Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby. It's important not to get frustrated if you are having problems. What works for one mother and baby may not work for another, so just focus on finding a comfortable routine and positions for you and your baby. Here are some tips for making it work:
Get an early start. You should start nursing as early as you can after delivery (within an hour or two if it is possible), when your baby is awake and the sucking instinct is strong. At first your breasts contain a kind of milk called colostrum, which is thick and usually yellow or golden in color. Colostrum is gentle to your baby's stomach and helps protect your baby from disease. Your milk supply will increase and the color will change to a bluish-white color during the next few days after your baby's birth.
Nurse on demand. Newborns need to nurse often. Breastfeed at least every 2 hours and when they show signs of hunger, such as being more alert or active, mouthing (putting hands or fists to mouth and making sucking motion with mouth), or rooting (turning head in search of nipple). Crying is a late sign of hunger. Most newborn babies want to breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
Feed your baby only breast milk. Nursing babies don't need water, sugar water or formula. Breastfeed exclusively for about the first six months. Giving other liquids reduces the baby's intake of vitamins from breast milk.
Delay artificial nipples (bottle nipples and pacifiers). A newborn needs time to learn how to breastfeed. It is best to wait until the newborn develops a good sucking pattern before giving her or him a pacifier. Artificial nipples require a different sucking action than real ones. Sucking at a bottle can also confuse some babies when they are first learning how to breastfeed. If, after birth, your baby needs to be taken away from you for a length of time and has to be given formula, ask the nurse to use a syringe or cup when feeding him/her to avoid nipple confusion.
Breastfeed your sick baby during and after illness. Oftentimes sick babies will refuse to eat but will continue to breastfeed. Breast milk will give your baby needed nutrients and prevent dehydration.
Air dry your nipples. Right after birth, you can air-dry your nipples after each nursing to keep them from cracking. Cracking can lead to infection. If your nipples do crack, coat them with breast milk or a natural moisturizer, such as lanolin, to help them heal. It isn't necessary to use soap on your nipples, and it may remove helpful natural oils that are secreted by the montgomery glands, which are in the areola. Soap can cause drying and cracking and make the nipple more prone to soreness.
Watch for infection. Signs of breast infection include fever, irritation, and painful lumps and redness in the breast. You need to see a doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.
Promptly treat engorgement. It is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little tender when they begin making greater quantities of milk on the 2nd to 6th day after birth. This normal breast fullness may turn into engorgement. When this happens, you should feed the baby often. Your body will, over time, adjust and produce only the amount of milk your baby needs. To relieve engorgement, you can put warm, wet washcloths on your breasts and take warm baths before breastfeeding. If the engorgement is severe, placing ice packs on the breasts between nursings may help. Talk with a lactation consultant if you have problems with breast engorgement. Click here for more information.
Eat right and get enough rest. You may be thirstier and have a bigger appetite while you are breastfeeding. Drink enough non-caffeinated beverages to keep from being thirsty. Making milk will use about 500 extra calories a day. Women often try to improve their diets while they are pregnant. Continuing with an improved diet after your baby is born will help you stay healthy. But, even if you don't always eat well, the quality of your milk won't change much. Your body adjusts to make sure your baby's milk supply is protected. Get as much rest as you can. This will help prevent breast infections, which are worsened by fatigue.
If you are on a strict vegetarian diet, you may need to increase your vitamin B12 intake and should talk with your health care provider. Infants breastfed by women on this type of diet can show signs of not getting enough vitamin B12.