Problem-Free Breastfeeding - Ten Tips to Make Breastfeeding Easier and More Effective
Breast milk is nature's perfect food because it contains all the nutrients your baby needs. It also helps protect your little one against infection since it contains antibodies for the diseases which you (the mother) have already experienced. There are many studies showing that breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of stomach upsets and pneumonia during the baby's first few years.
Full-term babies are able to nurse almost immediately after birth. However, it is perfectly acceptable if you need to rest for a couple of hours after delivery. Your baby was continuously nourished while he was still attached to the placenta. Therefore, he will not be hungry right away.
Breastfeeding does not always come easily to new mothers and you may sometimes require help. Here are ten (10) ideas new mothers can try to make breastfeeding problem-free.
1. Position Your Baby Correctly
The most important aspect of effective breastfeeding is the positioning of your baby. Many experts say that this is the key to almost ninety-five percent (95%) of all breastfeeding problems. According to La Leche League International (a support group for nursing mothers), incorrect positioning is particularly responsible for nipple soreness. Your baby's body should face you entirely; his head, chest and knees should rest against your front. Also, his buttocks should be in the palm of your hand and his head should rest in the bend of your elbow.
2. Make Sure Your Baby has a Proper Latch
You could end up with sore and bruised nipples if your baby has not latched on properly. Additionally, he would not be receiving enough milk. Make sure his mouth is wide open before putting him to your breast. At least one (1) inch of your areola should be in his mouth.
As long as your baby is swallowing after sucking once or twice, allow him to nurse on one breast. If he seems to be sucking continuously, it most likely means that he is not receiving enough milk due to an incorrect latch. Interrupt your baby by inserting your little or 'pinky' finger at the corner of his mouth. Another way to interrupt him is by gently pinching his nostrils together.
Using either method will make your baby open his mouth to breathe and he will disengage his suction hold. The breast can then be removed. He may cry at this point which will result in his mouth being wide open. Quickly re-insert your breast. A proper latch should be achieved this time around. If not, keep interrupting him until he gets it right.
3. Nurse from Both Breasts with Every Feeding
If your baby appears to be falling asleep or just generally losing interest after nursing from one side, burp him and switch to the other breast. At the next feeding, nurse from the breast that you finished with previously. To avoid confusion, place a mark on the side of your bra that corresponds to the breast from where you need to start nursing, such as a paper clip or safety pin.
4. Do Not Soap Your Nipples
Soaping you nipples dries them out considerably. The glands around the areolas produce a type of antiseptic oil which cleanses them effectively. There is no need for additional cleaning.
5. Allow Your Nipples to Air-Dry
Air-dry your nipples after bathing before covering them up. Do not use breast pads that retain moisture such as plastic, spandex or nylon.
6. Do Not Toughen Your Nipples
Any manipulation or rough treatment does not help. In fact, this could cause serious damage such as bleeding.
7. Use Your Own Breast Milk to Help Heal Sore Nipples
Breast milk contains lubricants and natural antibiotics, especially the milk found at the end of a feeding. When you have finished nursing your baby, squeeze a little milk from your nipple. Rub the milk around your nipple and around the part of your areola that was inside your baby's mouth.
8. Use a Nursing Bra that is the Correct Size
As a nursing mother, you should wear a nursing bra that is one (1) cup size larger than your regular bras. Make sure that the bra you choose consists of cotton and not nylon. (Remember, nylon retains moisture.) Additionally, the nursing opening should be wide enough so that the breast does not fell compressed. Trying to squeeze the breast into a small opening could lead to clogged milk ducts. This could lead to infection such as mastitis.
9. Establish a Steady Supply of Your Breast Milk
You should nurse exclusively for the first three (3) to four (4) weeks. If possible, avoid giving your baby any bottles or pacifiers during this time. This way both you and your baby will get accustomed to nursing and your milk supply will grow.
This is especially important for women who delivered via C-section. If you have delivered this way, it can be as much as four (4) days after your baby's birth before your breast milk starts flowing steadily. During this time you have no choice but to bottle feed your baby. You cannot let him starve! However, you can let him nurse for a few minutes before giving him the bottle, even if you have no milk as yet. The benefits of doing this are two fold: (a) it will help your milk production come in faster and more steadily; and (b) it will help reduce any nipple confusion that your baby may experience when he needs to make the complete switch from bottle to breast.
10. Stay Alert and Listen to Your Body
It is unnecessary for a nursing mother to experience acute breast pain while nursing. Seek help and call your doctor if your breast feels inflamed or you are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as a fever. You may have an infection.
With a little practice, breastfeeding becomes easy. Both you and your bundle of joy can engage in this age old form of bonding. Remember, though, that breastfed babies nurse more frequently since breast milk is more easily digested than formula. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It's true that you may wish for more sleep but this provides more opportunities for you to bond with your baby.
Sources: 1. Dana Sullivan. "Breastfeeding Month by Month." Fit Pregnancy October/ November 2004: p 99-100