Learn About Latch & Breastfeeding with YouTube

Photo from La Leche League International.

When beginning to breastfeed, and throughout your breastfeeding career, achieving a proper latch is the key to ensuring a comfortable experience for you (no cracked or bleeding nipples) and a satisfying experience for your baby (milk in his tummy!). Know this: Breastfeeding should not hurt! If it does, you must re-examine your baby’s latch. A poor latch leads to hurt, sore, and “traumatized” nipples, which leads to frustration, pain, and disappointment. If you find that you’re experiencing pain from breastfeeding, seek help as soon as possible. The sooner you can fix a bad latch, the less likely it is you will endure more severe nipple pain. If possible, seek help from a lactation consultant in your area. Some will consult over the phone, which can help, but for latch problems, it’s best if a lactation consultant see you and your baby feeding in action. Often, hospital maternity wards will have lactation consultants on staff. Call the hospital to ask if you can stop by for a consultation. Otherwise, search for a private lactation consultant in your area.

If a lactation consultant is not available or if you’ve already seen someone and want more information, YouTube is an excellent resource. YouTube contains several videos that demonstrate — with a live baby & mom — a good latch. Search YouTube with phrases like “good breastfeeding latch,” “how to get a good latch,” and “good latch bad latch.” Watch a few different videos to see how babies are positioned at different angles, and how a good latch looks looks on moms with different breast size and appearance, and with babies of different ages.

 Have you used YouTube for breastfeeding help? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

Breastfeeding & Parenting: One Family’s Experience

By Lauralee Moss

Creative Commons photo by Raphael GoetterColds and the flu always surrounded my poor babies. Before I stayed home with them, I taught high school language arts. My students gave their nasty germs to me, and even though I nursed my children, they still got “lighter” versions of my illnesses. Seeing sick babies is always difficult for me, but it’s even more tough with a nursling who struggles to latch with a stuffed nose.

My husband and I created a routine to make nursing a sick baby easier: I showered and dressed before work, and then he showered. Only about five minutes into his time, I handed him a small towel and an infant. The warm water and steam rinsed off goopy eyes and cleared stuffy noses. Daddy finished showering, and I nursed a relaxed and latch-able baby.

I no longer teach, but my older two children are in school and bring home germs to the baby. We continue our routine, as he still volunteers to shower the baby if the tiny nose stuffs up again.

This seemingly small task makes my nursing life easier, as does all of my husband’s help. Nursing is an important, but fractional part of our larger parenting work. I may do the actual, physical feeding, but their father provides indispensable support as I nurse.

I’ve heard friends make the argument that by formula-feeding, they are not the only ones responsible for feeding — that the father will bond with the baby and will do “just as much work” as the mom.

In our family, we have found ways, apart from feeding, for my husband to bond with our babies. Showering tiny sick ones is just one of those ways. He lifted our babies’ tiny arms to wake them when they fell asleep at the breast. He carefully positioned them around my cesarean section incision for more comfortable nursing. He remembered advice from the lactation consultants and pediatrician as I sat in a new-mom daze. He helped me cover myself with a blanket as I ventured out as a new mother. As I grew in my confidence, he stood beside me as I publicly breastfed without a cover. He has listened to me discuss my breastfeeding theories and observations and defended me when family members questioned why I was still feeding our baby “on the boob.” When others question why I didn’t start feeding our first baby solids at four months, he quoted the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization statements about breastfeeding for six months.

Now that I nurse our third child, he provides healthy answers for our older two children when they ask: “How does the milk come out? Where does the milk go? Why does Cara not drink from a bottle? I want to see the MILK!” Most importantly, when my impressionable son asked why I nurse the baby, my husband said, “Because that is how it is supposed to be.”

Normalizing the process for the next generation — acting as a role model for a son — is important work. My husband has defended, physically helped, and mentally supported my breastfeeding. He does it all, not because he came to our parenting relationship as an outspoken breastfeeding advocate, but because we parent the best way we know how, and we do that together.

We have always seen breastfeeding as a part of parenting — and we parent together. I supply the food for a tiny fraction of our children’s lives. He has at least seventeen years to feed our babies.  I have breasts for food — he has big bear shoulders for the kids to ride around the house. Together, we provide both the physical and mental nourishment for our children.

