If someone told you there was a magic pill that could keep your baby well, help his physical and mental development well into his teens, and that even might boost your own health – you’d snap it up in a minute. Well, guess what? That magic pill is breastfeeding. And here are 10 tips to make it easier and make it work for you.
1. Commit early Studies show that if you make the decision to breastfeed while you’re still pregnant, your chances of success are much higher. Learn about the benefits: Breast milk can help protect your baby against ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, colds, and other illnesses; it can speed your post-baby weight loss and decrease your risk of breast cancer; it’s easier and costs less than formula. Take a lactation class. And make sure your spouse, your family and your pediatrician are all on board – the more they’re convinced that breastfeeding is good for everyone, the easier it will be for you.
2. Nurse right away Start within an hour of having the baby. Early breast milk contains colostrum, which is jam-packed with nutrients and immunity boosters – just what your baby needs for protection until her first vaccines. And tell the hospital you want to “room in” with your baby so you can nurse her on demand, aka whenever she wants. Trying to force a feeding schedule too soon can backfire – nursing as often as your baby is hungry will help build your milk supply.
3. Take three things home from the hospital No we’re not talking about stealing blankets. Hospital lactation consultants and nurses will show you: 1. The different holds for breastfeeding, including the cradle hold, the football hold, even the side lying hold (you lie on your side with a pillow under your head, the baby alongside you – it’s lovely). 2. The proper latch, making sure you bring your baby to you instead of bending over her, and that your entire nipple is in her mouth. 3. Rooming in, meaning letting the baby sleep in her hospital bassinette in the room with you. You will get used to having the baby near you all night, which will make breastfeeding easier and will help you get the sleep you need
4. Set up breastfeeding stations Find two or three places around the house where you might nurse, and get them ready before you leave for the hospital. A cozy chair or rocker is key, so is a side table with room for a lamp, a book or remote, your cell phone and a bottle of water. Leave a pillow at each station, and a breastfeeding pillow where you’ll be feeding the most.
5. Drink lots of water and learn how to eat with your non-dominant hand so you get used to nursing at the table; have your partner or friend cut up your meat for you.
6. Be prepared for the challenges Some women are anxious about breastfeeding the whole time they’re pregnant; some are convinced it’ll be a breeze. I loved breastfeeding, but make no mistake, it might be natural, but breastfeeding can be tough. For one thing, it can hurt before you get the hang of it. One way to help prevent sore nipples is to get used to handling your nipples before baby’s birth by gently rolling them in your fingertips – you also might want to try some gentle breast massage. Also, don’t use soap on your breasts while showering, as this can dry out the skin. Getting the proper latch can prevent sore nipples, too. The most important thing, though, is to remain committed and know that it will get better, I promise.
7. Watch other mothers nurse Whether it’s in a class or on a video, or simply seeing how your friend does it, watching someone breastfeed in person is priceless. Then, hunker down and devote your time to your baby.
8. Get a good pump And start using it at least four weeks before going back to work. NUK products have been trusted for 55 years for their outstanding performance and amazing value. The NUK® Expressive® Double Electric Breast Pump delivers similar performance as pumps that cost twice as much, with 32 settings and a soft silicone shield for ultimate comfort. It’s easy to use and even easier to store all the milk you’ll need (especially if you’re going back to work); you won’t believe how satisfying it is to see those little leak-proof NUK® Seal ‘n Go® Milk Storage Bags piling up in the freezer. Be proud – you do good work.
9. Keep your baby close at night Set up the baby’s crib or bedside bassinette right next to your bed, so you can reach him easily (before he starts crying frantically with hunger) and you can nurse in bed, in the side lying position. Your sleep will be less interrupted and you’ll feel more rested.
10. Get comfortable nursing in public Of course, you don’t want to flash your fellow restaurant goers; but it doesn’t mean you have to go into the restroom to nurse. Wear a nursing bra or tank, and a nursing top if you have one. (I liked a nursing tank with a cowboy snap shirt over it.) Swiftly and confidently take hold of your baby with one hand and place her across your body in your arms (she can even be used as a shield), unhook your bra and discreetly place the baby in front of your boob and latch her on. The secret is to maintain eye contact with the person you’re talking to at all times. Practice at home in front of a mirror.
11. Nix the naysayers Your job right now is feeding your baby, so if Aunt Grace crankily asks, “Are you feeding that baby again?” calmly let her know that it takes time to establish your milk supply and that your lactation expert told you to take one day and do nothing but feed the baby. And ask her to bring you a glass of water. As for others who ask after six months, “Oh, are you still nursing?” tell them you’re shooting for the AAP recommendation of a year, and then might even go for two. (I nursed both of my girls for three years, and it was divine. But nurse as long as you are able and willing to.)
12. Try to relax The goal is a swift let down – I call it a whoosh – of milk to your nipples, and the calmer you are, the sooner that will happen. Take some deep breaths – just count to five as you inhale, hold for five, then slowly exhale as you count to five. Do that three times. Or drink half a glass of water to make sure that you stay hydrated.
Learn the latch
Teaching your baby to latch on to your breast deeply will ensure he’s getting enough milk and will prevent sore nipples for you. Sit or lie comfortably, and position the baby on his side across your left arm so his belly is snugly against your body and his head is at your right breast. With your right hand, tickle his mouth with your right nipple, so he opens wide and you can tilt his head so he takes your entire areola (or as much as fits) into his mouth. If he’s swallowing, you’ll know he’s getting milk.
To release the latch, gently use your finger to break the suction, then switch sides.