Breastfeeding is a natural process, so you might feel that it should come easily. The truth is, it takes practice for both Mom and Baby. "It really is something that Mom and Baby both have to learn. It gets simple, but it's a new experience," says Alan Greene, M.D., pediatrician and author of Feeding Baby Green. But the work is worth it. Not only does breastfeeding secure a strong bond between parent and child, breast milk has the perfect combination of nutrients your baby needs to grow to be strong and healthy -- such as antioxidants to build the immune system -- and breast milk is easier for Baby to digest. It also benefits the mother by burning calories, shrinking down the uterus, and reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Like many other aspects of pregnancy, birth, and child rearing, everyone is different. The first step is to get comfortable -- the more relaxed you are the better. La Leche League International also recommends to position Baby so his mouth and nose face the nipple and that you support your breast to avoid pressing it into Baby's chin. Once Baby has latched on successfully, there are several common positions for nursing that you can experiment with to see what makes the best fit for you.
The key to successful breastfeeding is the latch, which means getting Baby's mouth positioned over the nipple. Remember, you're not the only one who is new to this. It's also your baby's first time having to latch to get food. It takes practice and effort from both of you to get it down smoothly.
The cross-cradle position is great for newborns who need the most support.
How to do it: Get in a comfortable chair and securely hold your baby crosswise with the arm opposite from the breast you are nursing with. If nursing from your right breast, hold your baby with your left arm. Your forearm will support his body and your hand will support and steer his head. With your right hand you can support your breast by placing your thumb above your breast and your other fingers beneath.
The clutch hold is particularly useful for women who have had Cesarean section, as the pressure of the baby will not be on the abdomen. Women with large breasts or flat nipples also prefer this hold.
How to do it: As the name suggests, you will be holding your baby at your side. Position a few pillows next to you and hold your baby under your arm on the same side you will be nursing from. He will be facing you with his legs pointing behind you, and the pillows will help bring his mouth to nipple level. Support your baby's head with the palm of your hand.
Bertie Bregman, M.D., specializing in family practice in New York City, says, "Latching on is an acquired skill. Lactation consultants are really great resources." Dr. Bergman recommends moms work with lactation consultants early on. Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff or can refer an outside consultant to help answer questions after the baby is born and assist with breastfeeding techniques. With knowledge of the basics of securing a proper latch, nursing will become easier.
Often new mothers think their milk supply is low and wonder if they are supplying enough milk to Baby. As long as you monitor the number of wet and dirty diapers your pediatrician recommends and your baby is gaining weight properly, you are likely supplying sufficient amounts of breast milk. It's also important to be persistent and consistent to allow the baby's sucking to signal the breast to make milk. "Most of the time, the most important thing is patience. Most people expect that the baby should feel satisfied or full in the first three to four days. It's normal for them to be hungry. It is how they regulate how much milk you are going to make. Good rest and lots of fluids can help, but patience is the single most important thing," Dr. Greene says.
Engorgement is the swelling of the breasts caused by the expansion veins and the pressure of the milk. Most moms experience this common discomfort three to six days after giving birth. Dr. Greene recommends warm or cool compresses and showers. Using a breast pump a little after feeding can take the edge off, as well. Dr. Greene also suggests refrigerating cabbage leafs, breaking the spine and then placing them on the breasts. The leaves have antibiotic and anti-irritant properties that help reduce swelling. Sore nipples result from the baby stretching breast tissue. It often occurs because of a poor latch, so the very best thing to do is to go to a lactation consultant early on. To get immediate relief, certified lactation consultant Gina Ciagne recommends applying lanolin or gel pads on the nipples.
Despite much effort, there are some moms who cannot breastfeed, must supplement breastfeeding with formula, or simply choose to formula feed. "If the human milk isn't going to be used, generally an iron-fortified infants formula based on cows milk should be used," Dr. Greene says. Jodi Greebel, registered dietitian and cofounder of DinDins organic toddler food, says, "All the major brands of formula and even the generic brands are excellent and held to a very high standard." Talk to your pediatrician about choosing the best formula option for your baby.
If you're going to be using a bottle for breast milk or formula, be sure it's a bottle free of Bisphenol A (or BPA). BPA is a chemical that mimics estrogen. Researchers have found even small amounts are harmful to animals and people, especially babies. It has been found to cause cancers, diabetes, and even early puberty. Dr. Greene suggests using BPA-free pumps, pacifiers, and bottles.
Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation.