; the American Academy of Pediatricians states that breastfeeding should occur as long as it is mutually desired by the mother and child.
More and more research suggests that the longer your baby receives human breast milk instead of formula or cow's milk, the better. Choosing when to stop breastfeeding is a personal choice. Many toddlers simply stop on their own, whereas others will have to be weaned from the breast.
While breast milk is the healthiest choice you can make for your baby, it is not always an option for new parents. If you are not sure about breastfeeding, it is a good idea to commit to pumping colostrum when your infant is born so that the baby will receive the important antibodies and nourishment from it.
Colostrum is the first milk your breasts produce, and is the most important for your newborn baby to receive. Colostrum has very high amounts of antibodies and other important substances that promote a healthy baby. Pumping colostrum is slightly difficult because it is much thicker and stickier than mature breast milk. Colostrum is also secreted in very small amounts, usually measured by teaspoons rather than ounces like breast milk. The hospital or home health nurse should give you sterile jars for the colostrum. Colostrum is absorbed almost instantly through the infant's GI tract, so it can be rubbed on the gums of an infant or fed by a nursing syringe. The colostrum starts working to prevent illnesses and promote growth right away.
Pumping colostrum can occur with an electric breast pump, double pumping kit or hand pumping kit. There are no special colostrum pumps, the only difference is that colostrum is thicker than regular breast milk. Your breasts are stimulated by pumping colostrum and breastfeeding, which encourages a stronger milk supply throughout lactation. You should try pumping colostrum 8-10 times per day during the first few weeks of infancy to help stimulate prolactin, a hormone which produces breast milk.
Breast tenderness is an early sign of pregnancy. Pregnancy breast tenderness is common, and will usually lessen after the first trimester. Breast tenderness is caused by the hormones your body releases during pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, helping your body prepare for birth and breastfeeding. These are the same hormones released right before your monthly menstruation cycle, only to much larger extent. Pregnancy breast tenderness also occurs because your body begins to produce more blood (up to 50 percent) to pass more nutrients to the fetus. The fat layer of your breasts is increasing and your milk glands are beginning to swell. While uncomfortable, it is a normal and biologically necessary process to prepare for breastfeeding your newborn.
For most women, pregnancy breast tenderness does lessen over time and is usually not more than an irritation. For other women, it can be extremely uncomfortable and seem to never dissipate. You may also notice that your pregnancy breast tenderness is worse during sexual activity or exercise, generally activity that increases blood flow. This is common, especially during your first trimester of your first pregnancy. There are ways to help your pregnancy breast tenderness. You can try a supportive cotton bra from a maternity store. Underwire bras may be more uncomfortable, and some cloth such as polyester or lace may also increase discomfort. For some women, not wearing a nightgown or bra will help, but others may want a supportive maternity bra designed to lessen the pressure placed on your breast. You can also ask your obstetrician for help and advice.
You don't have to stop breastfeeding just because you've gone back to work. You can successfully breastfeed your baby and effectively do your work by following these tips:
* If possible, find a quiet place to pump every two to three hours at work.
* Store your pumped breast milk in a refrigerator, and transport it home at the end of each day in a cooler.
* Nurse your baby right before you leave for work each morning, and nurse again as soon as you get home.
* If you can't pump at work, you can continue to breastfeed, although your baby's caregiver will need to give her formula or stored breastmilk during your absence. Breastfeed as often as you can once you return home each day.
If you are planning to breastfeed, you'll need to purchase at least a couple of nursing bras before you deliver your baby. You will want to pack these in your suitcase to take to the hospital. While you are pregnant, your breasts will probably grow to at least one size larger than normal. Once your milk supply comes in, however, your breasts will be even larger. It is important to purchase a nursing bra that is roomy enough to allow for extra growth once your baby has arrived. If you are large-breasted, look for bras that have wider straps. While many women prefer underwire bras, it is a good idea to wait until your milk is well-established before wearing one of these because the underwires can constrict your milk duct.
Your milk won't actually come in until 24 to 48 hours after you have delivered your baby. It is still important to breastfeed your baby, however. Your breast will secrete a substance called colostrum, which is thick and yellow. Colostrum is full of antibodies, and it will be enough to sustain your baby until your milk does come in. If possible, breastfeed your baby while you are still in recovery. Once your milk comes in, your breasts may feel engorged. You'll need to nurse your baby every two hours or more often. Your milk supply is based on demand. The more you nurse, the more milk you'll produce.
