A majority of women want to breastfeed at least partially when their baby is born. According to the CDC, about 83% of babies born in the US begin life with breastfeeding, then that number drops to 57% at six months old. While we understand work demands and lifestyle choices is part of the rapid drop in babies nursing, we also know that often times a lack of support in breastfeeding issues is a major factor. These breastfeeding techniques and tips will help you begin and continue your breastfeeding journey as long as you and your baby choose.
How do I start breastfeeding?
When a baby is born, they are generally ready to nurse 30-60 minutes after birth. Some babies are ready sooner, some may start trying but take longer than that hour mark. This is often due to their birth situation and if they may be sleepy from medications during labor, or stunned from a quick labor and birth. A preemie baby can often nurse immediately if they are able to breathe without help, but sometimes it may be a week or more before they are ready to try feeding at the breast. No matter when the chance comes, it’s not too late to try. Placing the baby tummy to tummy with the nursing parent in a comfortable position and placing the baby’s mouth at the nipple is the first simple step.
Preparing for breastfeeding
Many women are told crazy tips for preparing to breastfeed, so let’s dispel them now. You don’t need to “toughen up” your nipples while pregnant. No amount of sunbathing and towel roughing is going to make a difference in your nipples ability to feed your baby. The best way to prepare for breastfeeding is to eat well and stay hydrated, and have a support system in place. Find other women who have successfully breastfed their baby for at least 6 months, and make friends! These women will be able to give you pep talks and tips for success. They also will let you know when it’s appropriate to get professional help, like a postpartum doula, or a lactation counselor.
Most women are able to breastfeed their baby with minimal complication or the need for professional help. But complications can arise, and are easily corrected, if addressed quickly. Most nursing complications are due to a poor latch. Complications from a poor latch include: cracked and/or bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, mastitis, low milk supply, low weight gain for baby. If breastfeeding is uncomfortable, have it addressed immediately by a professional lactation specialist. They are worth every penny in breastfeeding success.
Around 4% of women cannot exclusively breastfeed. Included in this number is women who have had a breast reduction, mastectomy, and are on heavy antidepressants or anti-psychotics.
How long should I nurse?
How ever long you want! As long as the mother and baby are both happy with the nursing relationship, it should be supported and encouraged to continue. At some point, one or the other will be ready to wean, and you should not feel guilty when this time comes. Celebrate what you have accomplished and set a new parenting goal for yourself once the breastfeeding journey has ended. Some women are ready to stop at 6 months, some are not ready until preschool begins. We hearty support all breastfeeding journeys and know it isn’t a light decision.
There are quite a few breastfeeding positions you can try! Remember that every body, birth, and baby are different, so try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working. The different positions are shown in a graphic here.
We hear a lot of partners voice concerns over not being able to feed the baby. Partner support and involvement in the breastfeeding relationship is extremely important. Breastfeeding takes up a lot of time, sleep, and meal times. Making sure a breastfeeding mom is hydrated, well nourished, and rested is very important. Caring for her while she feeds your baby is a very tiring and valuable job, so praise her often and support her in any way you can. The great news is, there are so many ways to bond with your child, even as a newborn. Consider taking over or joining in tasks such as bath time, followed with an infant massage. Reading to the baby or taking him on a walk while mommy naps is a great way to get one on one time together. Your baby knows your voice and enjoys this very much!
Good luck on your journey, and remember, we are always just a phone call away.
We believe in you!