Getting ready to breastfeed your baby


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months and continue breastfeeding 12 months or beyond. Why? The more breast milk your baby receives, the more you decrease the baby’s risk for ear infections, respiratory illnesses, allergies, asthma and obesity. Breastfeeding also decreases mom’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast and ovarian cancers. How can moms and babies reach these goals?  There are many ways to help make breastfeeding more successful.

Talk about breastfeeding early in pregnancy with friends, family, doctors, and at WIC

Discussing breastfeeding early improves a woman’s knowledge of breastfeeding benefits and provides realistic expectations for breastfeeding management. Additionally, social support helps to increase confidence that mom can do it! Attending a breastfeeding class through your medical clinic, delivering hospital, or WIC clinic is a great way to learn more about breastfeeding and meet other pregnant women planning to breastfeed. There are also internet-based learning opportunities, such as coffective.com, which also has a smart phone app.

Develop a delivery and breastfeeding plan

Decide how you want the birth experience, first few hours and first days to be like for you, your baby and your family. There are several things to do that make breastfeeding easier on you and your newborn. Skin-to-skin means your baby is undressed or only in a diaper and held on the bare chest of mom. It’s the first opportunity to bond with your baby and is recommended immediately after birth for healthy moms and babies. This makes it easier for the baby to “crawl” to the breast for its first feeding during the first hour of life. Using your hands to massage the breasts before and during the feedings helps baby drink the first milk, which is high in nutrients and very healthy for baby. Hand expressing breast milk in the first days after delivery helps to develop the milk supply and helps to maintain its abundance in the coming weeks, months and possibly years.

Rooming in

Keeping your newborn with you in your room during the hospital stay helps you learn about your baby.  Babies let you know when they are hungry with certain movements and behaviors, these are called feeding cues. Examples of feeding cues are: forms “oh” with lips, extends tongue and smacks lips, roots – looking for a nipple, hands in mouth and clenches fists.  Staying close to the baby allows you to recognize the cues and meet your baby’s needs more quickly. This helps the baby to feel safe, secure and results in less crying. As soon as the baby acts like he or she is hungry, latch him or her on to your breast. Breastfeeding will be new for mom and baby and practice helps it go well. Allow the baby to feed for 10-15 minutes from each breast during the feeding. Babies have small tummies and will want to eat often. At birth, a baby’s tummy is the size of a large marble. It is normal for them to breastfeed every 60 to 90 minutes or at least 8-12 times in 24 hours. Expect babies to “cluster feed” or eat more frequently especially in the evenings.

Feeling uncertain about breastfeeding? Ask for help! Who can help? In the hospital, ask for the lactation consultant. At home, ask your doctor, contact the hospital lactation consultant, or WIC staff. Learning about your baby’s feeding behaviors and needs, and practicing breastfeeding will help you become a competent and confident breastfeeding woman!

Got milk?

Breastmilk provides all the nutrition your healthy baby needs until she is about 6 months old. Develop confidence in your milk supply and baby’s breast milk intake. What goes in, must come out. Expect a baby to have 4 or more stools daily between 4 days and 4weeks and 6-8 wet diapers per day. Weight gain is the best indicator that your breast-fed baby is getting enough milk. Remember, you can always bring your baby into WIC or the pediatrician’s office for a weight check. A woman’s breasts should feel fuller before a feeding and less full afterwards. Exclusively breastfeeding the first 2-4 weeks helps baby learn how to breastfeed well and develops mom’s best breastmilk supply. If you give baby formula when it is not medically necessary, it decreases mom’s ability to produce enough milk for the baby and can make learning to breastfeed more difficult for a new baby. Every time you breastfeed, your body makes more milk. When you supplement feedings with formula, your body does not get the message to make milk. This leads to mom’s milk supply being too low to meet baby’s needs.

Are you ready to start breastfeeding? Talk about it with people close to you. Make a plan. Keep baby in your hospital room. Do skin-to-skin contact. Watch for hunger cues and breastfeed early and often.

Authored by: Sixteenth Street’s Kristen Silverman, RD, CD, CLS

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