Advice from a Lactation Consultant

Make breastfeeding easier -- and more enjoyable -- with these tips from the experts.

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We Want to Help

Breastfeeding might not come naturally to you or your little one, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer through it. Say sayonara to sore nipples, poor latches, and other breastfeeding dilemmas by enlisting the help of a certified lactation consultant who will work with you and your baby to resolve your woes once and for all. And pick up the phone sooner rather than later. "I find that mothers wait way too long before calling," says Lori J. Isenstadt, RLC, IBCLC, owner of All About Breastfeeding in Peoria, Arizona. "Usually, the problem gets worse before it gets better."

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Speak Up

Not understanding a specific latching technique -- or why your nipples are suddenly so itchy? Say something. Always ask questions during your consultation -- no matter how awkward or embarrassing. "We always welcome questions," says Pat Gilliatt, RN, BSN, IBCLC, certified lactation consultant at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. "I don't think there is ever such a thing as a stupid question." In fact, if you feel uncomfortable talking to your lactation consultant, that might be a sign that you should start looking for a different one.

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Give Us Your Full Attention

Distractions abound for new mothers, whether it's a flurry of visitors or sleep deprivation. To truly make the most of a visit from a lactation consultant, Gilliatt suggests turning off the TV and your cell phone, taking the dog outside, or asking your in-laws to run some errands so you can focus on what your consultant is saying and better soak up the information.

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Brush Up on Breastfeeding Beforehand

Get the scoop on breastfeeding before Baby's arrival by attending a class. The beauty of breastfeeding classes is that you can go in your second trimester rather than waiting until the end of the pregnancy, Gilliatt says, so you can really absorb the information. Rather than going solo, bring your hubby or another support person with you. "You may not remember everything, and they can help you gather information," Gilliatt says.

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Gather Information

In addition to taking breastfeeding classes, check out breastfeeding books and reputable Web sites, such as llli.org, Gilliatt says. And interview your obstetrician or nurse about breastfeeding ahead of time, she recommends. How does he support breastfeeding mothers who are experiencing problems? How long does a baby need to be breastfed? What special tips does he have for breastfeeding moms? The more you figure out now, the better.

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Kathryn Gamble

Practice Your New Work Routine

Planning on returning to work once your maternity leave is over? Do a few practice runs ahead of time, Gilliatt recommends. The week before you head back, pump a few times at home and let someone else give your baby her bottle during daytime feedings to prime her for day care. Other ways to ease the home-to-work transition? Let your employer know ahead of time that you'll need to pump at least two to three times a day for 15-20 minutes each time, and make sure you find a clean, private place to pump in your office. Also find a supportive day care that respects your breastfeeding wishes.

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Monitor Baby's Eating

"Is my baby getting enough to eat?" That's one of the top questions on a new mama's mind. Newborns should feed eight to 12 times in 24 hours, Gilliatt says. You'll know your baby is eating well if he's making regular swallowing noises and your breasts feel softer when you're done nursing. And always check his dirty diapers. By day four or five, when your milk is fully in, newborns should have approximately six or more wet diapers and four or more good-size stools each day, Gilliatt says.

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Linda Farwell

Prep for Breastfeeding in Public

To make breastfeeding in public more comfortable, sit in front of a mirror and practice putting your baby to your breast with a nursing cover or baby blanket until you've got it down. Chances are, you'll be inside the comfort of your home to breastfeed the first few weeks. But if you're in a restaurant and you think the need to feed will arise, Isenstadt recommends picking the table or booth that's farthest away from the crowd and facing the wall. If you're at the mall, head to the fitting room to nurse in private.

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Kaysh Shinn

Beat Nipple Confusion

Switching between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding can cause some serious confusion for your baby. If you must do both, Gilliatt recommends using a bottle with a slower-flow nipple so "the baby doesn't have to work as hard with Mom," she says. Another option? "Try feeding your baby when she's half-asleep so she doesn't get mad that the milk isn't coming as quickly," Gilliatt says.

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Kathryn Gamble

Make Yourself Comfortable

Getting cozy beforehand sets the stage for a successful feed. "When the mother is comfortable, her milk will let down faster for the baby," Gilliatt says. Sit in a comfy chair or on a sofa, cushion yourself with pillows, and prop up your feet on a thick phone book, stool, or stack of pillows. Then have your partner bring Baby to you.

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Get Support

When it comes to seeking breastfeeding support, the more, the merrier. In addition to getting specialized help from a board-certified lactation consultant, look to an experienced friend, your baby's physician, the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, or the La Leche League for advice, Gilliatt recommends.

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Kaysh Shinn

Recognize Hunger Cues

Eliminate the stress of trying to feed a fussy baby by watching for and responding to your baby's early hunger cues. "Crying is a late sign of hunger," Gilliatt says. Signs your baby is ready to feed? He'll wake up, smack his lips, or try to suck on his hands, she says. He might also search for your nipple.

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Kaysh Shinn

Get Dad Involved

Let your partner in on the baby-bonding experience too. During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, he can wake Baby for feedings, change Baby's diaper, and help you get cozy before nursing. During feedings, he can help you switch sides and rock the baby to sleep. After three to four weeks, let him feed baby bottles of pumped milk.

Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.

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