 

Lauralee Moss lives in Illinois with her husband, three children, and crazy dog. She writes at switchingclassrooms.com.

Using Hand Expression to Support Breastfeeding

Did you know that you don’t need a breast pump to express milk? “Hand expression” refers to the act of manually pumping milk from the breast using your hands. Knowing how to effectively use hand expression can help relieve engorgement, encourage milk supply, and even pump enough milk to store and feed baby at a later time. For the best results, follow these steps for hand expression:

 

1. Wash your hands.

2. Massage your breast.

3. Position your hand in a “C” shape on the outside of your areola (or 1-1.5 inches from your nipple) using your thumb and two forefingers.

4. Press back toward your chest.

5. Roll your fingers forward toward your nipple, compressing your breast.

6. Release & repeat. Be sure to change positions of your “C” throughout your session so as to use all of your milk ducts. If your breast was a clock, move your “C” so your thumb hits 12, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock.

 

When collecting milk during hand expression, use a cup, bowl or any container with a wide mouth opening. And, keep a towel under your breast to help absorb any runaway drips.

Hand expression can also be used while feeding your baby and while pumping to encourage flow. For more information, including an excellent video demonstration, check out these resources:

1. Hand expression basic instructions PDF - La Leche League

2. Hand expression video – Stanford School of Medicine (best video I’ve seen, by far)

3. More tips for hand expression – Dr. Sears

 

 

Great Expectations: Meagan @ 2 Months Postpartum

I just got back from Adelyn’s 2-month-check up. I was looking forward to this appointment because a few weeks ago she started giving me some problems breastfeeding. She has been crying when I try to get her to eat. I tried a variety of things to coax her into feeding. I found that standing and walking with her worked best. This was all new territory for me because my first two were excellent nursers and would take the breast anytime it was offered. Not only was Adelyn not taking it at every offering, but also she was wanting to space out feedings and then would only nurse for about five minutes per feeding. So what did the doctor have to say? Chill out. At least that’s my interpretation of what he said.

 

During our struggles, Adelyn seemed to be getting enough to eat because she was acting fine and had enough wet diapers. But it bothered me that she seemed to nurse infrequently and quickly. Of course I turned to books and online sources. They all tell how often a newborn should feed (every two hours), but they fail to go beyond that. How was I supposed to know the ideal frequency for a two-month-old? After all, my first two fed every two to three hours for months. The books also all warned that if a baby doesn’t feed often enough, your supply could suffer. Great. So now I wasn’t only worrying about her ability to thrive, but also the level of my milk supply. Who said breastfeeding was easy? This being my third child, you’d think I would be a seasoned pro. After all, I nursed the first two exclusively for nine months each and they weaned after the age of one. The problem was the first two were very similar and never gave me any issues. They fed like champs. Well, perhaps they fed too well, as you can see below from Kenna’s plethora of fat rolls.


As for Adelyn, I had no idea how her weight was doing. I was tempted to put her in the produce scale at the grocery store to see what she weighed. Instead, I waited for today’s appointment. Turns out that she is holding steady in the 50th percentile at nearly 12 pounds. She is growing ever longer, measuring 24 inches, which puts her in the 95th. (She apparently didn’t get my height genes.) When the doc saw her numbers and took a look at her, he basically said she’s completely healthy and thriving. I told him about the fussy feedings and all I had done to try to get her to feed. He said I had done exactly as he would’ve recommended. Given her numbers, he thinks I have an abundant supply and she can handle a larger quantity at an earlier age than my first two kids could, plus she is so efficient that she can drain the breast quickly.

 

So what I’ve learned today is that each child is different. Just because you have three kids, it doesn’t mean you are a pro by any means. Breastfeeding can be stressful, but a healthy baby knows what she is doing. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath. And at other times you need to throw away the books.

From the Bedroom to the Board Room: How I Learned to Nurse in Public

Originally published on July 2, 2010.

This post was originally written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige atNursingFreedom.org

***

 

The first time I nursed in public, I was at a La Leche League meeting. What a perfect way to be initiated to nursing around other people.

