Some Basics You’ll Need to Know
- Get Educated: Talk to your friends about their experiences, look online for resources, and be sure to take a class. The tools you'll learn and understanding how to manage common challenges will make a big difference, especially once you’re home. If you’re expecting twins, get a head start on how tandem feeding works and what you’ll need to know.
- Check Your Nipples: A common challenge is flat or inverted nipples that make it harder for Baby to latch, but there are solutions. You don’t want to discover this the first time you try to nurse, so take a quick look at yours then check out the simple nipple test here.
- Line Up Support: Ask your doctor, hospital, or check online for information on lactation consultants and local breastfeeding support groups.
- Stand Your Ground: You may meet people who think it’s OK to question your choices on breastfeeding: it’s not. Whatever you decide is best for your family is best. End of story.
This is a learning experience for both you and your baby, so take it one step at a time.
- The First Feed: Usually, this occurs soon after birth. Try as best you can to relax and just focus on the experience and bonding with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact relaxes your baby and encourages breastfeeding instincts. The nurses will help you, and Dad can offer support, too. And be sure to ask for a visit from your hospital's lactation consultant. Also, once you start breastfeeding, your uterus will get busy shrinking back to its normal size, which causes period-like contractions: this will soon pass.
- The Latch: With your hand on the back of your baby’s head, guide him to your nipple and use it to tickle his lip so he opens his mouth. Your nipple should touch the front roof of his mouth to trigger his sucking instinct.
- The Routine: At first, it’s around 8 to 12 times a day for around 30 minutes each session, though every baby is different. At home, you'll want a comfortable “feeding station” since you'll be spending a lot of time there.
- The Positions: You and Baby will want to be as comfortable as possible (more challenging after a C-section), so try different positions. Again, the nurses and lactation consultant are a great resource for this. And nursing pillows like the Boppy will make feedings more comfortable.
- Stay Fed! Breastfeeding expends calories and you’ll be surprised by how hungry you get.
- Milk Arrival: When your milk comes in, you can’t miss it—firm, tender breasts is an understatement. Once you settle into feedings, your breasts will stop announcing milk time with such fervor. If engorgement is uncomfortable, try a cold compress, moist heat, gentle massage or hand/pump expressing some milk.
- Babies Lose a Few Ounces: It’s normal for your baby to drop some ounces initially and then gain it all back. They have very tiny stomachs and naturally don’t need to eat much at first. He’ll be getting colostrum for the first couple of days (full of antibodies), so don’t worry if it takes your milk some time to start flowing.
- Get Help Early: Your baby will learn very rapidly and you’ll want to nip any bad habits in the bud, so ask for help as soon as you have a concern (especially with latching or milk production). If possible, have Dad attend the appointment so he can help you remember important information. If you experience flu-like symptoms and a tender, hot, inflamed breast, it may be mastitis or a plugged milk duct, so contact your physician for treatment.
Wisdom from New Moms...
"There are challenges with breastfeeding, just like there are challenges with everything in life. It’s about knowing who you can contact and who you get that support from in the first couple of days.”
“Take it one day at a time, and don’t give up on your worst day.”
“If breastfeeding doesn’t work in the first few hours, don’t panic!”
"It gets easier. It gets better. It’s a learning curve. Even though it’s natural, it doesn’t come naturally, and it took a little while to figure out."
“What was encouraging for me was going to the breastfeeding support group where they weighed her every week, and seeing her numbers go up and seeing how robust and healthy she was. I was like, wow, I’m doing it! I’m sustaining this baby!”
“Plan on sore nipples. They essentially need to break in.”
“I dried up at around 8 weeks. The guilt was horrible. Looking back, that’s the one thing I would change.”
"If there’s an aspect of the baby life that is really stressful for you, don’t be afraid to let it go. Let it go if that’s what you need to do to be the best mom."
"Almost all women wait until they have troubles with breastfeeding before getting help. If you get help before the baby comes, you’ll be more prepared to face whatever happens."
Edel & Ryan: Breastfeeding (2:44)
Ninette: Breastfeeding & Getting Educated (2:35)
Choosing Breastfeeding Support
There’s a very strong movement that’s working hard to make sure moms get the support needed to breastfeed. This includes lactation consultants who walk you through the steps and strategies to overcome any problems you may experience. They’re a godsend to many new moms who would have given up without assistance. But if you feel the person is actually creating more stress rather than easing your mind, ask for another referral and choose someone you’re more comfortable with. Having supportive people you click with is essential in making breastfeeding successful for you and your baby.
Read! 23 Great Nursing Tips
"When you’re in the hospital, ask lots of questions. And have the lactation consultant come every single day, even if you kind of feel like you know what you’re doing. I had a little trouble breastfeeding. Get all the help you can while you’re there." --New Mom
A Dad's Perspectives on Breastfeeding
“When it works, breastfeeding is a beautiful moment of bonding for her and my child.”
“We finally found a lactation consultant we like. We’re getting better, but I think the main thing the LC did was give my wife confidence that she’s not doing anything wrong.”
“I’ve been with my wife since we were in high school and she’s one of the strongest, most confident people I know. It tears me up when she’s crying and saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ I feel helpless and want her to see just how great she’s doing.”
"My wife had so much trouble getting a latch and with producing enough. For the first few months, she had to pump and bottle feed. The pumping got her supply up.”
Neal & Jaclyn: The Breastfeeding Relationship (0:35)