The Best Start To Successful Breastfeeding

December 14, 2007

Successful Breastfeeding Starts With The Birth

Try to have a natural birth without pain medications.  Pain medications pass through to the baby and can affect his ability to breastfeed.

Hold the baby skin to skin following the birth.  Babies are normally in a quiet alert state in the first hours after birth.  Holding him skin to skin triggers the baby's instinctive rooting and sucking behaviors and increases your oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding, relaxing and milk flow.  Don't rush your baby.  Place him vertically between your breasts.  He will soon start making little pecking movements and move towards one breast or the other.  Follow his cues and gently help him along.

Keep the baby with you as much as possible.  Since babies are often sleepy the first day, they should be put to breast whenever they are awake. When you are with your baby you can see and respond to his feeding cues. You may notice that your sleeping baby's breathing has changed, becoming more rapid, as he is waking from hunger. He might start to search for something to suck on even while his eyes are still closed, perhaps turning his head from side to side with his mouth wide open or beginning to fuss. Your body will respond to these cues by releasing oxytocin, which will start your milk flowing. You can calmly put the baby to the breast. If the baby is in the nursery, the nurses may not catch these subtle feeding cues. They may be watching the clock to see when the baby should feed even though the baby's appetite has no fixed schedule. They will notice the baby when he cries, which is a late hunger cue.  By the time you get to the nursery, you might both be frantic, making it harder to get the baby latched on.  He may have already cried himself back to sleep.

Make sure that your baby is latched on and nursing correctly.  If breastfeeding is painful or your baby is very fussy, have the hospital's lactation consultant come and observe a feed.

Early And Frequent Nursing Is Key

Nurse your baby as often as he wants.  Babies are born with tiny stomachs, about the size of a marble. They get small amounts of colostrum, the first milk, at each feed and digest it quickly. For many, this means periods of almost constant feeding. Frequent feedings are good for both the mother and baby. The more the baby nurses, the less weight he will lose and will be less likely to become jaundiced. Also, you need to nurse often in order to avoid becoming engorged. Early frequent breastfeeding will also promote a good milk supply. As your baby removes milk, your body is given the message to make more.  These signals are especially important in the first few weeks. Studies have found that the more often a woman nurses on the baby's second day of life, the more milk she has at six weeks.  This is why you should start expressing your milk regularly soon after the birth if your baby is unable to breastfeed.  Your expressed milk is the only thing the baby should be supplemented with in the early days.  You do not want his stomach filled up with anything but your milk.  However it important to avoid artificial nipples until breastfeeding is well established. If your baby needs to be fed off the breast, a spoon or cup can be used.

For more information on breastfeeding check out our breastfeeding videos.

 

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