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Breastmilk has been described as "baby's perfect food," because it is easy to digest, made from live cells, and packed with all the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and antibodies your new baby needs. If you are a new parent and planning to breastfeed, chances are you have a few questions. Here are some FAQs specifically about techniques, latching, and breastmilk production.
How do you breastfeed?
Many moms know they want to breastfeed well before their baby arrives. However, they are confused about the process itself. Follow these steps as you prepare for your baby's first feeding:
Step 1: Make sure your hands are clean.
Step 2: Find a position that works for you and your baby. Scroll down for some of the best breastfeeding positions! Position the baby’s stomach and body against your body.
Step 3: Put the thumb of your free hand on top of your breast, your other fingers under your breast, and gently squeeze.
Step 4: Bring the baby's chin to your breast, and gently place your nipple on the center of their upper lip. Wait for your baby to open their mouth.
Step 5: Place your nipple into the baby's mouth.
In a perfect world, your baby latches right away. If this is your experience, we are so happy for you! However…
What do I do if my baby won't latch?
You will know your baby has latched when both of their lips envelop most of the areola. Their lips should be flared and not curled in or under. You will see and feel their jaw going back and forth in a "sucking" motion, along with slight movement of their ears as their jaw moves. You might hear them making a swallowing sound, too, every couple of sucks. If you experience pain while breastfeeding, it is possible your baby did not latch properly. Here are some simple steps to try for a good latch!
Step 1: Brush your baby's lip with your nipple. This helps the baby notice your scent and can encourage the baby to open their mouth wider.
Step 2: Place your nipple right above their upper lip. Ensure the baby isn't tucked too close to your chest so they can still breathe.
Step 3: Position baby's lower lip away from your nipple. Angle their chin towards your breast. Your baby's tongue should be out, and your nipple should fill your baby's mouth.
When will my baby be ready to eat for the first time and, how often do they need to eat?
Your baby will typically be ready to nurse for the first time within the first 2 hours of delivery. It's important to remember that your body will first produce a "pre-milk" called colostrum, a thin water-like or thick and yellowish substance. The colostrum flows much slower than other breastmilk, which helps the baby learn how to nurse. After 3 to 4 days of nursing, your breastmilk will transition or “come in,” as many like to refer to it.
In general, feed your baby as much as they want! Remember that your baby cries to communicate with you. It's good to know that crying can be a sign of hunger, but it can also mean it's too late. Crying babies tend to have a more challenging time latching.
Here are the signs of early hunger:
When your baby is puckering their lips or making a sucking motion with their mouth
They turn their head to the breast when being held. This is called rooting.
Your baby puts their hands in their mouth.
Your baby looks particularly alert.
What is the best position to hold my baby while breastfeeding?
There are a few classic positions to hold your baby while breastfeeding. In the early days, we suggest that once you find one that works, stick with it! Remember that you do not want to fall asleep while nursing in any of these positions. Doing so may be unsafe and lead to possibly smothering baby or increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Position #1: Cradle
Put your baby's head in the crook of your arm. Support your baby's back and bottom with your forearm. Your baby should be lying facing you. Your nipple should be right in front of your baby's face.
Position #2: Side-lying
Lie down on the side of your body, and place your baby next to you facing you. Bring your baby close while they are on their side. Note: This position can help if you had a cesarean section, as the baby's weight and pressure are not directly on top of the incision area as with positions like the cradle.
Position #3: Football
Tuck your baby under your arm, along your side. Their head can be resting in your hand, and your forearm supports their body. Their feet will be pointing behind you or begin to wrap around your side towards your back.
Position #4: Cross-cradle
Hold your baby with the opposite arm of the breast you're trying to get the baby to latch to. Support their head with your palm and their body with your forearm. Your baby should still be lying facing you. Note: This position can help premature babies or babies who have a weaker suck.
Position #5: Laid Back
While you are sitting upright and slight reclined, place baby on top of your chest and parallel to your body. Their head will be upward and they feet in the same direction as yours. Allow you baby to latch directly on top of your breast. Always keep a hand on baby, and support their body weight with your hand(s) as they nurse. Note: This position can be exceptionally helpful for breastfeeders with a fast let-down or for babies that are having issues with reflux.
What should and shouldn't I eat while I am breastfeeding?
The general rule of thumb is to eat 500 more calories a day while breastfeeding than your usual daily food intake. Making sure these are nutrient-dense calories are very important! Get lots of calcium and protein, primarily from meat, poultry, eggs, high-quality dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds. Load up on dark leafy greens and whole grains, too.
Coffee, sodas, green or black tea, and chocolate may cause fussiness and sleeplessness for the baby due to the caffeine content. Sometimes spicy food, citrus fruits, and some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, and brussels sprouts can create some indigestion for your baby, too. This is not the case for all babies though. It is best to have simple whole and nutritious foods while you're breastfeeding.
You might be able to influence your milk production by drinking fenugreek tea or fennel tea, eating oatmeal, and eating garlic. Although these foods have not been heavily studied, many women have reported results. Note: Fenugreek can have an opposite effect on milk supply and cause a reduction in some lactating parents that have endocrine disorders or unregulated thyroid problems. It is best to only use fenugreek under the expressed recommendation of a IBCLC, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant.
Above all, hydration is key. You can still produce breastmilk that meets your baby needs regardless of what your food intake looks like. But staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water daily is very important when it comes to keeping up with breastmilk production.
Is it wrong to give my baby a pacifier too early?
It's tempting to give your baby a pacifier, especially in those first few days when they are crying, and you don't know why. It's important to know that there can be a significant downside to doing so. Some breastfeeding babies are entirely okay with switching between the pacifier and the nipple. Whew! That's great! However, the potential downside is nipple confusion and breast refusal.
To use a pacifier or not is ultimately up to you. If you notice that your baby had difficulty latching from the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, it might be wise to wait a few weeks before introducing the pacifier.
Breastfeeding, like pregnancy, is its own unique journey. What works for one person may not work for another and vice versa. At Birthify, we aim to provide general information all parents can benefit from and help you meet your breastfeeding goals. If you think you would like more personalized information or attention when it comes to your path to parenthood, consider chatting with one of our birth professionals today!
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