Breastfeeding: Getting Started
Breastfeeding is a natural process that is stimulated by the baby's suckling and your hormone response to that suckling. Without adequate nipple stimulation from suckling or a breast pump, milk supply will decline steadily until your body stops milk production altogether. The best way to ensure adequate milk production is by breastfeeding your baby on demand, which may be every 1 to 3 hours for the first few weeks. It is unusual for breastfed babies to go 4 and 5 hours between feedings, because the milk is so easily digested that it clears the baby's stomach in about 1 1/2 hours. You may also notice periods of increased demand during which your baby seems to want to nurse constantly. This is also normal and usually indicates a growth spurt. It does not indicate that your milk is not satisfying your baby.
Basic positioning of you and your baby should be tummy-to-tummy with the baby's body in natural alignment. For a few days to weeks, it is probably a good idea to elevate your baby on a pillow to the level of your breast. This will increase your comfort and also make latching-on easier. Support your breast in a "C" hold with your nipples away from the areola. Touching the side of your baby's mouth with your nipple will stimulate the baby opening his mouth wide. Guide the baby to your breast. About 2/3 of the areola should be in the baby's mouth. It should not hurt, but should feel like a gently tugging. If the baby latches on to just the tip of your nipple, you will feel pain. If it hurts, release the baby's suction with your finger and re-attempt latch on. Suckling should also be without "smacking" sounds. If you hear this, your baby probably does not have a good seal.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Not being able to measure how much milk your baby is drinking is very worrisome to beginners at breastfeeding. There are ways to tell if your abby is getting enough, but they are not measured in ounces.
- Baby is satisfied/sleepy after feeding.
- Baby is wetting 5-6 disposable diapers per day.
- Baby is having several bowel movements a day. (This applies to the first 4 weeks only)
- Your breast feels soft and "squishy" after feeding.
- You hear swallowing sounds while baby is nursing.
The Importance of Letting Your Baby Control the Feeding
Allow your baby to nurse on one breast until she finishes and pulls away, then offer her the other breast. The old way of staying on one breast for 10 minutes and then switching is outdated and will not promote optimal weight gain for your baby.
The reason for this is that the mil the baby gets during the first part of the feeding is skim milk. This milk contains lots of lactose and very little fat. The milk that follows this is hind milk. This milk is very rich in fat and calories. It is the "cream" of the milk. If the baby switched to the other breast before getting the hind milk, then she will be getting skim milk from both sides. It is okay if your baby does not want the second side - just offer the breast for the next feeding.
You may notice as your baby gets older that he/she nurses for less time. This is because he becomes quite skilled at emptying the breast and will do it in less time.
Pumping and Storing Breast Milk
Generally, it is better to use a double breast electric pump to obtain the most milk for your time. Using a double set-up also increases your levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production. Milk can be refridgerated up to 48 hours. It can be frozen up to three months in a refrigerator freezer and up to 6 months in a deep freezer. Label each bottle with the date it was pumped. Try to freeze your milk in plastic or glass bottles. Studies have shown that using plastic bags to freeze breast milk destroys some of the antibodies in the milk.
Congratulations on choosing the best milk for your baby!