Breastfeeding Basics

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breastfeeding Basics

Breastfeeding (often called “nursing”) is a great way to give your baby a healthy start in life.  

How do I start?

The first milk you make for your baby is called colostrum. It comes in perfectly tiny amounts for your baby’s stomach. The colostrum will last about 2‒5 days. Then you will make more milk (your milk will “come in”) to keep up with your baby’s growing stomach. Your milk may then be thicker and look more white in color.

When can I breastfeed my baby?

Try to feed your baby as soon after birth as possible. Many babies are born ready and looking for the breast. In the first days and weeks, you might feel like your baby always wants to eat. Eating 8‒12 times a day is normal for newborns. Get tips on how to know if your baby is hungry.

How will I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?

Here are three ways to know if your baby is eating enough:

Diapers. Count how many wet and dirty diapers your baby has each day. By the time a baby is 4 days old, 5‒6 wet diapers and 3‒4 dirty diapers a day is normal. The urine should be light in color and not have a strong odor. Dirty diapers should be loose and yellow. You might see what looks like seeds or small thick lumps (like cottage cheese) inside. 

Weight. Babies who eat well gain weight. It is completely normal for babies to lose a little bit of their body weight in the days immediately after birth. Most babies are back to their birth weight by the time they are 2 weeks old. Babies usually gain between one-half and 1 ounce per day. Talk to your baby’s doctor if you have questions about your baby’s growth. 

Activity. Babies who are getting enough to eat typically have some time every day when they are alert, looking at people and things around them, and reacting to noises. This is how babies learn about the world.

What if I have questions or need help?

You probably won’t have breastfeeding all figured out in the first few days. You and your baby are learning together. At the hospital, nurses and lactation consultants (breastfeeding experts) can answer your questions, help you, and encourage you. After you leave the hospital, get answers and help from your doctor, the staff at your local WIC office, and the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC Exit disclaimer).

Why does it hurt when I’m breastfeeding?

Many women feel only a slight tug at the nipple while breastfeeding. Other women find breastfeeding to be uncomfortable or even painful at first. The good news : it’s often fixable with a little help and support. Try these tips, if you experience discomfort or pain:

Get comfy. Find a comfortable place to sit. Make sure your whole body is well supported. Keep some pillows close by so you can use them to support your arms and back. Leaning back, like you would sit back in a recliner chair, can work well. Turn your baby’s body toward yours. Support him or her well to easily reach your breast.

Open wide. Try to have your baby’s mouth open wide to take in your nipple plus the areola (the dark area around your nipple). Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable because the baby is not taking enough of the breast into his or her mouth. Place your nipple at your baby’s nose and wait for your baby to open wide. When they do, pull them in close to your breast. The wider the mouthful, the less discomfort you may feel.  

Ask for help. If you have pain while breastfeeding, don’t go it alone. Your doctor, your baby’s doctor, or a local hospital can help you connect with a breastfeeding specialist (lactation consultant), mothers support group, or other resources.

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