Breastfeeding is such a personal act at the beginning, an intimate dance between the baby and the mother that begins at the moment of birth. Slowly (sometimes excruciatingly slowly), they find a rhythm, and open up a little to the outside world. Rituals and routines established in the early days – I sit on this area of the couch with these pillows, and look for the feeding cues, and get the latch just right – give way to a looser, more organic relationship. When the universe widens just a bit, other breastfeeding moms are the perfect guests to invite in. When I give breastfeeding mothers advice, I almost always say, “Find a group of breastfeeding moms to socialize with in the first few weeks, and nurse around each other.”

When my baby was just two months old, I went to my first Lamaze conference. I nursed in educational sessions and the exhibit hall and around the hotel during breaks. I shared a hotel room with women who were well past their childbearing years, and yet welcomed having a baby at the slumber party (and no, my baby most definitely was not “sleeping through the night”). Then I had to report briefly to the Board of Directors about a project I was working on, and I breast fed my baby at the board room table. While I presented to the Board members.

I look back on this time now and I realize how fortunate I was. My earliest experiences of opening my baby’s and my universe to others reinforced that nursing is normal, joyful, and important. In a way, it was totally unremarkable to nurse my baby while addressing my supervisor and her Board of Directors. But at the same time, it was something to be celebrated. The people at the table weren’t weirded out that I was breastfeeding. They loved it - reveled in it. We even talked about how it is important to have babies at our conferences. Our work affects them!

My son weaned 4 months ago, ending what had been six and a half years of continuously being either pregnant or nursing. I have nursed in more places than I could begin to count. Wherever I’ve been when my babies happened to become hungry, I’ve nursed.

Only once – ever – did I get a negative remark. I was sitting in a coffee shop nursing my then-18-month-old son, and a 20-something year old guy behind me said to his friend, “You know what I hate? Babies who breastfeed.” I saw his comment for what it was – ignorance mixed with “I’m-an-’ironic’-hipster-trying-to-impress-my-friend”. But I can imagine a new mom hearing that and feeling like an outcast. I was so thankful to have such confidence that his comment didn’t faze me at all. I mostly just felt sad for him.

Thank you to all of those La Leche League moms for instilling in me that early confidence. And thank you to all of the Lamaze leaders with whom I was so incredibly fortunate to share my early mothering. What a gift.

***

 

This post was just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit the other articles listed below:

Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

 

Breastfeeding Tips: Making Work Work for Your Baby

Originally published on December 8, 2010.

By Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE and Allison Walsh, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE

Committed to breastfeeding but concerned that going back to work or school might make breastfeeding too hard? Breastfeeding can make it easier to stay connected. With a little planning, you can do it! Here are some simple ideas that have helped other moms:

  • Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk.
  • Delay returning to work as long as possible.
  • Plan to go back to work part-time at first, if you can.
  • Plan to start work at the end of the week, to ease into your new routine.

The Countdown*

Before your baby is born:

  • Take a breastfeeding class.
  • Talk with your childcare provider and your employer about your plans to continue breastfeeding.
  • Consider childcare close to work or school, where you may be able to breastfeed during lunch breaks.
  • Choose a healthcare provider for your baby who supports breastfeeding.
  • Join a support group for breastfeeding mothers.

Once your baby is born:

  • Focus on learning to breastfeed and making lots of milk. (You don’t need to start pumping yet!)

2 weeks before returning to work:

  • Rent or buy a double electric pump, if possible.
  • Begin pumping and storing milk.
  • Have someone else feed the baby with the new feeding method.
  • Find clothes that make pumping easier, such as two-piece outfits and tops that button in the front. (Prints hide leaks better than solid colors.)

4-7 days before going back to work:

  • Leave your baby with the caregiver for a short practice session.
  • Work out an emergency plan for the unexpected, such as a sick child, car trouble, or traffic.

The night before you go back to work:

  • Pack your baby’s bag, and a healthy lunch and snack for you.
  • Gather your pump, cooler, and milk storage containers.
  • Lay out your clothes for work. Pack extra cotton breast pads and extra tops or sweaters in case of leaking.

