Breast-Feeding: Planning Ahead
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Breast-feeding is the process of using breast milk to provide some or all of a baby's nutritional needs. You can feed a baby breast milk directly from the breast (the best way to stimulate milk production) or from a bottle after expressing the milk with a pump.
To breast-feed successfully, it is important to:
Test Your Knowledge
Successful breast-feeding means I won't have any problems.
The first few weeks of breast-feeding typically are the most difficult. You are recovering from childbirth, adjusting to hormonal changes, and operating with little sleep. Many women are also mentally and emotionally exhausted. Minor problems, such as sore or cracked nipples, may seem overwhelming.
But most breast-feeding problems are easily prevented or solved. Overcoming these challenges during these first few weeks boosts your confidence, which makes you more likely to continue breast-feeding. Most women who persevere with breast-feeding have a great sense of accomplishment and recognize the importance of providing their child with the best possible nutrition.
Test Your Knowledge
Changes to your body and routine can make breast-feeding more challenging in the first few weeks.
Breast-feeding is a learned skill that becomes easier over time. You are more likely to succeed with long-term breast-feeding if you plan ahead, learn the basic techniques, and know where to get help and support.
Make plans during pregnancy
Plan ahead for breast-feeding while you are pregnant. Doing so before you deliver allows you time to think about how to manage the daily logistics of breast-feeding before you become too busy with caring for your newborn.
Learn breast-feeding basics
Take a breast-feeding class while you are pregnant. These classes usually are offered through your local hospital or birthing center.
Be ready to start breast-feeding soon after you deliver. A baby is typically very alert during the first couple of hours after birth. This is the best time to start breast-feeding. A nurse or other doctor will help you with proper latching and getting started. View a slideshow on latching to learn how to get your baby to latch on.
After this alert wakeful time, your baby will become sleepy and less likely to eat regularly for the next several hours. Be sure to try breast-feeding your baby every 1 to 3 hours (even if you have to wake your baby). Usually, a hospital staff person checks in with you routinely. If available, a lactation consultant may help you learn other breast-feeding tips and positions.
You'll want to plan to breast-feed your baby on demand rather than setting a strict schedule. Learn how to recognize your baby's hunger signs. For the first few days, be prepared to breast-feed every 1 to 3 hours, or about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Wake a sleepy baby to feed, if necessary. More frequent breast-feeding stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.
Taking care of yourself will also help you to establish your milk supply. Eat right and get rest when you are able. Also, avoid bottle-feeding your baby breast milk until breast-feeding and milk supply are well established.
Know where to get help
If a minor problem arises that does not quickly resolve, get prompt assistance from a breast-feeding specialist such as a lactation consultant or other doctor who is knowledgeable about breast-feeding issues. Quickly addressing breast-feeding issues helps solve problems and increases your likelihood of successful long-term breast-feeding. If possible, arrange to have a specialist visit you at home, or make plans to visit the specialist's office.
Have a list of resources available to call, such as:
Test Your Knowledge
If I have problems breast-feeding and it just doesn't feel natural for me, I should consider switching to formula.
I should prepare a plan in case difficulties develop and I feel like giving up.
Ensuring my baby has a proper latch will help me prevent problems and improve my breast-feeding ability.
If you have more questions about getting started breast-feeding, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. Many local hospitals also have telephone help lines that you can call. La Leche League International (LLLI) offers information and encouragement—mainly through personal help—to all mothers who want to breast-feed their babies. It is important to get help right away when you need it.
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