Today, most new mothers understand the benefits of breastfeeding yet there are still many that give up within the first few days or weeks. With a little knowledge and a few easy guidelines, more mothers will be able to experience long-term success.
1. Educate Yourself: while preparing for the birth don’t forget to spend adequate time learning about breast-feeding. You realize you’ll breast-feed, it’s natural, so it’ll just happen, right? Sorry! There are many aspects to learn about and, in particular, the first few days are crucial. Countless mums will abandon breast-feeding in these first days. Breast-feeding will be more succesful when the mother is aware of potential problems and how to handle them. Read, browse the web, search out local support groups, in particular the local branch of La Leche League.
2. Support – know a doctor or pediatrician you can call on if you need to. Arrange to see a lactation consultant within a day or two of the birth to ensure everything is going smoothly. Try to arrange for someone to look after other kids and the household responsibilites for at least the first week, longer if possible.
3. Natural Birth: the first hour of birth is a crucial time to begin nursing so if at all possible try to avoid drugs during labour as these can make the baby sleepy.
4. Nurse Immediately: as soon as possible put the baby to the breast as this is when they have a strong reflex to suck. After this first hour it can take up to 40 hours for the nursing reflex to be as strong again.
5. Latching-On: not as easy and natural as one expects it to be. Experienced nurses are usually on-hand in a hospital. While birthing at home would usually mean an experienced mid-wife or doula. However, if your nipples become sore seek more experienced help right away as this is an early indication of incorrect latching-on.
6. Rooming-In: if you give birth in a hospital try to have your baby stay in your room. This is now accepted practice at the majority of hospitals but if it’s not at yours then enlist support to make it happen for you. This is the best way for a new mother to learn her baby’s hunger cues. Being kept in a nursery often leads to the baby being too hungry to settle for feeding when he’s finally brought in to mum.
7. Mother’s Nipples Only: best to use no artificial nipples such as bottles or pacifiers in the early weeks unless, of course, it’s medically necessary. While many mums have heard of nipple confusion, they might not be aware that using artificial nipples can also intefere with establishing milk production. In order to get the milk flowing properly, baby needs to be sucking strongly and frequently. Too much time spent sucking a pacifier reduces how much a baby will want to suck on the breast. One cause of “nipple confusion” with a bottle is actually due more to the fact that a bottle allows easy flow of milk, while the breast requires baby to work harder.
The Next Several Weeks
8. Listen to Baby: feed your baby when she’s hungry and ignore anyone trying to tell you to implement a fixed schedule. They know best when they are hungry unless, of course, there seems to be something not right (if you’re not sure, ask your doctor). Another benefit is that this is the best method to establish the correct amount of milk for your baby.
9. Have Help at Home: as mentioned earlier, it is so important that a new mother focus on herself and the baby in the early weeks. This allows mum to focus on baby, establishing the bond and learning their cues. Breast milk is easily affected when a mother overworks. Don’t let a husband, for example, take over that 2am feeding in these early weeks, tempting though it is! Try to take baby into bed for night feedings and you’ll easily sleep during nursing. If everything else is looked after during the day you are free to nap when your baby does.
10. Ask for Advice: get expert help if there is any indication of an emerging problem. A common sign is tender nipples and if it’s not fixed it doesn’t take long for them to become cracked and excruciatingly painful when feeding. This is why it is invaluable to have done your research ahead of time and have experts such as a lactation consultant or a La Leche League member to call upon.
The Next Few Months and on
If these guidelines are adhered to you’ll be off to a great start breast-feeding, giving you and your baby many happy hours together, not to mention the ultimate nutrition for a growing baby. After a strong foundation, you can consider a breast pump. Too often, mums think that having a break from breast feeding means giving formula, but this does not have to be the case. With a breast pump you can have the freedom of a few hours or days while still giving your baby your milk. Many mothers need to return to work within a few months and this is where a breast pump can be invaluable.
I wish you and your baby many months of successful breast-feeding together!
Anne James has successfully breast-fed her three children. She loves to educate new mothers on the benefits of breast-feeding. You can visit her latest web site at