Congratulations on your decision to breastfeed! Breastfeeding helps keep you and your newborn healthy and offers a unique opportunity for the two of you to bond. We hope this overview on the basics of breastfeeding provides the foundation you need for a great start.
Getting Started: The First Month
Your child will receive some health benefits no matter how long you decide to breastfeed. Successful breastfeeding begins right after birth. Snuggle your newborn against your skin as soon as you are both able. This skin-to-skin contact is shown to help the two of you bond, and also helps your body begin milk production.
Attempt breastfeeding during these first moments after birth. At first, you’ll produce colostrum: a thick, yellowish milk full of nutrients essential to your newborn. A few days later, your breast milk will come in.
Our nurses and breastfeeding educators can help you find the breastfeeding positions that are most comfortable for you and your newborn. The most common positions are:
- Cradle Hold – Cradle your baby’s head in your right arm. Allow your baby to nurse your right breast, with your baby’s belly facing yours and feet resting on your left side. Repeat on opposite side.
- Cross-Cradle Hold – Using your right hand to hold your baby’s head, allow your baby’s back to rest on your right inner forearm, with the feet running along your right side. Guide your baby’s head to nurse your left breast. Repeat on opposite side.
- Football Hold – Using your right hand to hold your baby’s head, rest your baby’s back along your inner forearm, with the feet running along your right side. Using your hand to guide, allow your baby to nurse your right breast. Repeat on opposite side.
- Side-Lying Hold – While lying on your right side, cradle your baby in your right arm. With your baby resting alongside you, guide your baby’s head to nurse your right breast. Repeat on opposite side.
You and your newborn have the opportunity to share a room during your stay at UMC. Rooming in helps you recognize your baby’s hunger cues, allows you to nurse as soon as your baby is hungry, and helps your body begin producing breast milk. Infants and moms both tend to sleep more restfully when rooming in.
During these first days and weeks, exclusive breastfeeding is important for helping you and your baby get the hang of nursing. Unless medically necessary, avoid using bottles, formula and pacifiers so your newborn can become used to breastfeeding and avoid nipple confusion. Your baby will also experience the most health benefits and protection from illness when exclusively breastfed.
It is especially important to allow your baby to determine the feeding schedule during this time, as well. A newborn should nurse eight to ten times in a 24 hour-period. You might even need to wake your baby to breastfeed during the first few days. Over time, your baby will develop a more predictable feeding pattern.
When you breastfeed, allow your baby to nurse each breast, completely emptying one before beginning the other. During each session, nurse for as long as your baby is hungry to avoid breast engorgement and plugged ducts — both of which can be quite uncomfortable.
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Your body requires more calories and water to help you produce enough milk for your baby. Staying relaxed and rested also helps, so consider accepting offers of assistance from friends and family.
The First Six Months
Soon, you may start to think about returning to work or leaving your baby with a babysitter. If you plan to use bottles to feed your baby breast milk, wait until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and latching on has been firmly established. About three weeks before your baby enters childcare, purchase a high-quality electric breast pump and begin storing your milk. Contact your insurance provider to see whether you may be fully or partially reimbursed for your purchase. Women who qualify for WIC or Medicaid may also receive assistance for this purchase.
Many infants begin eating solid foods between four and six months of age. Be sure to speak with your pediatrician about when and how to introduce solid foods. Even after your baby begins eating solid food, you can and should continue breastfeeding through the first year. Try mixing new foods with breast milk so your baby can experience a familiar flavor when trying new foods.
As you reduce the frequency of nursing, you’ll find your body will produce less milk than before to adapt to your baby’s new schedule.