Breastfeeding For Beginners

Before delivery and during the first hours and days postpartum, new mothers can prepare for breastfeeding success with a little research, support, and planning. Here are some tips for breastfeeding for beginners.

The breastfeeding relationship is begun even before a baby is born. Expectant mothers can do plenty of homework that will help them set the stage for a positive breastfeeding experience. Here are some tips for a new mom to follow before delivery, immediately after birth, and in the first few days of a baby’s life to ensure breastfeeding success.

Preparing to Breastfeed for Beginners: Before Delivery

A woman’s body prepares itself to breastfeed a new baby from the moment of conception (hence the tenderness some moms experience during their first trimester). A new mom can prepare her mind as well by reading up on different breastfeeding positions (to know the cross-cradle from the football hold and what positions work best for mothers with bigger breasts, or for twins, or for women recovering from a c-section).

Other things to find out about:

  • Techniques for latching on
  • Baby-led latch
  • Common breastfeeding problems (just in case)
  • Breastfeeding resources
  • Community support for breastfeeding moms
  • Breastfeeding Support

An expectant mother should make sure her birth partner and obstetrician-gynecologist or midwife know she plans to breastfeed well in advance of delivery. In addition to offering expert advice for starting off, the support team can also make sure early breastfeeding is supported at the hospital or birthing center. Unfortunately, many hospital staff is still very quick to reach for a bottle of formula, and it’s hard for a woman to stick up for herself when she’s just delivered a baby! If they know the mother’s intentions, the birth team can advocate for her should the need arise.

The First Feeds: When Baby Arrives

The first moments after delivery are pure, exhausted magic. This is when the mother and baby can rest together and begin their new relationship as two separate people. This is also when the breastfeeding relationship really begins.

Here are some tips to make a good start:

The baby should be placed directly on mom’s chest or tummy, skin-to-skin, as soon as she is born.

New babies may find the nipple on their own if they are held facing mom, between the breasts, and given a chance to root around (some moms have compared this searching to pecking like a little bird)

If the baby needs some help, a new mom can gently guide her baby so that her mouth is near the nipple, and give her time to taste and explore.

A tickle on the upper lip with mom’s nipple will encourage the baby to open her mouth.

Not all babies will latch on right away. Some just play a bit and then go right to sleep! Labor was tiring for her as well, but she’ll definitely wake up nice and hungry.

The First Few Days After Baby Is Born

Right after delivery, a woman’s body gets the cue to start producing milk. To encourage a good milk supply, mothers should feed whenever the baby shows an interest. Milk supply depends not on how much baby drinks, but on how often. Offering the breast whenever the baby roots or opens her mouth while turning towards mom will stimulate a plentiful supply. Mothers should not wait until the baby is crying – there are usually lots of earlier cues to feed.

Some caregivers will set guidelines for feeding frequency, as often as every two hours for a small baby, but new babies don’t get that memo. If a baby cue to feed, she should be fed, even if she just ate.

Now, some moms experience some nipple discomfort in the first few days that makes them reluctant to offer the breast too often. This is understandable, but the hungrier a baby is, the more fiercely she’ll latch on. Offering sooner is actually easier on a mother’s tender nipples. Most moms find that if they soldier on through it, the soreness goes away within a few days.

Sometimes, of course, the soreness doesn’t go away, and nipples may crack and bleed. In this case, a breastfeeding mom should seek help right away. There are many causes of these symptoms, and most are very easy to fix with the right support. Even breastfeeding for beginners really shouldn’t hurt!

Learn to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s instinctive. Mothers who start off expecting everything to work perfectly the first time are often very disappointed. Moms and babies need time to learn and practice. Preparation before delivery, support, and bonding right after birth and frequent practice in the first few days can set the stage for a beautiful, successful breastfeeding relationship.

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