Going to work:

  • Allow enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed and not rushed.
  • Plan ahead for the evening meal. For example, take food from the freezer or place something in a slow cooker.
  • Nurse your baby at home and again at the caregiver’s to keep up your milk supply.
  • Nurse or pump at work at least 3 times in 8 hours for a young baby.

Picking your baby up from the caregiver:

  • Plan to stop and nurse your baby as soon as you get to the caregiver’s.
  • Leave the milk you pumped while at work with the caregiver for the next day.
  • When you get home, nurse your baby again and enjoy reconnecting.

Every morning:

  • Give yourself enough time so that your morning breastfeeding is relaxed.
  • Plan ahead for the evening meal.

Did You know?

  • Hand washing is the best way to help keep you and your baby well. Wash your hands for 15 seconds before nursing and pumping.
  • Your breasts are never empty. Your baby can get milk if you’ve just pumped.
  • Try pumping in the morning. Milk volume is greater. (Some women pump on one side while nursing on the other.)
  • Three short pumping sessions, about 10 minutes each, are more effective than one long one.
  • Gentle massage while pumping may help you pump more milk.
  • Start at the lowest suction setting on your pump and increase to a setting that removes milk and feels comfortable. (Pumping shouldn’t hurt.)
  • When you and your baby are apart, pump often to maintain your milk supply. Avoid waiting until your breasts feel full.
  • Weekends are a great time to enjoy breastfeeding your baby while building your milk supply. Leave pumping and other feeding methods for workdays.

Storing and Using Pumped Breastmilk — A Guide

To Store

  • Store breastmilk in a clean, airtight container. Use hard plastic or glass with tight fitting, solid lids or disposable feeding bottle liners or breastmilk storage bags. Leave ¼ of the container empty if you plan to freeze.
  • Store it in the coldest part of the freezer, under the icemaker or in a back corner.
  • Label the milk with the date and your child’s name. This is important when leaving pumped milk with the caregiver. Expert opinions vary on how long you can safely store breastmilk.**
  • Keep fresh breastmilk at room temperature up to 4-6 hours.
  • Keep fresh breastmilk in a cooler with frozen gel packs up to 24 hours.
  • Store breastmilk in the refrigerator between 3 to 8 days.**
  • Store breastmilk in a refrigerator freezer for 3 to 6 months and in a deep freezer with manual defrost for 6 to 12 months. (A freezer is cold enough to store breastmilk if it keeps ice cream hard.)

To Thaw

  • Refrigerator thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator to thaw gradually.
  • Warm-water “quick” thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in a bowl of warm tap water. Once the breastmilk is liquid, use it right away or refrigerate.
  • Never microwave! “Hot spots” in the milk may burn your baby and the microwave destroys some of the infection fighting benefits of your milk.
  • Keep thawed breastmilk in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For example, the back of the refrigerator is colder than the door. Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.

To Use After Refrigerating or Thawing

  • Warm cold breastmilk by holding container under running warm water or in warm water for a few minutes.
  • Gently mix breast milk before feeding because breastmilk components separate when thawing.
  • Discard leftover milk if the bottle has been in the baby’s mouth.

To Transport

  • Keep breastmilk as cold as possible. Use insulated carriers and reusable frozen gel packs (not ice cubes).

To Clean Your Pumps

  • Rinse pieces that came in contact with breastmilk with cool water.
  • Wash pieces with warm soapy water, rinse, and air dry on a clean towel or wash pieces in the dishwasher.

 

*You will need to adapt this schedule if you work or go to school at night.

**This information should be considered a supplement to, and not a substitute for, care by a health care provider.

The photo used in this post comes from blogger, doula and childbirth educator, Stephanie, who blogs at Mama and Baby Love where she shares many excellent tips and anecdotes derived from her own breastfeeding experiences.

Breastfeeding Information for the First Few Weeks of Life

Originally posted on March 30, 2011.

In a new post on our sister blog, Science & Sensibility, blogger and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and clinician Edith Kernerman discusses key breastfeeding information for the first few days and weeks. As an expectant or new mom (and dad/partner too!), it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in your body during this transition, including what’s normal and what may signal a problem. Below are tips and information from Edith’s post.

