As a new parent, you will find that breastfeeding is a combination of practice and patience. Your milk is the perfect first food for your baby and has all the nutrients your baby needs to grow healthy and strong.
Breastmilk digests easily, and is naturally gentle on your baby’s digestive tract. Breastmilk is high in antibodies protecting your baby against illness and allergies. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus return to a non-pregnant size sooner so there is less blood loss after your baby is born. Breastfeeding may even protect you against certain cancers.
Early and frequent breastfeeding helps make milk. It is important to understand that the more the baby nurses, and if they are nursing well, the more milk you make. If very little milk is taken from the breast or if a bottle is offered on a regular basis, instead of a breastfeeding, the breast will make less milk. To make plenty of milk, nurse your baby every 2 – 3 hours during the day with one longer stretch at night, about 4 hours, when your baby sleeps. Time the feeding from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next feeding. On the average, babies need 8 – 12 feedings in 24 hours. In the early days after birth, babies are often sleepy. Please wake your baby for feedings every 2 – 3 hours until you baby regains birth weight, at about one to two weeks of age.
Babies are ready for feeding when they place their fists to their mouth, pucker/smack their lips and turn their head/root. Crying is a late hunger cue. These are all signs your baby is ready to eat.
To help your baby get plenty of milk, it is important that you hold your baby so that his whole body faces the breast. He should not have to turn his head into the breast or over his shoulder to nurse. When you’re in the hospital, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a lactation consultant or a knowledgeable nurse to make sure that you have your baby positioned well. Good positioning can help your baby achieve a good latch. This is especially important if you’re experiencing soreness that lasts beyond the initial latch on. There are many different positions in which to breastfeed, such as cross cradle, football and laid back. For information on laid back breastfeeding, see our article here Laid Back Breastfeeding
Your baby should be latched onto your breast (areola) tissue, not your nipple. The areola is the darker portion of breast tissue that encircles the nipple. Some have very large areola, some small. Your baby does not need to take in all of the areola tissue. In general, a “good” latch is one where baby’s latch is asymmetric, meaning they have taken in most of the bottom portion of the areola, leaving more of the top portion of areola tissue more visible. This enables their chin to be placed on the breast, with their nose tilted up. Ideally, the corner of their mouth should be wide, not narrow, as this often means they are latching just on the nipple. However, try not to worry about what the latch looks like. If breastfeeding is comfortable, and baby is transferring milk well and gaining appropriately, there is no need to be concerned if your baby’s latch doesn’t look “perfect.” Comfortable breastfeeding, along with good milk removal and well gaining baby are what matter most!