Many women hesitate to breastfeed their babies in public. You can breastfeed your baby comfortably and discreetly, however, without hiding in a restaurant or store bathroom. Many department stores now offer comfortable lounges which can accomodate nursing mothers. You can also breastfeed in public if you follow these tips.
* Throw a baby blanket or shawl across your shoulder, covering your baby, then begin nursing.
* Use an infant sling that has extra material that can be thrown over your breastfeeding baby, offering more privacy.
* Wear clothing especially designed for breastfeeding moms. There are many styles of tops and dresses that have openings discreetly placed for easy access when nursing a baby.
* Wear two-piece outfits, such as shirts and pants, and simply lift your shirt only high enough to allow baby access to your breast. Your baby's body will cover any bare skin you might be showing.
Because breast milk is easier to digest than formula, babies typically have to breastfeed more often. Your newborn baby may breastfeed as often as every hour to two hours for the first few weeks. It is important that you breastfeed on demand. In doing so, you are establishing a good supply of breast milk for your baby. Your newborn baby may not be on much of a schedule in her first few weeks of life, but eventually you'll be able to establish a breastfeeding routine. Once your baby is between four and six months of age, you'll begin introducing solid foods. However, breast milk should be the main source of your child's nutrition. Your baby's breastfeeding schedule will eventually spread out, and she won't need a breastfeeding session at night.
Breastfeeding mothers sometimes encounter problems. Most of these problems can be worked out, and breastfeeding can continue. There are several common problems that many women experience.
* Low milk supply-Milk production is based on supply and demand. If you feel that your milk supply is low, breastfeed your baby more often.
* Clogged milk ducts-Sometimes milk ducts can become clogged and cause soreness to breastfeeding moms. Nurse more often and for longer periods on the affected breast until you feel relief.
* Mastitis-Mastitis is characterized by a triagular shaped, red area on the side of the breast. It is typically very painful and is an indication of an infection in breastfeeding mothers. If a breastfeeding mom is diagnosed with mastitis, she will usually be given antibiotics.
* Inverted nipples-Sometimes a newborn has problems latching on because of a woman's inverted nipples. Nipple shields can be used to help baby breastfeed, at least in the first few weeks after he or she has been born.
You should contact your doctor if you're concerned about any of the issues.
Most women can easily breastfeed their baby, but it does take a few weeks to become more comfortable breastfeeding. Keep the following breastfeeding basics in mind.
* Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born. Don't worry if she doesn't seem interested at first. This is a bonding time.
* It takes 24 to 48 hours for your milk to come in. Before this your baby will get the enriched substance called colostrum.
* You'll breastfeed your baby every two hours or so. Feed him on demand.
* If you think you might have a clogged milk duct, nurse more frequently on that breast until you feel relief.
* If you begin to run a fever while nursing and have soreness in your breast, contact your doctor. You may be suffering from mastitis.
* The more you nurse, the more milk you'll produce.
There are several breastfeeding positions that are popular among beastfeeding moms. These positions include the following:
* Football Hold-This breastfeeding position has the mother holding the baby along the side of her body so that baby's feet are closer to mom's back, and her tummy is wrapped around mom's side.
* Cradle Hold-This breastfeeding position has the mother cradling baby in her arms and supporting baby's head with one hand while the other hand guides baby's mouth to her breast.
* Side-lying Position-This breastfeeding position has mom lying on her side with baby pressed against her, belly to belly, as baby nurses.
Alcohol, even in small amounts, can travel through breast milk into a baby's system. Babies who have injested alcohol in breast milk will become sleepy, but they won't rest for very long, and their sleep won't be very restful either. Breast milk may also be reduced in supply, and babies who were exposed to regular amounts of alcohol while breastfeeding were sometimes found to be developmentally delayed. The bottom line...don't drink if you are breastfeeding. If you do have a drink, time it so that you will not breastfeed for at least a couple of hours after the drink.
