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Helpful Breastfeeding Hints
by Jeri CarrEvery breastfeeding situation is unique - even mothers who have more than one breastfed child will find this to be true. Breastfeeding can come naturally, but often mothers find that it's a learned art, and there are some things that can help make learning easier. I'd like to share some breastfeeding tips, mother to mother, that I found to be useful with both of my children.
1. You might be amazed at how often newborn babies need to nurse. It can seem like they nurse "all the time"! The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns should be nursed at least 8 - 12 times in 24 hours. Babies need to nurse often for various reasons: frequent nursing helps your milk "come in" quickly, lowers the chance your baby will become jaundiced, helps prevent and alleviate engorgement, and, because breastmilk is made on a supply and demand basis, frequent and unrestricted breastfeeding helps assure that your baby gets enough breastmilk.
2. A healthy full-term baby will let you know he needs to nurse (unless he is too sleepy). Some of the ways a baby shows he needs to nurse are as follows: squirming, increased alertness or activity, making rooting motions - moving his head back and forth with his mouth open in an "O" shape like a little bird, snuggling or rooting at the breast, clenching his fists by his face, putting his fist in his mouth, sucking on his hands, making sucking sounds, crying - but try to feed him before he cries. The American Academy of Pediatrics' policy on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk states, "Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger. . . . Crying is a late indicator of hunger." Babies should be nursed before they become too hungry because a really hungry baby may get too frustrated and have a difficult time latching on. Nurse him whenever he seems to want it as long as it's at least 8 - 12 times in 24 hours.
3. If, perhaps to assure yourself that your baby nurses often enough, you want to keep a record at first of how often your baby nurses, it might be helpful to know that the time between nursings is figured from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next. Newborns commonly nurse approximately every 1 1/2 to 3 hours, but is it natural and normal for a baby to want to nurse every hour - sometimes more, and sometimes less. Many mothers find that clocks add a lot of unnecessary stress and feel better not watching a clock.
4. Nursing is an excellent way to calm a baby - even if you "just" nursed him. When baby starts to whimper, many mothers find that quickly offering their baby the breast helps to keep him content.
5. Many breastfeeding experts and breastfeeding mothers warn against offering a newborn a bottle or a pacifier. Artificial nipples are different from your nipples, and using them can cause "nipple confusion." Some babies get nipple confusion, and some babies don't, but using an artificial nipple even once can cause some babies to have nipple confusion.
Nipple confusion can make it hard for a baby to latch on correctly and baby and mother both may become frustrated and mother may end up with sore nipples and a low milk supply. It also can make a baby "lazy": liquid comes from a bottle nipple much easier than it does from the breast, and he can end up preferring the ease of the bottle and may even refuse to nurse. Also, if your baby satisfies his sucking needs elsewhere than at your breasts, your breasts receive less stimulation, and less milk is made.
It is especially important for babies who have slow weight gain to suckle often at the breast rather than suck on a pacifier or anything else because the more often a baby nurses, the more milk there will be. Supplementation is rarely necessary for a healthy full-term baby and can be harmful to the breastfeeding relationship, but if for some reason your newborn needs formula or expressed breastmilk, consider using a medicine cup or a dropper instead of a bottle. (A lactation consultant can show you how to feed your baby with a cup or dropper.)
6. Instead of watching the clock to see when you should switch sides, let your baby nurse until he pulls off himself. Let him finish the first breast before offering the second. The first part of the baby's feeding consists of more watery foremilk which helps to quench his thirst (so if he's just thirsty, he may choose to take a quick sip on one breast, in which case you may want to offer the same breast first at the next feed). The last part consists of rich hindmilk which some have equated to dessert. Letting your baby nurse as long as he wants on one side helps assure that your baby receives the higher calorie, fattier hindmilk which will help his tummy to feel satisfied longer.
7. Make sure your baby is latched-on and positioned correctly. Consider asking a lactation consultant or La Leche League leader to check to see if they are correct. Baby should open his mouth really wide and grasp a lot of your areola (the dark part around the nipple) in his mouth - remember, it's breastfeeding, not nipplefeeding. When using the cradle hold, baby should be positioned facing you with his tummy to your tummy.
Incorrect latch-on and positioning can lead to inadequate milk supply and sore nipples. Mild tenderness is common even when latch and positioning are correct, but nursing should not be painful. If it hurts, ask for help. Many mothers use Lansinoh to help soothe and heal their sore nipples. Also, putting a little expressed breastmilk on sore nipples can help them heal quickly. Breastmilk helps fight germs, so it will help protect a cracked nipple from getting infected. Plus, the fat content in the breastmilk provides moisture. (Note: Do not put expressed breastmilk on your nipples if you have thrush. . . the breastmilk will feed it.)
8. Breastfeeding in public can be done discreetly. Practice at home in front of a mirror. You will notice that very little shows and that it appears as if your baby is simply sleeping in your arms. Nursing shirts make it easy to nurse discreetly, and they can help shy moms have the confidence to nurse in public. When you want to wear a dress, nursing dresses provide great convenience, but tops and skirts can work well, too. When nursing in a non-nursing shirt, look for loose-fitting shirts that lift easily from the bottom. Your baby's body will cover any exposed areas. Also, you can nurse your baby in a sling - this provides extra privacy plus you can walk around while nursing. If you still want or need to nurse in private when you are out of the house, good places to nurse are in your car or a dressing room.
9. Make a comfortable nursing station. Set up an area with snacks, drinks, a nursing pillow, stool to sit your feet on, and good books to read - anything you might need or enjoy having while nursing. If you have another child, include a basket with special toys he can play with only while you are nursing and books you can read to him.
10. Learn how to nurse while lying down. This has been a lifesaver to me! One way to do it is to lay on your side with your baby next to you lying on his side facing you. Putting pillows behind you to support your body and putting a pillow between your legs will make it more comfortable for you. Lie with your bottom arm above you and your lower arm curved around your baby to hold him close to you. Nursing while lying down can help when your baby is fussy and won't nurse any other way, can give you the chance to take a nap during the day, and can help build your milk supply especially when you nurse and sleep at the same time. Plus, it makes night-feedings easy!
11. Build a nursing support system of people you can turn to for encouragement and information. Attend La Leche League meetings or other breastfeeding or attachment parenting support group (La Leche League encourages mothers to begin attending their meetings before baby's birth if possible). Keep helpful phone numbers in a safe place - for example, the phone numbers of your Le Leache League leader, a good lactation consultant, and other breastfeeding mothers. Join breastfeeding support groups on the Internet and also be sure to check out La Leche League's website at http://www.lalecheleague.org.
This article was first published on suite101.com.
Copyright 1997-2015 by Gentle Christian Mothers™
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.