COLOSTRUM

“We know that newborn babies require nothing other than colostrum and that though it is not there in plentiful amounts it is adequate for baby’s growth and health[1].”Infant Stomach Size

Colostrum, known as “liquid gold,” is the nutrient-rich substance that is produced in your breasts before and up to 10 days after birth. Many mothers and uninformed family members and care providers can become concerned that your baby is not getting enough to eat prior to your milk coming in. Except in very rare cases, the colostrum that is made in your body is all that babies need. Using a breast pump to encourage more milk is not necessary. It’s helpful to keep in mind that a newborn’s stomach holds 5-7mL, which is equivalent to the size of a marble or cooked chickpea. At seven days old, it’s the size of a ping pong ball.

LATCH

“We know that a baby who is well latched with an asymmetric latch will get the colostrum that is there, and a poorly latched baby won’t[2], and yet we see thousands of mothers in our clinic who have been taught to latch baby symmetrically.”

An “asymmetrical latch” is one in which the baby takes more of the breast below the nipple than above. Once latched properly, baby’s top lip will rest just above mom’s nipple and baby’s nose will point up and away from the breast. AAsymmetrical Latchgood latch is the key to baby getting enough nutrition as well as comfort for mom and baby. Often, if a baby does not appear to be getting enough, adjusting your latch — not pumping — will fix the issue. And as a side note, Edith tells us:

“Colostrum does not respond well to a pump, it responds better to hand expression.  And so when mothers can pump nothing,  they are told they have no milk.  Best to adjust the latch and use breast compressions[3]and watch for baby’s drinking (don’t listen, you are unlikely to hear a baby drinking at that age)[4].”

ENGORGEMENT

“Contrary to popular belief engorgement is not a sign mother has a lot of milk.  Engorgement is a sign things have gone wrong.”

Edith offers several tips to reduce and fix engorgement:

  • Adjust latch so that it is asymmetrical and deep
  • Use breast compressions while baby is feeding (find video and how-to here)
  • Remain skin-to-skin as much as possible to read baby’s early feeding cues in order to feed frequently, as necessary
  • Do NOT pump engorged breasts or massage downward toward the nipple

SORE NIPPLES

“We also know that a well-latched baby should not cause mother pain[8] and yet women are told around the world to put up with the pain, or grin and bear it because it is supposed to hurt.”

As a veteran nurser myself, I will tell you (and most moms would concur) that breastfeeding does take some time for your body to adjust to the sensation. There is some initial discomfort, yes. But cracked, bleeding and “raw” nipples are NOT normal. If you do experience severely sore nipples or soreness beyond mild discomfort, seek the help of a lactation consultant. Many hospitals have these wonderful professionals on staff. If not, seek one in your area. Most likely, the cause of your soreness is a poor latch and a lactation consultant can observe and help you fix latch issues, or determine if something else is causing the pain. Edith also cautions:

“Mothers are also told to prepare their nipples (a completely non-evidenced informed practice!!) and to apply various creams and ointments on their nipples: petroleum jelly, lanolin-based creams, nipple balms—none has been supported by research.  Some make matters worse.”


World Breastfeeding Week

This week, August 1-7, is World Breastfeeding Week! What does that mean? It’s a week to promote awareness of global breastfeeding concerns, created by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and celebrated by breastfeeding advocates in more than 170 countries across the world.

 

WABA further explains:

“As global exclusive breastfeeding rates continue to rise, we may wonder – why talk about breastfeeding?Isn’t it a normal, physiological process? The reality is that most talk is confined within the health careand related spheres. WABA’s call to action is for celebrants to reach beyond these borders, in newways, and include traditionally un-involved parties, such as young people, to join in WBW. This year’s celebration is spearheaded by some of the breastfeeding movement’s newest faces along with several veteran champions. In association with the United Nation’s International Year of Youth, WABA commissioned a dedicated group of young people to carry out the United Nation’s call to actionand create awareness, mobilize and engage, connect and build bridges across generations, cultures, religions, and civilizations” on breastfeeding.”

