You’ve weighed your options, and you’ve decided you want to breastfeed your baby. However, many new moms have lots of questions, and for some women, breastfeeding doesn’t come as naturally as they thought it would. Just hang in there — it just takes a little time, practice, and patience.
The first days
Your breast milk will likely come in a few days after your baby is born. Colostrum (a yellowish fluid full of protein and disease-fighting antibodies) arrives first, so keep nursing even if you think nothing’s coming out. Colostrum is meant to be your baby’s first food and is important for newborn health.
If you need help getting started, don’t be shy about asking for help. Most hospitals have a breastfeeding class that you can take before you give birth; they’ll also have lactation experts on staff for one-on-one help. Get some guidance early on to learn how to help your baby latch onto the breast, and how to tell whether she is nursing properly.
Establishing a good milk supply
Rest, proper nutrition, and plenty of fluids all contribute to forming a good milk supply. Your milk changes its taste based on the food you consume, and you may notice your baby reacting to what you’ve eaten. Most newborns adjust well to the
flavors of their mom’s milk, so try not to worry that the spicy stir-fry you had for dinner is affecting your child. Remember, moms all over the world eat all kinds of foods and successfully nurse at the same time! To help build a good milk supply, nurse regularly, or about every two to three hours for newborns. The more you nurse, the more milk you’ll make.
Years ago, it was believed that pacifier use would interfere with how much your baby takes from the breast, but that thinking has been updated. Experts now say it’s fine to introduce a pacifier once you’ve gotten into a good breastfeeding routine, usually after three to four weeks. Pacifier use may also reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is another great reason to introduce it.
Using a bottle
If you're considering supplementing with a bottle, it’s best not to start this until nursing is well established, usually when your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old. Some babies will balk at the bottle if it’s given by Mom, even if it contains beloved breast milk. Newborns are smart — in many cases they can smell their moms and prefer to feed at the breast. Your best bet here is let Dad, a babysitter, or other family member offer the first few bottles until your baby learns to accept the milk this way.
When your baby is a newborn, feed him whenever he is hungry. He won’t eat much at any one feeding since his stomach is so small. Most newborns nurse often, usually 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period.
Watch for these hunger signs:
How much breast milk is enough?
You can’t see the milk going into your baby’s mouth (though it may drip a little around his lips), but you can tell he’s getting it by the swallowing sounds he makes. You’ll also know he’s eating enough by counting his wet diapers. Your baby should be wetting six or more diapers each day with pale yellow urine and about three or four with soft yellow bowel movements. He’ll also appear satisfied after each feeding and may doze off.
When there isn’t enough milk
It’s hard work keeping up with the feeding demands of a newborn! You may feel as if you’re nursing around the clock but your baby is still hungry. Keep in mind that babies go through growth spurts, nursing more on some days than others. Your body will learn to adapt and catch up. Still, there are a few things you can do to help. Drink plenty of fluids (keep a glass of water where you sit to nurse to remind yourself) and try to sleep when the baby sleeps. (This is easier said than done!) Taking a slower pace as you go about your daily activities and errands will help give your body the rest it needs and can help boost milk production.
Milk on the go
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to stop if you go back to work. Many companies today understand the needs of new moms and offer spaces for pumping breast milk. If your employer doesn’t have a private, clean, and relaxing place for you to pump, talk with your human resources representative.