How to Nurse Your Baby: Breastfeeding Information and Tips

How to Breastfeed Your Baby: Tips and Tricks to Get it Right

information about breastfeeding and nursing babies

Only about 1/3 of all babies in America are breastfed. This is appalling, but with the doctors getting behind the truth of the matter, that breastfeeding is best, there is a great chance this number will improve, for the sake of our children and for us. There are many benefits for both mother and child when breastfeeding.

breastfeeding tipsIt is something that can seem hard to do, however. There are many things that can stop a mother from breastfeeding. First, it can be painful to start, especially if you don't immediately get the "latch" right, because your nipples are not used to it yet. It can be very discouraging. Also, there is the peer pressure. Some people are really against it, or for some reason have an aversion to it or think its something disgusting. Some mothers used the bottle because that's what everyone did then, and so they tell their daughters to now. Other people are very "for" breastfeeding, and can stress a new mom-to-be so much by telling her she must breastfeed at all costs, that she develops an aversion to the thought of it, or becomes overwhelmed. It can be especially hard to know what to do then, when she tries and it just doesn't work, which can really happen. Just not as often as people make it seem.

There is also the fact that a lot of moms have careers, and they took maternity leave to have a child, but must return at 6 weeks post-delivery when their maternity leave benefits end. Pumping while at work and saving milk in bottles to feed baby can be an enormous chore on top of trying to integrate oneself back into working life, on top of the guilt of leaving baby with someone else in order to go to work.

advice on breastfeeding and nursingI have seen (twice now) young mothers with fat and healthy babies, who at about 2 or 3 months begin to say "I feel like my baby is not getting enough and I stress about it a lot, I am thinking about switching to a bottle."One mother of a chubby 2 month old girl infant also said "My baby is so fussy right now, I think its because she is hungry."

This is of course due to the fact that at about this time, you stop feeling your milk "come in" as much, and they no longer become engorged before feedings. It can feel like you are no longer producing enough milk, when in fact your body has just become adjusted to what your baby needs, and produces it on demand.

Also, babies at 2 months are at their most fussy, and can cry for up to 4 or 5 hours a day for no reason at all that we can fix. This is called the period of purple crying, and is caused by an underdeveloped nervous system, not hunger. It will begin to taper off and stop completely by about 4 months.

Because these mothers do not know this, because breastfeeding facts are not common knowledge anymore (nursing having fallen out of practice a few decades ago when formula came on the market) and because another option is so easily available to "fix the problem", instead of just keeping at it and see if it works, they immediately switch their baby to formula. Even though their child is actually a little high on the percentile weight scale and obviously having no problems.

Painful to Start Breastfeeding or Nursing

When a baby first tries to nurse, they instinctively know what to do. Sort of. They have the general idea, which is to turn their head and start sucking on something. But give them a break, they aren't even a day old. They aren't going to have it down perfectly the first try, and neither are you. It can really help to have a few tips on how to get a proper breastfeeding latch, and to know some facts on what exactly might be involved in breastfeeding the first few days.

The first day or two, baby's tummy is extremely small. It can only hold about 1 teaspoon of liquid at a time! So at first, your breast produce a small amount of a high calorie "cream" for them, and once they have nursed a few times, in a day or two, you will start producing more milk than cream, giving their tummy and appetite time to grow and adjust.

In fact, it is safe for baby to go their first 48 hours of life without eating at all! They are (normally) born with enough fat and nutrient reserves to live this long just fine if nursing starts out difficult or slow for either of you, giving you both time to learn how to get it right before it becomes a necessity for baby to get some real nutrition. So any amount that they manage to get down is great, and you should not worry if it seems like too little the first couple days. This is just you and your baby's time to learn, and there is no need to worry about getting enough.

One thing you will want to know is how to get baby latched on correctly to breastfeed efficiently with the least amount of pain possible. It can be hard to work with their tiny little mouths, and will definitely be easier when they are a little bigger, but it is still possible. They should not have just the nipple in their mouth when nursing, but also as much of the dark part around it as possible. This is because there is a little "holding tank" located here, where the milk flows to, and their lips and gums will simply press it into their mouths, rather than having to suck so hard on the very end to get it to come out. The nipple itself will be quite far into their little mouth with a proper latch.

On a newborn baby, the way to achieve a good latch is match up the bottom edge (under the nipple) of the dark part around the nipple with baby's bottom lip, and wait til his or her lips are wide open before popping the nipple in their mouth. You can use your fingers to press above the nipple and bend it up, then release it when their mouth opens to quickly maneuver it in for a proper nursing latch. After the first few days, you probably will not have to do this, as they will learn to automatically open their mouth wide enough.

nursing and breastfeeding information
Medela Lanolin
Also, to alleviate tenderness, and drying, you can use lanolin on your nipples to moisturize and soothe. It is safe for baby to nurse on nipples that have lanolin applied. Another great product is gel pads, which you put on over the nipple between feedings, which protect them from brushing against your bra fabric and greatly help to cool and soothe also. These worked better for me than lanolin, in fact, though I suggest using both. You may need these for up to two weeks, or not at all, but its good to have some on hand just in case. Most hospitals will have samples of them to provide you the first couple days, too.

Something you may need to know also is the amount of time you will be spending nursing. Your baby may want to nurse every 3 hours, or every half hour, and may take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes at each feeding, the first few days. Babies like to be held and to suck for comfort, and they need a lot of comfort after the horrible ordeal of being born. Learning that mommy is there to make them feel better is very important, and this is your perfect chance to teach them that. Also, this helps your body learn that it needs to start producing milk, and a lot of it.

