Think of breastfeeding as a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. During your pregnancy, take the One Day Breastfeeding Class offered at Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital, read books or contact one of our trained lactation educators at the Breastfeeding Center at (318) 769-7229, to learn more about this new skill. To get off to a good start, follow these guidelines:
- Nurse early and often. Begin feeding your baby shortly after birth, ideally within the first hour (Your nurse or care provider will help you and your baby.). Each day, feed every one to three hours, except during one longer sleeping stretch. During the first 24 hours, your baby should nurse at least five minutes on each breast at each feeding. Alternate which breast you begin feeding on. Gradually increase to 15 minutes on each side. The first milk produced is called colostrum. This is a thick yellow/gold liquid that is rich in protein and antibodies. It gives your baby’s immune system a quick boost. Within a few days, your mature milk comes in.
- Feed from both breasts at each feeding. If you don’t feed from each breast, you may get a plugged milk duct.
- Breastfeed on demand. Breast milk is more easily and quickly digested than formula is, so your baby will need to eat more often than a baby who takes formula. Your baby will likely want to eat every two to four hours. Watch your baby for hunger signals such as: being more alert or active; rooting (turning his or her head in search of a nipple); and mouthing (putting hands in his or her mouth and/or making a sucking motion with the mouth). Crying is a late sign of hunger.
- Find a comfortable position for you and baby. There are four main positions. Try each to find what works for you. It is also a good idea to vary the positions.
- Cradle hold—sit with your arm bent across your lap. The baby’s head rests in your elbow and her or his body along your forearm and lap. The baby’s chest should be against your skin so he or she does not have to turn his or her head to reach the nipple.
- Cross-cradle hold—sit with your arm bent across your lap. This time, the baby’s head is in your hand and his or her body extends toward your elbow. This is helpful in learning to get the baby latched on, as you can control his or her head better.
- Football hold—sit with your arm bent alongside your body. The baby’s head rests in your hand, with his or her head facing your breast and his or her body extended along your forearm next to your body. This position is more comfortable if you have engorged breasts, sore nipples, or plugged ducts. It is also good after a c-section, because the baby is not resting on your sensitive stomach. If you are able to multitask, this is a good position for nursing twins.
- Lying down—lie on your side with the baby on his or her side facing you. Put the baby’s face to your breast and ensure she can breathe through her nose. Use pillows for support. This is a good position for night feedings or if you have had a c-section.
- Make sure the baby is properly latched on. This means that the baby has both the nipple and the areola (colored area around the nipple) in his mouth. If the baby sucks on only the nipple, you will have pain and the baby will not get enough milk. Here are some tips for latching on:
- Hold your baby in a comfortable position. With your free hand, cup your breast with your fingers underneath and your thumb on top. This is called a C-hold. Or, try the U-hold, where your fingers are on one side of the breast and your thumb on the other. Support your breast in this way for the first six weeks of breastfeeding.
- Bring your baby close to your breast. Stroke her cheek with your finger or brush her bottom lip with your nipple. These motions stimulate the baby’s rooting reflex, which causes her to turn her head and open her mouth.
- When your baby opens his mouth, put your nipple and areola far into the mouth, while pulling his body towards you. If the baby does not have a good grasp on both the areola and nipple, try again. Press your finger on the corner of the baby’s mouth to break the suction, and move him off the nipple.
- Check that the baby is able to breathe through her nose. If the breast is blocking the nose, push down on your breast next to her nose to allow breathing room.
- Take care of mom. To meet the demands of breastfeeding, sleep when your baby sleeps, drink a glass of water while you are nursing, and eat a well-balanced diet. Limit caffeine to 300 mg per day (1-3 cups of coffee). Minimize intake of alcoholic drinks. If you have a drink, wait at least two hours to breastfeed. Avoid drugs including nicotine. Check with your doctor about any prescription drugs that you take.
- Talk to your doctor before taking prescription and over-the-counter medicine, as well as herbs and supplements. Some medicines can pass through the breast milk to your baby and may not be safe. Drugs can also interfere with how much milk you produce.