The principles of breast-feeding are very simple and very essential for you to know.
The infants sucking stimulates the breasts to produce more milk. When the baby is given a bottle to allow mom to skip a feeding, sleep all night, or be away from the baby, and does not pump her breasts, her body will usually begin to slow down production. Conversely, when baby is hungry or growing more than usual, he or she will want to nurse more often. It is the law of supply and demand.
Lets answer the most common questions.
When do I start?
The best beginning is to be able to take advantage of the first wakeful period of your babys life right after birth for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Introduce him to your breast on the delivery table or bed. Babies initiated at this time make good nursers later on when they wake enough to nurse again hours or even a day later. (Moms medication may have made baby sleepy.)
This has several other benefits as well:
How do I start?
Unless you have had painkillers and other strong medications during the birthing process, the baby should wake 6-8 hours after birth and begin to nurse. This varies, of course, but as long as you and the baby are together, you can see when baby wakes and is ready to latch on.
Latching-on is sometimes a normal phenomenon and sometimes has to be assisted in order to occur.
Hospital policies often require babies to swallow something after four hours from birth and will force feed formula if baby is not breast-feeding.
Both you and the doctor need to know if baby swallows and eliminates normally. Conditions that prevent these functions can be very serious.
This is also a wonderful time to begin bonding with your newborn. This natural and instinctive process is actually a two-way attachment between the infant, who needs to learn how to trust someone to take care of her, and the parent, someone willing to accept and care for this little helpless and vulnerable child totally and unconditionally.
How do I know my baby is getting enough?
After the milk supply comes in and is established about 5-10 days after birth, you can begin to count wet diapers.
How often do I nurse?
When your infant begins to sleep for longer periods of time, so will you. It also means waking your newborn up every three hours, day and night, especially if he or she is less than average weight. This really is for just a very short period of time in a lifetime of parenting, but an essential one for your babys well-being. It just seems like forever at 3 am.
Pacifiers come in different shapes and sizes, so you may need to try different types before finding the one that your little one takes to.
How do I know if she is nursing and not just sleeping?
Babies suckle in bursts, stopping and starting, resting and working. When your milk comes in the baby will nurse vigorously and later suck slowly and rest in between. Remember too that most babies have a need to just suckle. My personal theory is that the babies who are allowed to satisfy this sucking need as infants are less likely to need to suck on cigarettes as adults. Of course, this is still just a theory.
What does breast milk look like?
The first pre-milk or colostrum is clear to yellow, a little thicker and is higher in proteins.
This turns to white when the milk supply comes in. Then there are two distinct characteristics.
This is why you need to feed from both sides. If he is getting only one side he will not gain weight as well and will drive you crazy by wanting to nurse all the time.
How long do I breast-feed?
Do you mean in minutes, months or years? Good question!
A common pattern is like this: The first side is 10 to 15 minutes. Break the suction with your finger in the little tikes mouth. It won't hurt him or you, unless he has a full set of teeth and is still nursing at age six. The second side can be nursed for as long as baby likes or until the doorbell rings. Be sure to burp your baby between breasts.
How many days, weeks or months can I breast-feed?
This is between you, your baby and your life-style. Not too many moms can stay home as long as they would like any more. Personally, I feel if you can breast-feed for a few months, this is great. Then go back to work.
And what if it is only for a few weeks? Wonderful. You have given your baby a good start.
What if you stop after only a few days? You have given you baby something no one else in world could give - your colostrum with all it's incredible immunity factors and you have given your best try. Two marvelous gifts.
Can I go back to work, school or can I travel and still breast-feed baby?
Of course. Breast-feeding babies and travel go together. Just pick up enough diapers, bottom wipers, clothes and you are ready to go. The same for going to school. All you need is access to the baby so you can nurse on demand. Thousands of breast-feeding babies go to school and college with their moms every year. They tend to be content and happy babies.
Going to work takes a little more preparation:
What if my baby never establishes a routine?
This means your baby is normal. Routines are for bottle fed babies as they tend to feed every 4 hours. Some moms find that feeding formula on demand or when the little one is hungry works well for their child. Especially in breast feeding, it is necessary to watch your baby and not the clock. Of course there are some babies who can be assisted in establishing a good pattern.
What if my breasts leak?
This is actually a good sign, irritating as it is standing in line at the checkout counter. It means you have established not only a good milk supply but you and your baby need each other, the way Mother Nature intended for babies to survive and be well.
What do I eat or not eat?
For more information see Nutrition and Dieting During Breast-feeding. The best guidelines are easy to remember.
What if I have to wean from breast-feeding?
Milk will remain to a small extent and can be fully reinstated for at least 6 months after weaning in cases of emergency such as infant illness or allergic reactions to food, formula and cows milk. For more information on weaning for babies of different age groups see Weaning.
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Breast Feeding Basics