Breastfeeding is a process that takes time and practice. It is very important to feed the baby on time. A newborn has to be fed every 2 to 3 hours, which means you need to nurse her 8-12 times in 24 hours. When your baby drinks milk from your breasts, it is a signal to your body to produce more milk for the next feeding. All that time spent breastfeeding in your baby’s first few days prepares your body to make lots of milk, whether you go on to breastfeed for three weeks or three years.
Breastfeed right after birth
• Called liquid gold for its deep yellow color, colostrum is the thick first milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and includes antibodies to protect your baby from infections. Colostrum also helps your newborn infant’s digestive system to grow and function.
• Your breasts make milk in response to your baby’s suckling. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your breasts will make.
• Breastfeeding encourages the release of the hormone oxytocin, which may help you bond with your baby, and help you feel more confident about your nurturing abilities.
• Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding helps stabilize your baby’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar levels.
Try different breastfeeding positions
There are a variety of breastfeeding positions you could use to help your baby latch on better and help empty your breasts more effectively. Here are four breastfeeding positions to try:
• Cradle hold: This is the most traditional hold that many moms try first. Cradle your baby with the arm that’s on the side your baby is nursing from. Her head should be resting in the bend of your elbow, facing your breast, and her body should be turned inward to you. Be sure to always support your baby’s head as it will be a while before she can hold her head up on her own. (Visual needed)
• Cross-cradle hold: This is similar to the cradle hold, except here you’re holding your baby with the arm opposite to the breast she is nursing on. Support your baby’s head with your hand and have her bottom in the bend of your elbow. Your other arm can support your breast from underneath. You’ll want your baby’s body turned inward to you. This position is very good for newborns who are having trouble latching. (Visual needed)
• Football hold: Just like it sounds, this position involves tucking your baby under your arm as if you were holding a football. You’ll want to hold your baby to your side at the level of your waist while supporting her back with your arm. Her head should be tilted up toward your breast. This position can work well if you’ve had a cesarean section, if you have large breasts, or if you’ve had twins and want to feed your babies simultaneously. (Visual needed)
• Side-lying position: While lying on your side, place your baby next to you, and lift your breast up to within your baby’s reach so she can easily access your nipple. This position is convenient for those late-night feedings (just be sure to put your baby back in her crib to sleep afterward). It’s also a good position to try if you’ve had a cesarean section. (Visual needed)
Learn your baby’s hunger signs
There is no feeding schedule that you must follow to the letter. Instead, pay attention to your baby’s hunger signals. Keep in mind that how often your baby wants to feed will also change over time, and may go up and down periodically.
Signs your baby is hungry may include when your baby:
• is awake and alert
• puts her hands to her lips
• sucks on her fingers
• flexes her arms with her hands in a fist
• whimpers and moves her arms and hands
• nuzzles your breast.
Crying can be a late sign of hunger, so try not to wait until your baby starts to cry to feed her.
Check that your baby is getting enough breast milk
You’re probably wondering if there’s an easy way to check that your baby is getting enough nourishment. Here are five tips for checking that your newborn is getting a sufficient amount of breast milk:
• Listen for your baby swallowing while nursing, typically after several sucks.
• Keep an eye on your baby to see if he appears satisfied for a few hours after the feeding session.
• Before a feeding, your breasts may feel full and firm, but after a feeding they will feel softer.
• A very accurate sign that your baby is getting enough to eat is steady growth. Your healthcare provider will check your baby’s weight, length, and head circumference at each checkup. Know that it’s normal for a newborn to lose up to 10 percent of his birth weight in the first few days, but by the end of his second week, he should be back to gaining weight at a steady pace.
• Your baby passes enough clear or pale yellow urine
Increase your milk supply
To help increase your milk supply, here are four things you can do:
• Breastfeed more often, as this will result in your breasts producing more milk
• Pump after nursing, as this can help stimulate your breasts to produce more milk
• Drink plenty of water and eat a nutritious diet
• Try to reduce stress and relax.
Pay attention to your nutrition and well-being
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just as important now that you’re breastfeeding as it was when you were pregnant, and at other times in your life.
Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
• Eat healthy, well-balanced meals while breastfeeding. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein-packed foods like lean meats, beans, and dairy products. To make breast milk, your body may need about 450 to 500 extra calories a day (2,500 calories total) if you’re at a normal weight.
• Take a multivitamin or other supplement if it’s recommended by your healthcare provider
• Drink plenty of water. Aim for at least eight glasses a day to stay hydrated since breastfeeding uses a lot of fluid. Stay away from sugary drinks, even juices.
• Rest up as much as you can and try to sleep when your baby sleeps to take advantage of those opportunities for rest.
Once the baby is fed, she needs to be burped. Babies swallow air while feeding, which causes gas and colic in their tummies. Burping expels this excess air, thus aiding in digestion and preventing spit-ups and stomach colic. Gently hold the baby against your chest with one hand. Her chin should rest on your shoulder. Pat or stroke her back very gently with your other hand until she burps.
Give it time
If breastfeeding is tougher than you expected, try not to get discouraged. Feeding a newborn every few hours can be tiring. Just remember that the more often you breast-feed your baby, the more milk your breasts will produce — and the more natural breast-feeding is likely to feel.