- Get to know your breastfeeding support resources before your baby is born.
- Learn how to be your own advocate to breastfeed.
Moments after delivery, you can start bonding with your little one by breastfeeding for the first time.
Not only is nursing the best nutrition for baby, it helps you, too! Your baby’s sucking stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which causes your uterus to contract, decreasing vaginal bleeding. It also helps your uterus shrink to its pre-pregnancy size more quickly.
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Here are some tips for a successful start:
Before the birth
- Gather support. Recruit as many breastfeeding supporters such as your husband, friend, mother, sister or anyone who will cheer you on to breastfeed as you learn more about it.
- Talk to your doctor about breastfeeding. Let your doctor or nurse know about your intention to breastfeed and find out about what lactation support services are offered by their practice, now and after your baby is born.
- Get prenatal breast care. Have a discussion with your doctor about expected breast changes, previous breast surgeries, hormone concerns to include thyroid or diabetes and any other health questions that you think may relate to breastfeeding. This discussion may help prepare and manage special breastfeeding situations.
- Get connected with community support. Reach out and attend a prenatal breastfeeding class or breastfeeding support group. This will give you an idea of what to expect and connect you with some possible future resources.
When you’re admitted to the hospital
- Tell staff you plan to breastfeed. Ask the labor and delivery nurse to notify the nursery that you will be breastfeeding.
- Note breastfeeding on chart. Request that your baby rooms in with you continuously and have a note be made on the chart that your baby should not receive any bottle feedings. If separated from your baby, she should be brought to you when showing the first signs of hunger.
- Request breast-only feedings. Request supplements not be given to your baby unless medically necessary.
- Request to see a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant will be able to help you with positioning, latch-on and other questions that you may have before leaving the hospital.
After your baby is born
- Breastfeed as soon as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that moms breastfeed as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first hour. Your baby benefits right away from the easy-to-digest proteins, vitamins, and minerals—as well as from the protective antibodies in colostrum, the yellowish, translucent fluid your breasts secrete until your mature milk transitions over the next two to three days.
- Practice skin-to-skin. Let your labor and delivery team know your wish to lay your baby on your chest, skin-to-skin, right after birth and until the first feeding is complete. Do this as often as you’re able to during the first few months to help your baby have calm feedings, and help you have a good milk supply.
- Feed when hungry. Breastfeed your baby whenever she’s hungry, which should be at least 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period.
- Use both breasts. Breastfeed from both breasts to equalize the breastmilk production in your breasts. Allow your baby to end the feeding on the first breast before offering the second. If she refuses the second breast, offer that breast first at the next sign of hunger.
- Don’t worry about time limits. Its best not to set a specific feeding time limit but rather make sure your baby is feeding effectively until satisfied. Some babies eat quickly; others take their time.
- Look for hunger signs. It’s best that you don’t wait until your baby begins to cry to breastfeed. Instead, look for signs of hunger such as increased alertness, the rooting reflex (searching for a nipple) or the sucking reflex.
- After a C-section. Even if you’ve had a cesarean section, it’s still important to breastfeed as soon as possible. You may feel more comfortable if you have some pain medication before you breastfeed, and you may find the “football hold” will be the best way because it puts less pressure on your incision. (Imagine the way a football player carries a ball, and you’ll get the idea.)
Before you leave the hospital
- Ask a pro. Ask to have a lactation consultant observe you feeding your baby and make suggestions.
- Learn how to hand-express. Hand-expressing your milk may be all that is needed to soften your breast if you become overly full when your milk transitions to mature milk in two to three days. This will help your baby latch on easier.
- Get names and numbers. Get the names and phone numbers of the hospital’s breastfeeding consultants so you can call for advice or answers once you and your baby are home.
Once you’re home
- Call with questions. If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, ask your doctor, lactation consultant, breastfeeding peer counselor, or a friend or family member who has successfully breastfed for guidance.
Breastfeeding should not hurt.
Do not wait to get support if you feel pain or discomfort while trying to breastfeed.
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