One of the first decisions that you will make about your baby is whether or not to breastfeed. Certainly, every healthcare professional will tell you that breastmilk is the healthiest baby milk out there and that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding.
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If you still aren’t convinced that breastfeeding is for you, here are some facts which can help you understand the benefits and make the best decision for you and your baby:
Babies are born with a natural instinct to breastfeed. Their sucking reflex is the most powerful at birth so it’s best to start breastfeeding as soon as possible, within the first hour of birth if you can.
Breastfeeding can be difficult in the beginning and if you give birth in a hospital the midwives and lactation consultants will guide you through the process until you feel confident. If you are still struggling when you leave, you can usually find a private lactation consultant or midwife to help you with any ongoing issues.
Hold your baby in the crook of your arm and bring their face close to your breast. Gently touch the side of your baby’s mouth with your nipple and they will automatically open their mouth. Squeeze your nipple between your thumb and forefinger and encourage your baby to take some of the areola into their mouth as well.
If your baby is latched on correctly their chin should just be touching your breast and their nose should be clear. You shouldn’t feel a pinching sensation if your baby is latched on correctly, it should be painless although this can take some practice to get right.
At the beginning your baby will probably only feed for a few minutes at a time. They may suck frantically for a while until the milk starts to come through and then they should settle down into a rhythm.
If you are a new mother, you may find breastfeeding a little difficult at the beginning. You are already tired from the birth and your body is going through all of the usual postnatal hormonal changes that occur at this time. Until you have become used to breastfeeding, you may suffer from sore nipples. This should not be a cause of worry, as the skin does toughen up after a while. To help you, there are various nipple creams on the market that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Consult with the lactation consultant or your healthcare professional to find out which one is the best for you.
You should also make sure to empty your breasts at each feeding. This is done by offering both breasts at each feeding. Once the baby is finished with one breast, burp them and then offer the second one. Make sure that the second breast becomes the first breast at the next feeding to make sure that it doesn’t get left too full, because this can lead to mastitis.
Mastitis is an infection caused by a blocked milk duct due to engorgement of the breast, or bacteria from a cracked nipple.
While you are breastfeeding, you need to eat for two. This essentially means that you must eat the healthiest foods for your baby and keep your own strength up. It is highly important at this time to eat frequently, and to make sure that you drink enough, especially if you live in a hot climate. Many women make sure to drink while they are breastfeeding and then to drink again once they have finished. The importance of a proper diet cannot be stressed enough. Some women may breastfeed for the minimum six months, but others will carry on until the baby is two years old. It is a very personal decision, but either way, you need to look after your strength during this period.
Learn more about how to naturally increase your breast milk supply.
If you do decide to breastfeed, you have made a very positive decision because you are giving your baby the healthiest start in life.