 

Here at Giving Birth with Confidence, we will celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by publishing a new post each day with breastfeeding tips, resources and stories. On Friday, we will share a “Best of the Breast” with helpful posts from around the ‘net. We encourage you to share your own stories and tips in the comments section of each post.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Breastfeeding Information for the First Few Weeks of Life

In a new post on our sister blog, Science & Sensibility, blogger and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and clinician Edith Kernerman discusses key breastfeeding information for the first few days and weeks. As an expectant or new mom (and dad/partner too!), it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in your body during this transition, including what’s normal and what may signal a problem. Below are tips and information from Edith’s post.

COLOSTRUM

“We know that newborn babies require nothing other than colostrum and that though it is not there in plentiful amounts it is adequate for baby’s growth and health[1].”Infant Stomach Size

Colostrum, known as “liquid gold,” is the nutrient-rich substance that is produced in your breasts before and up to 10 days after birth. Many mothers and uninformed family members and care providers can become concerned that your baby is not getting enough to eat prior to your milk coming in. Except in very rare cases, the colostrum that is made in your body is all that babies need. Using a breast pump to encourage more milk is not necessary. It’s helpful to keep in mind that a newborn’s stomach holds 5-7mL, which is equivalent to the size of a marble or cooked chickpea. At seven days old, it’s the size of a ping pong ball.

LATCH

“We know that a baby who is well latched with an asymmetric latch will get the colostrum that is there, and a poorly latched baby won’t[2], and yet we see thousands of mothers in our clinic who have been taught to latch baby symmetrically.”

An “asymmetrical latch” is one in which the baby takes more of the breast below the nipple than above. Once latched properly, baby’s top lip will rest just above mom’s nipple and baby’s nose will point up and away from the breast. AAsymmetrical Latch good latch is the key to baby getting enough nutrition as well as comfort for mom and baby. Often, if a baby does not appear to be getting enough, adjusting your latch — not pumping — will fix the issue. And as a side note, Edith tells us:

“Colostrum does not respond well to a pump, it responds better to hand expression.  And so when mothers can pump nothing,  they are told they have no milk.  Best to adjust the latch and use breast compressions[3] and watch for baby’s drinking (don’t listen, you are unlikely to hear a baby drinking at that age)[4].”

ENGORGEMENT

“Contrary to popular belief engorgement is not a sign mother has a lot of milk.  Engorgement is a sign things have gone wrong.”

Edith offers several tips to reduce and fix engorgement:

  • Adjust latch so that it is asymmetrical and deep
  • Use breast compressions while baby is feeding (find video and how-to here)
  • Remain skin-to-skin as much as possible to read baby’s early feeding cues in order to feed frequently, as necessary
  • Do NOT pump engorged breasts or massage downward toward the nipple

SORE NIPPLES

“We also know that a well-latched baby should not cause mother pain[8] and yet women are told around the world to put up with the pain, or grin and bear it because it is supposed to hurt.”

As a veteran nurser myself, I will tell you (and most moms would concur) that breastfeeding does take some time for your body to adjust to the sensation. There is some initial discomfort, yes. But cracked, bleeding and “raw” nipples are NOT normal. If you do experience severely sore nipples or soreness beyond mild discomfort, seek the help of a lactation consultant. Many hospitals have these wonderful professionals on staff. If not, seek one in your area. Most likely, the cause of your soreness is a poor latch and a lactation consultant can observe and help you fix latch issues, or determine if something else is causing the pain. Edith also cautions:

“Mothers are also told to prepare their nipples (a completely non-evidenced informed practice!!) and to apply various creams and ointments on their nipples: petroleum jelly, lanolin-based creams, nipple balms—none has been supported by research.  Some make matters worse.”

Key Tips to Keep Breastfeeding Simple

Nursing is natural, but it helps to learn as much possible before you start.

Nursing is a natural and simple way to provide nutrients to your newborn. Nature intended your baby to drink breast milk, and your body is perfectly designed to produce it. During pregnancy your body has been preparing for breastfeeding, and colostrum (early breast milk) will be ready and waiting. Right from birth your baby is able to let you know when he is hungry, to attach to the breast, and to suck, swallow and digest milk that meets his specific nutritional needs.

