As a pregnant mom, you may have already attended classes on breastfeeding, bought a pump, sterilized bottles, and stocked up on Lanolin. However, many women still struggle to breastfeed right after birth, and subsequently worry about whether or not they will be able to do it. Here are some facts and guidelines that can help you prepare further for your first attempts (and successes) at breastfeeding.
1. Try as soon as you can.
You might feel like you have no idea what you are doing, and the first try might not yield much of a result, but trying to nurse right after birth is one of the best ways to start producing enough milk for your baby. Shortly after birth, your body produces a substance called colostrum, which has a deep yellow color. It's a power-food full of antibodies, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for your baby. You only make a few tablespoons, but since your baby's stomach is so small, this is usually more than enough.
Your baby may show signs of wanting to eat a lot during the first few days of life. This is normal because his or her stomach is so small, but also because you won't start making regular milk until a few days postpartum. This is normal. Breastfeeding a lot during this initial stage may seem tiring, but it can be very useful. Since your body produced breast milk on a supply and demand cycle, putting your baby to the breast as much as possible during this "dry" spell can encourage your milk to come in sooner and help to increase milk supply.
Babies often lose weight during these first few days, and that is normal. However, if your baby shows signs of extreme hunger or dehydration even after breast feeding, supplementing with formula can help bridge the gap. While supplementing, try using your breast pump to keep up the demand. This will help protect your developing milk supply.
2. Take time for self care
It can take time for your breasts to adjust to the stress of breastfeeding. Before your milk comes in, you may have sore nipples. They can even crack or bleed. Putting lanolin on the cracks can help. You can also ask your hospital lactation consultant for a nipple shield to see if it helps.
After your milk comes in, you will want to spend some time at home. Generally, your breasts get very large in size, and they can feel swollen. You can help the swelling by using alternating cold and hot compresses. The cold helps to ease the discomfort, and the hot compress can help to prevent clogged ducts. As soon as you can, massage out areas that feel patchy and hard. You can also pump off some of the excess in order to take the pressure off, but try to use your baby to nurse it off whenever possible. Your supply will eventually regulate to your baby's needs.
During this time, you'll want o have a stock of lightweight bras that have plenty of stretch. Nursing pads can help protect your clothing. it helps to have someone there to help you with the laundry, because you may go through extra tops and rags.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Finally, it's important to know when you need help. Sometimes babies have trouble latching or your supply struggles. You can have your baby examined by a pediatric dentist for tongue or lip tie -- these affect a baby's ability to latch properly and can make feeding more painful for you. A lactation consultant can help immensely, and they are worth the short term investment for long term gains.
For more information, contact a doctor to learn about newborn care. You can also contact establishments like Willow Oak Pediatrics.