Studies have shown that breast milk is the best food for your baby. It supplies superior nutrition and provides health benefits including immunity, weight gain and enhanced intellectual, psychomotor and neurological development. So how can you get breastfeeding off to a good start? Here’s the low down on making your breasts work for you.
Babies are born with reflexes to help them breastfeed. So it seems like breastfeeding should be instinctive and natural – and while it is on some levels, it is also something both mothers and babies learn to do. Here are some hints on how to help your baby use his or her reflexes to make breastfeeding easy for the both of you:
- Immediately after the birth, lay back, relax and put – and keep – your baby “skin to skin” for at least one hour and let your baby do “The Breast Crawl.” This is one of the most powerful things that you can do to make breastfeeding easy for you and your baby. Skin-to-skin helps your baby stay warm and calm, keeps their blood sugars, breathing, and heart rate stable. It is the best way to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb. When baby is calm, he or she will be able to use all reflexes, such as finger flexing, licking, head turning, and stepping to help baby find and latch more properly to your breast. This can take some time (some babies even fall asleep between these reflexes). Be patient.
- Keep your baby with you and on you. Skin-to-skin continues to help keep your baby calm and warm and even if not always skin-to-skin, keeping your baby on his or her belly on you helps your baby to gain more skill with breastfeeding. Research shows that mothers who put their babies in the nursery during the night get no more sleep than mothers who keep their babies with them. Parents who keep their babies with them have more confidence caring for their babies once they are home.
- Watch for your baby’s “cues” that he or she wants to feed. Most babies will want to feed more during the night and very often, at least 8-12 times per 24 hours. While your body is ready to make more milk, it is the baby’s frequent removal of small amounts of milk in the beginning that will create your milk supply.
- Avoid giving your baby anything but your breast milk. Babies are born fed and your breasts have already started making milk for your baby, which includes important protection against disease. Even if you plan to both breastfeed and formula feed eventually, breastfeeding only for the first couple weeks will give you the best chance to do this.
- Ask your nurses and the lactation consultant for help! If you are having difficulty helping your baby to latch, experience pain with breastfeeding, or have difficulty getting rest or sleep, we can help you with this. Lactation consultants are also available if you need more help than the nurse is able to give.