Breastfeeding has a number of benefits, breast milk is rich in nutrients and has antibodies that are tailored specifically to the needs of your baby. Research suggests that breast milk may lower the risk of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it’s also believed that babies who are breastfed are less likely to have allergies, asthma and diabetes. The long lasting benefits of breastfeeding can be seen well into adulthood. With the countless benefits that breastfeeding offers, it can be quite disheartening to find yourself struggling to feed your baby. From the moment your baby is born, there are a few things you can do to improve the chances of breastfeeding success.
From the moment they’re born
Unless there are any problems, you shouldn’t be separated from your baby for at least an hour after they’re born. During this time your midwife will help you have skin to skin contact with your baby, which should help encourage breastfeeding. Your midwife will help you breastfeed, this will include teaching you how to position your baby that helps them attach effectively, as well as how to express.
Keeping your baby with you after the birth will also help to promote feelings of closeness. During this time, the hormone oxytocin is produced, which promotes lactation. Oxytocin triggers the let-down reflex and can foster bonding, both of which can help make breastfeeding easier.
Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby are learning to do for the first time, and for some it may be harder to get a hang of. But it’s important to remember that, like anything new, breastfeeding will take time and patience.
Problems with latching
It may take a while for your baby to learn how to latch on to your breast and feed properly. It’s a myth that babies are born knowing how to latch properly, it takes time and trial and error. Latching on is the way your baby takes your nipple into their mouth to feed. It’s the most important part of breastfeeding, without a proper latch your baby won’t get the milk they need, nor will your breasts be stimulated to produce more milk, thereby creating a cycle of poor milk supply and demand.
Some babies have little to no problems attaching, but for most, it takes more time. Here are some tips to help ease into the process:
- Ensure your baby is always tummy to tummy with you. You may need pillows to elevate your baby to nipple height
- Help guide your baby into place, by bringing them toward the breast instead of leaning in towards them, which may cause you back and neck pain
- You can tell that your baby is latched on and suckling when there’s a suck-swallow-breathe pattern
- If you don’t get a good latch, try again. Put your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and pull your breast out
- If you’re having trouble getting your baby to latch on, a nipple shield can be an effective tool to give them something larger to aim for at first. Always work with a lactation consultant when using a nipple shield though, as they should ideally be a temporary solution
When your baby is “latched on”, the right way, both lips should pout out and cover nearly all of your areola. Your baby’s jaw should begin to move back and forth. Your baby may make low-pitched swallowing noises instead of smacking noises.
How often should you feed your baby?
Feed your baby as often as he or she wants to be fed. Learn how to tell when they’re hungry. Crying can be a sign of hunger, but it may be too late. Babies who are crying or are upset have a harder time latching on. Watch out for early signs of hunger. Your baby may:
- Make sucking motions
- Turn toward the breast if they are being held
- Put their hands in their mouth
- Become excited or alert
Newborns need to be breastfed every two to three hours in the beginning, and each session can take a while. You’ll know that feeding is done when your baby has completely drained at least one breast. For newborns, this can take between 20 and 45 minutes at each feeding. This may decrease over time or increase during a growth spurt. Growth spurts occur at about 2 weeks and 6 weeks of age and again at the 3 month and 6 month points.
Let your baby feed until they are satisfied, they should let go on their own once they are done. It’s important to not limit the time you let your baby nurse as it may keep your milk ducts from completely emptying. This can decrease your milk flow and make it harder for your baby to latch it on. It also can cause swelling and pain for you.
How can you increase your milk supply?
Once your breast milk has come in, your breasts start to make milk through a process of ‘supply and demand’. Each time milk is removed, either by your baby feeding or by expressing, your breasts make more. This is something to consider if you’re thinking about switching to formula feeding or combining the two. To speed milk production and increase overall milk supply, the key is to remove more milk from the breast and to do this frequently, so that less milk accumulates in the breast between feedings. You can do this by expressing milk and storing it.
If you suspect your baby is not getting enough milk, see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. They will assess whether you have low milk supply and may observe a breastfeed to see if your baby is latched on well and taking in enough milk. They may suggest adjusting your feeding position or your baby’s latch so they can feed more efficiently.
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