As a primary care pediatrician, I meet many moms-to-be and moms of newborns who are trying to decide whether or not to breastfeed their babies. Research has shown that breast milk is best for baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be exclusively breastfed for at least the first 6 months of life and, as a lactation-certified pediatrician, so do I! Breastfeeding has amazing benefits to both mother and baby. In order to optimize breastfeeding success, here are ways I help my patients’ moms provide the best nutrition out there.
Before you welcome your baby, I encourage moms to take a breastfeeding class. The class will help you understand breastfeeding basics such proper latching, various holds and troubleshooting and will help you prepare to bring your baby home. The class can also suggest items to have at home to make breastfeeding easier, such as nursing bras and tank tops, a nursing pillow and a breast pump.
This is so important. Moms and babies are both learning at the same time what works and what doesn’t. Like anything new, breastfeeding takes time, practice and patience.
Use the first few days after birth to find a position that suits you and the baby. Whether it is the cradle, side-lying or the football hold, there isn’t just one right way to hold a baby.
As you find a good position, make sure your baby latches on well. Baby’s mouth should be open wide as they come to the breast. Both lips should pout out and cover nearly all of your areola. Pull your baby close to you. You should see your baby’s jaw go back and forth, while hearing swallowing noises. A good latch will ensure your baby is getting enough to eat.
If the latch feels too painful, de-latch baby and try again. If you find that your nipples hurt from being dry and cracked, try applying 100 percent pure lanolin after you nurse your baby.
When your baby first comes home, they may need to eat up to 12 times a day. While this can be tiring for you, hang in there. This will settle as your baby gets a little bigger. Frequent feedings will help your body make enough milk for your little one.
Let your baby eat until they are satisfied, which initially may be about 15-20 minutes at each breast. Try to have your baby nurse from both breasts at each feeding. Your baby should look satisfied at the end of a feeding. With time, your baby will get better at breastfeeding and feedings will last about 20 minutes total.
Keeping your baby close by in the hospital and at home promotes breastfeeding. It will help you recognize when your baby is hungry, needs a diaper change, is tired or just needs to be held. It’s important to provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby, such as a bassinet or crib, with a firm, flat mattress. Always follow the ABC’s of sleep: A-alone, B-on her back, C-in a crib.
If possible, avoid using bottles until breastfeeding is established. After 1 month of age, you can introduce bottle feedings of pumped expressed breastmilk. At this age, baby will be able to transition back and forth from breast to bottle.
Most breastfed babies can use a pacifier if needed without affecting breastfeeding. However, continue to monitor feeding cues and always feed your baby if they seem hungry. If you feel like a pacifier is interfering with breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is better established.
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, seek help. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician. The lactation specialists at your birth hospital can provide help after delivery and even after leaving the hospital. There are also plenty of local community and online resources, too. If you refer to online resources, make sure it is a reputable source. You may be surprised to find that your problems aren’t unique to you and your baby!