Like soothing a crying child, breastfeeding doesn't always come naturally-to mother or to baby. Though infants are born with a strong sucking reflex, there is a learning and adjustment process that gradually facilitates feeding. To guide them, nursing mothers need a little knowledge about the process and, ideally, feedback from a woman who has nursed successfully. Many hospitals offer breastfeeding preparation classes and lactation consultants, or you can contact La Leche League (800-525-3243), a worldwide organization of nursing mothers who support breastfeeding.
Nursing is certainly worth some early effort. Breast milk is favored nutritionally, and studies indicate that infants who nurse have fewer gastrointestinal problems and upper respiratory infections. There is also some recent data indicating that breastfeeding has beneficial effects for mother, such as decreasing her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Even if you're planning to return to work within a month or two after having your baby, it's still a good idea to nurse until then. (You may also want to consider expressing milk by using a breast pump while you are on the job.) Studies indicated that some substances in breast milk are most effective in the first few weeks of life, when the brain is developing rapidly. And colostrum, a mother's early milk, has been shown to aid in the absorption of important nutrients.
Another good reason to give breastfeeding a try: If you don't like it or have difficulty, you can always switch to formula. But f you start out by giving your baby a bottle, your body will stop producing breast milk, ending that possibility.Getting into a Comfortable Position
Before you begin the feeding, get as comfortable as possible. Placing baby on a nursing pillow or soft cushion on your lap will keep her close and prevent your arms from tiring. Hold your baby tummy-to-tummy and put your breast near her mouth. Touch the nipple to her lower lip or to the side of her mouth to stimulate her rooting reflex, which will cause her to open her mouth wide. Now lift your breast and quickly pull her onto it, so close that her chin and nose touch (but don't smother her nostrils). Make sure the entire nipple and a good part of the areola (the pigmented area surrounding the nipple) are in the baby's mouth. If only part of the nipple is in her mouth, the milk will not flow, or "let down," and your nipples will become sore. Pull her off (gently breaking the suction with your finger) and start again, until she latches on correctly.
Don't be discouraged if your baby doesn't seem to be getting much milk during the first few days. Until your milk comes in (which happens on about the third or fourth day), the small but highly concentrated doses of colostrum she gets will meet all of her newborn nutritional needs.
For the first few days after you begin breastfeeding, you may feel a slight tenderness each time you begin to nurse. This is normal and should pass very soon as your nipples become accustomed to the sucking action. If the soreness worsens, however, chances are your baby is not positioned properly. While nursing, be sure to support your baby's head so it doesn't slip out of position. If it does, immediately remove her from the breast and position her again, making sure she has latched on correctly.
To ease the soreness, let your breasts "air dry" after nursing by keeping bra flaps downs or wearing only a loose T-shirt for 15 minutes. Massaging a bit of expressed breast milk into the areola (or some pure lanolin ointment in case of severe irritation) also helps. Never wear a wet bra or wet nursing pads, which can be irritating.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.