So how does it work? Your baby’s sucking at the breast stimulates milk production, so the more he nurses, the more milk will be available to him. Pacifiers and formula supplements will interfere with this process, especially in the early weeks. Your baby should nurse at least eight to 12 times in 24 hours during the first weeks. (The exception to this is the first 24 hours after birth, when many babies sleep more.) He may nurse in clusters, rather than every 2 hours, and he should nurse until he’s satisfied. This ensures that he receives your hind milk, which is rich in fat and calories. Limiting nursing to 5 or 10 minutes on each side deprives your baby of this important and nutritious food. Let baby finish the first breast before offering the second. Watch your baby, not the clock.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you do not need to drink large amounts of fluid or avoid certain foods* when you’re breastfeeding. Eat and drink to satisfy your thirst and your appetite, but aim to take in about 500 additional calories per day, for a total of about 2,700 calories daily (discuss your personal nutritional needs with your doctor). Most women find nursing helps shed some pregnancy pounds since it burns between 600 and 800 calories a day.

Your baby will let you know when he is ready to nurse, lastly by crying but first with a number of early feeding cues: rapid eye movements under the eyelids, an imitation of sucking, hand-to-mouth gestures and small sounds. If you wait until your baby cries, it may be difficult to help him settle down enough to latch on properly. Keep your baby close, and you’ll learn to spot his hunger cues.

Latching On
It’s instinctual for a newborn to attach to the breast. Studies have shown that a baby placed skin-to-skin on his mother’s chest right after birth can crawl to the breast and latch on. If you hold your baby in the traditional cradle position, he’ll be able to latch on properly when his head is level with your breast, aligned with his body, and he is facing you. You should not have to lean toward him, and he should not have to reach toward you to attach. Wait for your baby to open his mouth wide so that he attaches to the areola, not just the nipple.

Another option is the football hold, where your baby is tucked by your side. Hold him on his side, his nose to your nipple. Place your arm along his back, supporting his shoulders and neck with your fingers and thumb behind his ears. Don’t hold the back of his head; he will instinctively throw it back as he latches on. Be patient and let your baby lead you; don’t rush him or pressure yourself. Remember, he knows how to do this.

As he sucks, watch and listen for his swallowing. This is the ultimate assurance that he is getting milk. Your baby will let you know when he is finished by unlatching or falling asleep; he may not want to nurse on the other breast. If he doesn’t, it will feel full when he is ready to nurse again, so start with that side.

If you pay attention to your baby’s feeding cues, nurse him often and allow him to nurse until he is finished, you can be sure he is getting enough milk. Look for these signs:

  • You will notice the change in his sucking: bursts of sucking will be followed by a pause as he swallows. You can also see the neck muscles move as he swallows milk.
  • The color of his stool will change from the dark meconium to mustard yellow by day four if he’s getting enough milk. By day six, your baby should have at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements in a 24-hour period.
  • Your baby should be gaining weight, although it may take 2 to 3 weeks for him to regain his birth weight.

Some babies take a few days or even weeks to breastfeed effortlessly. If yours is not nursing frequently, you are unable to identify swallowing or he is not producing enough wet diapers and bowel movements, contact your health care provider or lactation consultant immediately. Also, keep in mind that it’s common to experience some discomfort during the first few minutes of breastfeeding. However, your nipples shouldn’t hurt throughout the entire feeding. If they do, it’s likely that your baby isn’t latching on properly. If your baby is latched correctly and you’re still experiencing pain after a few minutes, you should seek help. Most breastfeeding problems have simple solutions, but it’s important to get help sooner rather than later. Many pediatricians and hospitals have lactation consultants on staff – and may conduct regular breastfeeding classes. Your local department of health may also have a referral service.

You and your baby were made to breastfeed. Have confidence in yourself and your baby’s ability, and treasure this natural bonding time.

*Alcohol and many prescription and non-prescription drugs pass through your breastmilk to your baby. Consult your health care provider or lactation consultant for information on what is safe. Some women have reported that certain foods they consume cause their babies to have increased gas. If you suspect that is the case, discuss it with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.