Within one to three days after giving birth, and after a lot of 45 minute feeding sessions, you may suddenly become super-engorged, and may need to employ a rented pump to pump it all out while massaging each of the swollen glands til they are empty. Usually you will only need to do this once or twice, and after that your milk production will adjust to just what baby is eating. Beware pumping too much, as this can trigger extra milk production, which you may or may not need. Using ice packs between feedings helps A LOT to relieve the swelling also. Using heat pads can help, but only use them right before feeding baby to help melt and loosen up the milk to flow out easier. Using heat all the time instead of ice will just contribute to the swelling and make it worse.

Peer Pressure Against Breastfeeding

When your mother used a bottle to feed you and your siblings, she may automatically feel that you should do the same. You may hear that "it was good enough for you". This is one of those times when Mother's advice comes from habit and not from good sense. Just like when she may try to give your baby aspirin because that is what she did. (Aspirin has been found to be a HUGE NO-NO for infants and children)

As with all baby advice, remember that just because one baby was "just fine" when someone did something a certain way, does not mean that your baby will be "just fine". In fact it can be likely they will not be fine at all.

It can be hard to know what to do when you go out with baby. Where should you go to nurse her or him? Is it ok to do in front of your friends or family? Can you feed your baby in the store if you want to spend the day at the mall with friends? What about going for a walk at the park or going to the zoo?

People can be very cruel and odd about breastfeeding, because it is not as common as it should be with the prevalence of the "big business" of formula companies touting their product and convincing people breastfeeding is bad. The propaganda has lessened, but the prejudice remains, passed down from the last generation and the inevitable "fear of the unknown". If someone has not been around babies or heard or learned anything about nursing babies, they may look on it with disgust, as if feeding your baby in public with your breasts is somehow worse than simply popping them out of your shirt for the men who walk by to ogle at. In a worse case scenario, they may actually walk up and suggest you "do that in the bathroom".

You may reply to these people "You are free to eat your lunch on the toilet, but I won't allow my children to." It can also help to have a friend with who will sit with you and wait or visit with you, to lend moral support.

Of course if you are really popping your boob out there for everyone to see, someone is bound to be offended, but its very easy to cover up a bit. It isn't like wagging your breast around out in front of everyone to feed a baby is how they did it back in the day, so you can't justify it by saying that. There is no need for it, and women who do this are many times simply obnoxiously, rebelliously trying to "make their point". This is the same kind of mindset that terrorists have on "making their point" by doing something offensive intentionally to get back at people that oppose them. No, back in the day, they covered up a bit too. You can do the same by using a nursing cover, blanket, or simply a shirt that is made for it. You don't have to cover yourself in awkward layers, there are plenty of options for a "barely there and unnoticeable" covering of the essentials.

You also do not have to pick the most crowded place to feed your baby. Your baby is likely to appreciate some quiet while she eats, and finding a less trafficked place can cut down on the ogling, if you even get any. A lot of people will not even notice you, or think it is completely normal.

When baby gets hungry at a friend's house, you can ask for a room to feed her or him in if you feel uncomfortable doing it while visiting with your friends. This is what I usually do the first couple months, regardless if the friend is completely fine with me nursing or not, because its nice to have the privacy in case of slip ups, as I am still not a pro.

Otherwise you could ask if they are fine with your feeding your baby right there. (and remember the cover up, no need for offending friends, especially).

In a last resort (or as a first resort if you prefer) bring a couple bottles of pumped milk in a cooler and warm it up when baby needs to eat. Pumped milk will stay good for four hours at room temperature, and if you keep them in a cooler they will last a few hours longer. You can find bottle coolers that will fit in your diaper bag.

Peer Pressure To Nurse or Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is best but not for everyone

Sometimes, the people yammering at you that you should be able to do it, regardless of the problems you are running into, can be worse than the people telling you not to do it. If baby is truly not gaining weight or becoming dehydrated while you struggle to make it work, it is important to ask a doctor if you should switch to bottle or supplement with a formula bottle. You may use a pump between feedings to try to get your milk flow up, or use other tricks.

You may have a problem with your nipples that cannot be resolved by using a nipple shield or other gadget that helps a nipple become the right shape. You may have a baby that just cannot figure it out at all. This is uncommon, but happens.

breastfeeding tipsIf you have to go back to work, the added work of pumping on your breaks may be too much, when you have to go home after work and take care of baby, and then go to work and on your breaks you are also working to take care of baby, it can just be too much. You must have some breaks for yourself or you may end up being useless for working OR caring for baby. Overdoing it is not advised, and can sometimes be best for baby to just switch him or her to formula during the day. Getting a doctor's advice on this can help stop the naggers too. You are completely free to continue nursing while you are home with baby, even if you stop pumping milk for them at work. It may not work, as baby may become "nipple confused" but if you can do it, by all means it would be best!

When these things occur, and you have someone nagging you to nurse or pump anyways, it can be overwhelming and cause a lot of stress, guilt and anxiety. Just remember, when one baby has been "just fine" when a mother did something, does not mean your baby will be "just fine". This is true for deciding not to breastfeed, as well as deciding to breastfeed, or any decision you need to make for your baby. The most important thing is your babies health, and whatever will contribute to their optimum health is what you should do if at all possible. If that means you must stop trying to nurse and begin to use a bottle, that is just fine. Your friends or family members opinion should not be counted above your doctors advice or your baby's well-being.

*I have updated this post and decided to republish it because I had changed it so much.* 
*Feel free to republish ONE section of this post (any section of it, a section being a heading and all the text after until the next heading, but only one) with a link back to this page to read more.*

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