Some Basics You’ll Need to Know
- Get Educated: Talk to your friends about their experiences, go online, and/or take a class. Learn about how to get started and common challenges you may encounter 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 but surmountable challenge is flat or inverted nipples that make it difficult for a baby to latch. 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 to see what’s suggested.
- Find Where To Get Help: Ask your doctor, hospital or birthing center for information on lactation consultants, and check online for local lactation support.
- Stand Your Ground: Those around you may include people who think it’s OK to question your choices regarding breastfeeding: it’s not.
This is a learning experience for both you and your baby, so take it one step at a time.
- The First Time: Ideally, this occurs soon after birth. Relax and try not to worry about anything other than enjoying the moment. The nurse will help you out and dad can offer support, too. Skin-to-skin contact relaxes your baby and encourages breastfeeding instincts. Your uterus will get busy shrinking back to its normal size, which causes period-like contractions when breastfeeding: 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, with his mouth wide and low on the areola.
- Babies Feed Often: At first, it’s 8 to 12 times a day for around 30 minutes each session with the frequency and duration diminishing over time. Get a comfortable “feeding station” set up at home, with something to read, snacks, and water so you stay hydrated.
- Try Different Positions: You and your baby will want to be comfortable, so try different positions. They have names like The Cradle, The Crossover and The Football hold. Changing positions also helps avoid sore nipples, and nursing pillows like the Boppy 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 Veteran Moms
- “Plan on sore nipples; they essentially need to break in.”
- “A poor latch can make your nipples worse. When he has a bad one, force yourself to detach the baby. Even if it’s tough to re-latch, it’s better than continuing in pain.”
- “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!”
- “Don’t look at the clock.”
- “Start using the breast pump at least a week before you need to go back to work.”
- “I dried up at around 8 weeks. The guilt was horrible. Looking back, that’s the one thing I would change.”
- “The best way he eats is when I’m lying on my side in bed and he’s lying there facing me. I never would have thought of that, but I was lying there half asleep and he (dad) just pulled my shirt up and put the baby on there, and he ate for a full hour.”
Edel & Ryan: Breastfeeding (2:44)
Ninette: Breastfeeding & Getting Educated (2:35)
There’s a very strong movement that’s working hard to ensure every mother gets the support needed to successfully breastfeed. This essentially involves 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, without the help, would have gotten overwhelmed, frustrated, and given up. But if you feel the breastfeeding support you’re receiving is actually creating more chaos after the birth, find someone you’re more comfortable with: Having a person you click with is a huge help in making breastfeeding successful for you and your baby.
Read! 23 Great Nursing Tips
Dads’ 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)