How to Breastfeed Successfully

Trends in infant and child care tend to come and go in cycles over the years. The decision of how to feed your baby is no exception. If you were born in the 1970s or 1980s, you were most likely bottle fed with formula. But these days, many women are choosing to breastfeed their babies instead. If you’re one of these women, you may be surprised to learn that breastfeeding may not come naturally to every mother and baby. However, there are many things you can do to ensure that you are able to breastfeed successfully.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby is to educate yourself. Many hospitals offer prenatal classes, one of which is typically about breastfeeding. Sign up for this class before your baby is born and take notes and ask questions. This class is typically given by a lactation consultant, a person who specializes in helping new moms and their babies breastfeed successfully. Other sources of breastfeeding education and support are your baby’s pediatrician, friends and family members who have breastfed, and organizations such as La Leche League.

Before your baby is born, you should also consider investing in a breast pump. If you plan to return to work after giving birth but don’t want to stop breastfeeding at that point, a breast pump is a must. The best types of breast pumps are electric double pump models. An electric pump can extract breast milk much more efficiently than a hand-operated pump, and double models allow you to pump from both breasts at once, which will cut your pumping time in half. Ideally, you should pump at least once for each feeding your baby will require while you are away. If fitting this many pumping sessions into your work schedule is difficult, you may consider buying a hands-free breast pump.

Letting your family members and anyone who will care for your baby know in advance that you plan to breastfeed is also important. These people should know and abide by your wishes in regards to bottle feeding, pacifier use, supplementing with formula or any liquid, and introducing solid foods. If your chosen caregivers do any of these things too soon, it can interfere with breastfeeding.

When your baby is born, you should put her to the breast as soon as possible, and breastfeed on demand – that is, whenever she is hungry. This will familiarize your baby with your breast and will get both of you off to a smoother start in breastfeeding. You should let the hospital staff know that you are breastfeeding and specify that your baby is not to be given a bottle or pacifier at any time. If your baby takes a bottle or pacifier at this early stage, it can lead to nipple confusion, which will make it harder for you to establish a good breastfeeding relationship. Most hospitals will allow your baby to remain in your room, which makes breastfeeding on demand much easier. However, your baby can also be brought up from the nursery to feed on demand if you so desire.

While in the hospital, you should also ask to see a lactation consultant to discuss breastfeeding. The lactation consultant may even be the same one who gave the breastfeeding class you attended while pregnant. The lactation consultant can observe and help you with your nursing technique. She will offer tips on getting your baby to latch onto the breast properly and also on how to hold your baby to make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and your baby. If you run into problems such as inverted nipples, your lactation consultant can help you find the solutions, such as nipple shields of the proper size for your breast.

After you’ve gone home from the hospital, you should continue to breastfeed on demand as much as possible. This will keep your milk supply up. Breastfeeding on demand may be difficult, especially if you visit others or are in public often. However, breastfeeding can be accomplished discreetly, and the presence of others should not deter you from nursing your baby on demand. If you wish, you can cover up with a light blanket while breastfeeding. If your baby objects to this, you can wear clothing that is specially designed to make breastfeeding more discreet. Breastfeeding in public is not illegal in any state, and many states have laws that actually protect your right to nurse your baby wherever you are.

You should try to nurse from both breasts at each feeding, beginning with the one you finished the previous session with. Doing so will ensure your baby is getting the richer “hind milk” that flows from the breast last. Hind milk has a higher fat content than the “foremilk” that flows first from the breast, and this fat content is essential for your baby’s growth and development.

While you are still on maternity leave, you can also begin pumping, to build up excess milk supplies in your freezer. This milk can be used when you go back to work, if you have a medical emergency that prevents you from breastfeeding for a while, or if you just want to allow your spouse or family members to bottle feed and bond with your baby. Do not allow bottle feeding of your baby until your breastfeeding relationship is firmly established and things are going well. You should not offer your baby a bottle yourself or even be in the room for her first few bottle feedings, as your presence will make her more likely to reject the bottle altogether in favor of your breast.

Breastfeeding is a great way to nourish and bond with your baby. Like most other things you may choose to do, breastfeeding has a learning and adjustment period and will require some effort on your part. However, if you make the effort and use all your available resources, breastfeeding can lead to a healthier baby and happier family.


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