Breastfeeding is one of the greatest ways to bond with your baby while providing your baby with the best nutrition possible. While breastfeeding comes easily to some moms and babies, many women face huge challenges in making it through the early weeks. Here are some nursing FAQs to help you through the early weeks.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this article is not a substitute for consulting with your certified lactation consultant or with your physician. If you are encountering serious medical issues or having difficulties nursing, it is recommended to contact your physician or certified lactation consultant.
How often do I feed my baby?
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand equation. The more you feed your baby, the more milk you produce. Weaning happens naturally when you breastfeed less frequently and for shorter periods of time. In the early weeks it is important that you feed your baby every couple of hours to ensure you get an adequate milk supply. Also, your baby cannot drink more than several ounces at once, so he will need to feed more frequently
As your baby gets older, he can eat more at one feeding and go for longer periods of time in between feedings. Many lactation consultants recommend feeding your baby on demand in the early weeks. It is impossible to over feed a breastfeeding baby; they will stop nursing when they are full.
How can I tell if I am producing enough milk for my baby?
Milk production is the most universal concern with breastfeeding moms and their newborns. While it’s easy to track how much an infant is drinking with a bottle, you are often left guessing how much milk your nursing baby is consuming. The best sign is the number of wet and dirty diapers your baby has a day (generally around 8 wet diapers a day is a good sign) as well as weight gain.
Most pediatric offices will let you schedule a weigh-in if you are not sure if your baby is gaining weight. Also, look up your local lactation clinic as they usually allow free baby weigh-ins and often have free nursing clinics to help with latching on general breastfeeding help.
It is especially important that your little one nurses frequently in the early days and weeks to ensure your milk production supply is established at the right level. If your supply is lagging with nursing alone, then use a breast pump to increase your milk production. Pumping a few ounces several times a day 30-45 minutes before a feeding will stimulate your production.
In addition to nursing around the clock every few hours and on demand, you also need to make sure you eat well, drink lots of fluids and get as many “naps” as possible since a long uninterrupted night’s sleep is not possible. Have others do your household chores and help with the baby, don’t worry about having a clean house. Save your energy for the important job of nursing your baby. Your baby’s health is dependent on your health, so save your energy for your most important task of feeding your baby and producing milk (as well as recuperating from childbirth).
My nipples hurt when my baby nurses. What do I do?
Raw and cracked nipples usually indicate an incorrect latch. When you breastfeed make sure you position your baby properly with both of your bellies touching, so she is turned on her side. Find a comfortable bobby or pillow to make nursing more comfortable for both you and your baby. Milk let down is also associated with relaxation, so if you are in a cramped position, then it will be hard to relax.
Make sure your baby’s head and body is properly supported so her mouth can be squarely over the nipple. Ensure that your baby puts the entire nipple and most of the areola in her mouth. Listen for a rhythmic swallowing as she nurses and you will know you are on the right track.
If you still have pain and soreness even after adjusting your nursing style, contact a lactation consultant for individual training. It is well worth the investment for an individual consultation to get your nursing relationship started with the right technique. For immediate nipple relief you can try expressed breast milk on the nipple area after nursing and let nipples air dry. You can also try medical grade lanolin (if you are not allergic to wool) on your nipples. Soothie Gel Pads can be placed directly on your nipples and worn inside your bra for extra cushion and relief.
My breasts are hard and swollen. What can I do to get some relief?
Engorgement occurs in most nursing women about 72 hours after birth. The best solution is to nurse more frequently until your milk production adjusts. Before nursing, apply warm compresses to your breasts and hand express some milk so that your breast is softened enough for your baby to latch on. To help reduce swelling, apply cold compresses after and in-between nursing. Also, wear a supportive nursing bra 24/7 for support of swollen breasts.