Become A Lactation Maven
Contributed by Carole Anderson Lucia
In addition to the benefits for your baby, breastfeeding is even good for you, conferring a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. But it can also be challenging. So how can you make it work, especially in those all-important first days? Read on for our experts’ best tips.
Get yourself — and your partner — educated
If you haven’t signed up for a breastfeeding class, do it now. “It’s essential that you take a class while pregnant,” says Shari Criso, a registered nurse, board-certified lactation consultant and certified nurse-midwife in Denville, New Jersey. “And make sure it’s a class that includes partners.”
Not only will the class help ensure buy-in from your spouse — and studies show that lack of such support is one of the biggest reasons that women quit breastfeeding — but it will also teach him how to help you. “Your partner may be the only one home with you, and he needs to be trained to be your lactation consultant,” Criso explains. “For instance, he has a different perspective than you when the baby’s nursing and can see if he’s latched on properly.”
Line up help before you need it
Yes, breastfeeding is one of the most natural acts in the world, but it can be difficult — especially in the early days, when you are learning the ropes. A mom who has breastfed successfully may be able to help in a pinch, but if you have real problems such as difficulty latching or sore nipples, you may need a lactation consultant. To find one near you, ask your OB or midwife or call the hospital where you’ll be delivering. You can also find a state-by-state list at breastfeeding.com/directory/lcdirectory.html.
Prepare to get bare
Your baby is more likely to latch on and begin breastfeeding well if he’s put on your chest, skin-to-skin, immediately after birth; wait too long and he may be too sleepy. “The baby gets ‘clued in’ faster if he’s placed on your chest right away,” says pediatrician Marianne Neifert, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado, Denver, and author of Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding (Sterling). “Having no clothes in between you helps calm him after birth and triggers his natural reflexes.”
Many hospitals realize the importance of this and encourage it; others, not so much. So be sure to tell your labor and delivery nurses that you want to be skin-to-skin with your baby as soon as he’s born. Most will accommodate your request and hold off on weighing, measuring or cleaning until after the baby has had a chance to snuggle and suck.
Nurse whenever he wants
We can’t emphasize this enough: It’s really important to nurse your baby as often as he wants — at least eight times a day, including at night. Doing so not only ensures your baby is well-fed and helps your body establish a good milk supply, but it also keeps your baby in sync with your morphing breasts.
Have a sleepover
Having your baby stay in your hospital room with you, rather than in the nursery, lets you breastfeed often; it also allows you to get to know his feeding cues. “You want to be able to recognize when your baby is ready to nurse so he doesn’t have to resort to crying,” Neifert explains. “If he gets too hungry and frantic, that could make for a very difficult feeding session.”
Be a switch hitter
It’s important to nurse from each breast at every feeding so both get adequate stimulation and drainage. “Plus, babies take more milk when they nurse on both sides,” Neifert says. But how do you know when to switch? “The best way to know is when the rhythmic sucking and swallowing slows down, or the baby releases the breast,” Neifert says. “That indicates that the rate of milk flow is diminishing and it’s time to move to the other side.” Remove your baby by inserting a finger in his mouth to release the suction, burp him, then offer the other breast. Try alternating the first breast at each feeding.
Our No. 1 tip: Getting the right latch is the most important part of breastfeeding. To see step-by-step photos and instructions, visit fitpregnancy.com/breastfeeding/latch.