Evidence continues to mount demonstrating that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial
for both mother and baby’s health. The American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologist recommends that breast feeding be continued through approximately 6
months of age and is the preferred method of feeding for infants. Although
breastfeeding is a natural act women can encounter difficulties as mom and baby learn
to feed together.
One important first step in breastfeeding is establishing skin-to-skin contact This is
where baby and mom are touching skin to skin – often accomplished by laying baby on
mom’s chest. This contact has been show to improve breastfeeding and should begin
while the mom is still in the hospital. Babies love close contact and feel comfortable
with mom’s touch and smell.
Another important step in breastfeeding is having proper latch-on. This will help prevent
sore nipples. To start it is important that mom is in a comfortable position – not
straining. Mom should have her back supported and have pillows available to support
her arms/baby. Next, the baby should be positioned so that he/she is not uncomfortable
either. The baby should not have to turn his/her head to feed. As mom supports the
breast she can encourage the baby to open wide by tickling the baby’s bottom lip and
then pull baby close to her. As she draws the baby near, the baby’s chin should press
against the breast and the nose will be touching the breast. If the baby does not open
wide! try again. Once latched on~ make sure to support the baby’s head and back.
Once the baby has finished feeding, he/she will often release on their own. But if not,
you can place a finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth and press down gently to
release the seal.
Other questions women often have center around milk supply and how often to feed. In
general babies typically eat 8-12 times in a 24 hour period which averages out to every
2-3 hours. Milk supply follows the laws of supply and demand. As babies require more
milk they will nurse more often leading to an increase in mom’s supply. Babies will have
growth spurts at about 2-3 weeks and again at 6 weeks. During this time mom will
notice an increase in feeds.
There are many questions I had myself when I breastfed my 3 children. One very
useful resource I found was La Leche League International. They can be found online
at llli.org. They have lists of frequently asked questions that were extremely helpful.
You realize that you are not alone and many women share the same concerns. They
also have an online chat forum where you can ask a lactation consultant specific
questions about your breastfeeding concerns.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for mom and baby that will also have
many lasting health benefits.