Babies are born with all the instincts they need to breastfeed. A healthy newborn is usually capable of breastfeeding without any specific help within the first hour of birth. Those who do so may have an easier time breastfeeding than babies who are not breastfed immediately after birth. To help give you a good start, tell your healthcare provider during pregnancy that you want to breastfeed. When you are admitted to the hospital in labor, remind your health care team that you plan to breastfeed. Immediately after the birth, your baby should be placed in direct skin-to-skin contact with you, if possible.
Signs Baby’s Hungry
A good way to master the right breastfeeding balance is to nurse when your baby seems hungry. Don’t wait for tears; by then, your little one may be uncomfortably hungry, especially the longer she cries. She might be tiny but she’ll make her needs known by:
- Nuzzling against your breasts
- Sucking furiously on that little baby hand (or your shirt, or your arm)
- Opening her mouth
- Rooting reflex (baby opens her mouth and turns her head to the side with her mouth open to find the food source, often after her cheek is stroked)
- Sucking on her lip or tongue (which can look like she’s sticking her tongue out)
- Making lip-smacking sounds
- If she does cry, it will typically be a short, low-pitched well that rises and falls
Get Your Baby “Latched On”
To begin breastfeeding, the baby needs to attach or to “latch on” to your breast. A nurse or lactation consultant (a health care provider with special training in breastfeeding) can help you find a good position. Cup your breast in your hand and stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. This stimulates the baby’s rooting reflex. The rooting reflex is a baby’s natural instinct to turn toward the nipple, open his or her mouth wide (like a yawn). Pull the baby close to you, aiming the nipple toward the roof of the baby’s mouth. Remember to bring your baby to your breast – not your breast to your baby.
Check the Baby’s Latch
The baby should have all of your nipple and a good deal of the areola in his or her mouth. The baby’s nose will be touching your breast. The baby’s lips also will be curled out on your breast. The baby’s sucking should be smooth and even. You should hear the baby swallow. You may feel slight discomfort for the first few days. You should not feel severe pain. If you do, talk to your nurse. IF the baby is not latched on well, start over. To break the suction, insert a clean finger between your breast and the baby’s gums. When you hear or feel a soft pop, pull your nipple out from the baby’s mouth.
Do Not Watch the Clock
Let your baby set his or her own schedule. Many newborns breastfeed for 10-15 minutes on each breast, but some feed for longer periods. A baby who wants to breastfeed for a long time – such as 30 minutes on each breast – may be having trouble getting enough milk or may just be taking his or her time to feed.
Breastfeeding on Demand
When babies are hungry, they will nuzzle against your breast, make sucking motions or put their hands to their mouth. Crying usually is a late sign of hunger. It is recommended that you breastfeed at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, or about every 2-3 hours, in the baby’s first weeks of life. When full, the baby will fall asleep or unlatch from your breasts.
How To Tell If Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
Many new nursing mothers worry at some point that baby isn’t eating enough. Your breasts aren’t calibrated on the outside, after all, so you don’t know how much milk you’re producing and baby is consuming. If you’re concerned, a few indicators can help you check that your baby is getting her fill:
- Disposition. If your little one seems happy and content after most feedings, then chances are she’s a satisfied customer and is getting enough milk. If she’s crying and fussing or sucking on her fingers frantically after a full feeding, she might still be hungry (though these can also be signs of gas or infant colic).
- Dirty diapers. Keep a careful count: Your newborn should be pumping out eight to 12 with clear to very pale yellow urine and at least five soft, yellow bowel movements over a 24-hour period in the beginning. For the first several weeks, it’s a good idea to keep a written record of breastfeeding frequency and diaper output, which you can bring along to the pediatrician’s office at each visit.
- Weight. Infants should gain weight steadily every week; 4 to 7 ounces per week is typical for newborns, although weight gain varies depending on age and other factors. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby’s growth is on track.
Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Keep in mind that many new mothers have problems breastfeeding at first. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.
(Some information provided by What To Expect).