The process of weaning your breastfeeding baby may take several weeks. If you are planning on weaning your baby before returning to work, you'll need to begin the weaning process at least three weeks before your return. The easiest and least painful way to wean your baby from breastfeeding is to drop one feeding at a time. It is typically easier to drop a mid-day feeding, especially if you are introducing solid foods to your baby's diet. Wait a couple of days or so before dropping your next breastfeeding session, and allow your breast to adjust. Eventually, you'll be able to drop all but one or two breastfeeding times, and your milk will begin to dry up, making weaning a much more pleasant experience for you and your baby.
Just because you are breastfeeding your baby doesn't mean that dad has to feel left out. There are many ways for dads to become closer to their babies. Sometimes breastfeeding moms need a break, so dads can give baby a bottle of breast milk or formula. Dads can also take baby for walks, read and sing to baby, and rock baby to sleep. If you are the dad of a newborn baby, give your wife moral support as she breastfeeds by reading books on breastfeeding and seeing that she eats right and gets plenty of rest.
?Breastfeeding products can help breastfeeding be easier for you and for baby. Breastfeeding products should be comfortable and easy to use. Some breastfeeding supplies, like the Medela Nursing Stool, help give the breastfeeding mom back support by relieving the pressure of holding baby while breastfeeding. Another great idea for breastfeeding products is a comfortably designed pillow like the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow or the Nurse-N-Glow Breastfeeding Pillow. These breastfeeding supplies give additional back support and helps position the baby correctly for good breastfeeding.
?Nursing tops are excellent breastfeeding products for moms on the go. The Majamas Original Nursing top is probably the most popular, it is a Lycra-based stretchy blouse with a crossover front design can be easily opened and closed for nursing in and outside of the home. Other great clothing breastfeeding supplies can be found from Motherwear Essentials, who offer many different tops and intimates. A breastfeeding bra is a popular item, but not as effective for discreet public breastfeeding, so look for stylish breastfeeding tops that offer enough support that you don't need a nursing bra also.
Breastfeeding products can make breastfeeding easier for you and for baby. Breastfeeding products should be comfortable and easy to use. Some breastfeeding supplies, like the Medela Nursing Stool, help give the breastfeeding mom back support by relieving the pressure of holding baby while breastfeeding. Another great idea for breastfeeding products is a comfortably designed pillow like the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow or the Nurse-N-Glow Breastfeeding Pillow. These breastfeeding supplies give additional back support and help position the baby correctly for good breastfeeding.
Nursing tops are excellent breastfeeding products for moms on the go. The Majamas Original Nursing top is probably the most popular: it is a Lycra-based stretchy blouse with a crossover front design that can be easily opened and closed for nursing in and outside of the home. Other great clothing and breastfeeding supplies can be found from Motherwear Essentials, who offer many different tops and intimates.
Breastfeeding pumps are popular breastfeeding products, you can purchase electric or hand pumps. The Medela breastfeeding pumps are the most comfortable and popular, and Medela offers breastfeeding mothers online and telephone support with their breastfeeding supplies. Along with breastfeeding products, consider getting the Mother's Milkmate Breast Milk Storage System. This is a neat addition to your breastfeeding supplies that easily stores Milkmate bottles, organized by date so you know which ones need to be used first. The Medela breast pumps are compatible with the Milkmate storage system, so you can get both breastfeeding products to work together.
You might need some breastfeeding help if you have a newborn that is reluctant to nurse. Newborns may be reluctant to nurse for different reasons. You may notice your baby:
It is important to remember that this is normal infant behavior and will change with some breastfeeding help and time. Some newborns will not latch onto the breast right after birth. In this case it is a good idea to pump the colostrum and give to the baby via a feeding syringe or dropper (even if it's just a little bit). You also want to make sure that you are pumping your breast milk regularly when the baby is reluctant to breastfeed to prevent engorgement.
Breastfeeding information can be found at La Leche League International (llli.org), a great resource for breastfeeding help. You can also contact your local hospital, nurse, and physician for breastfeeding information and help.
If you need some breastfeeding help, try nursing the newborn while the baby is sleepy or asleep, the infant's natural instinct will take over during this time. Also, try nursing in a quiet and dark room where the newborn will not be distracted. You can also nurse while walking or rocking, this type of motion relaxes the newborn. Different positions such as lying down may also help.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|