Breastfeeding 101

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From the minute you put on your first training bra, you knew your breasts were special. But, when you became a mom, your breasts became truly amazing. Powerful and life-sustaining, breasts provide the world’s most perfect food for babies.

Breastfeeding offers babies everything they need to survive and thrive. It also helps protect your health by lowering your risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression.

Frequently Asked Questions about Breastfeeding

When will my milk come in?

During the first few days after delivering your baby, your body will produce colostrum, a “pre-milk” that comes in before your breast milk. Colostrum contains many protective properties, including antibacterial and immune-system-boosting elements that are not found in formula. Colostrum flows very slowly, allowing your baby to learn how to nurse.

After about 3-4 days of nursing your baby with colostrum, your breasts will start to feel different. They’ll go from feeling soft to firm as your milk comes in. The amount of milk you produce will increase as your baby nurses. Your milk supply is directly linked to how much your baby feeds. Basically, the more you breastfeed, the more milk you’ll produce.

What if my milk isn’t coming in?

If you had a C-section, it may take longer for your milk to come in. And sometimes it just takes longer in some women than others. It’s normal and usually not a cause for concern, but let your doctor know. You just want to ensure your baby is getting enough to eat.

Often breastfeeding more frequently, along with pumping, helps boost your milk supply. If your milk still hasn’t come in within 72 hours of having your baby, talk to your doctor.

How can I increase my milk supply?

If you are producing less milk than usual, try feeding your baby more often. You also can pump after nursing to help stimulate more milk production.

Other factors like stress, illness and some medications can also temporarily decrease your milk supply. Drinking water to satisfy your thirst and eating healthy, nutritious food can help. Life with a newborn can be exhausting and stressful, so try to find time to pamper yourself daily—even if it’s just 15-30 minutes.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

At the beginning, feed your baby 2-3 hours, even overnight. As your baby grows, you’ll be able to space out the feedings.

Ouch! Why is it hurting me?

It may take a while before getting it right, but it’s important that your baby latches on with a wide-open mouth and takes as much as possible of your areola (the dark-colored area of the breast) in his or her mouth (not just the tip of the nipple). Even when properly latched on, you may have 30 to 60 seconds of latch-on pain, but the pain should subside quickly.

How can I tell if my baby is latched on correctly?

This is often the Number 1 reason that new mothers have a hard time with breastfeeding—their babies aren’t latched onto their breasts properly, which can be frustrating for the babies and downright painful for their mothers. Here’s how you can make sure your little one is latched on correctly every time:

  1. Make sure your baby’s mouth is opened wide and his/her tongue is down when latching on.
  2. Support your breast with your hand, positioning your thumb on top and your fingers at the bottom, keeping your thumb and fingers back far enough so your baby has enough of the nipple and areola (the circle of skin around the nipple) to latch onto.
  3. Gently glide your nipple from the middle of your baby’s bottom lip down to her chin to help prompt her to open her mouth.
  4. When your baby opens his/her mouth wide, quickly bring your baby to your breast (not your breast to your baby). Your baby should take as much of your areola into their mouth as possible.
  5. Make sure your baby’s nose is almost touching your breast (not pressed against it), the lips are turned out (or flanged), and you see and hear the baby swallowing. (You should be able to tell by noticing movement along your baby’s lower jaw and even in your baby’s ear and temple.).
  6. You can have a nursing session observed by someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding, such as a certified lactation consultant.

How can I tell if my baby is latched on wrong?

If your baby tends to suck on the tip of your nipple, without getting much of your areola, he/she is latched on incorrectly. Babies who tend to latch on improperly will also frequently sleep at the breast and may not seem satisfied. If either of these occurs, break the suction and reposition your baby.

Call your doctor or a lactation consultant if:

  • You’re unable to nurse your baby without pain (you may just need help getting your baby to latch on correctly, or it could be a sign of a breast infection)
  • Your baby consistently sleeps at the breast
  • Your baby is nursing but doesn’t seem satisfied when feedings are over
  • Your baby does not gain weight appropriately or does not produce the expected numbers of wet and soiled diapers

This is harder than I thought. What can I do?

Struggling with breastfeeding is completely normal—and common. It can take some adjustment and practice before figuring it out. Breastfeeding can be the most challenging, yet rewarding thing you’ll do as a mother.

While you’re in the hospital, don’t hesitate to use the expertise of the nursing staff and your OB-GYN. They can be very helpful in answering any questions you might have, as well as walking you through the dos and don’ts of breastfeeding. Nurses and lactation consultants can watch and coach you as you try to breastfeed your baby. Try not to become too discouraged. With a little patience and some practice, it will likely become easier for both you and baby.

How long should I plan to breastfeed my baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively (without offering formula, water, juice, non-breast milk or food) for the first 6 months, and that breastfeeding continue until 12 months (and beyond) if it’s working for both you and your baby.

Studies on infants show that breastfeeding can lower the occurrence or severity of diarrhea, ear infections and bacterial meningitis. Breastfeeding also may protect children against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity and asthma.

Getting breastfeeding help

Everyone’s breastfeeding experience is different. If you’re struggling, lactation consultants can work with you to come up with a personalized plan that works for you and your baby.

Lactation consultants can help with:

  • Breastfeeding and returning to work
  • Breastfeeding premature babies
  • Breastfeeding twins, triplets and other multiple siblings
  • Babies who seem “fussy” or reluctant to nurse
  • Special needs babies such as those with cleft palate, Trisomy 21 or other medical complications
  • Slow weight-gain babies
  • Babies with weak sucking reflex
  • Breast conditions, including inverted nipples, engorgement, blocked ducts or previous breast surgery
  • Stimulation of lactation for adoption and other special circumstances
  • Nutrition for breastfeeding moms