It's helpful to learn as much as possible about breast
feeding before the baby is born, before exhaustion sets in from caring
for a new born infant. The following tips on breast feeding can help
with successful nursing:
- Get an early start: Nursing should begin within
an hour after delivery if possible, when the infant is awake and the
sucking instinct is strong. Even though the mother won't be producing
milk yet, her breasts contain colostrum, a thin fluid that contains
antibodies to disease.
- Proper positioning: The baby's mouth should be
wide open, with the nipple as far back into his or her mouth as possible.
This minimizes soreness for the mother. A nurse, midwife, or other
knowledgeable person can help her find a comfortable nursing position.
- Nurse on demand: Newborns need to nurse frequently,
about every two hours, and not on any strict schedule. This will stimulate
the mother's breasts to produce plenty of milk. Later, the baby can
settle into a more predictable routine. But because breast milk is
more easily digested than formula, breast-fed babies often eat more
frequently than bottle-fed babies.
- No supplements: Nursing babies don't need sugar
water or formula supplements. These may interfere with their appetite
for nursing, and that can lead to a diminished milk supply. The more
the baby nurses, the more milk the mother will produce.
- Delay artificial nipples: It's best to wait a
week or two before introducing a pacifier, so that the baby doesn't
get confused. Artificial nipples require a different sucking action
than real ones. Sucking at a bottle could also confuse some babies
in the early days. They, too, are learning how to breast-feed.
- Air dry: In the early postpartum period or until
her nipples toughen, the mother should air dry them after each nursing
to prevent them from cracking, which can lead to infection. If her
nipples do crack, the mother can coat them with breast milk or other
natural moisturizers to help them heal. Vitamin E oil and lanolin
are commonly used, although some babies may have allergic reactions
to them. Proper positioning at the breast can help prevent sore nipples.
If the mother's very sore, the baby may not have the nipple far enough
back in his or her mouth.
- Watch for infection: Symptoms of breast infection
include fever and painful lumps and redness in the breast. These require
immediate medical attention.
- Expect engorgement: A new mother usually produces
lots of milk, making her breasts big, hard and painful for a few days.
To relieve this engorgement, she should feed the baby frequently and
on demand until her body adjusts and produces only what the baby needs.
In the meantime, the mother can take over-the-counter pain relievers,
apply warm, wet compresses to her breasts, and take warm baths to
relieve the pain.
- Eat right, get rest: To produce plenty of good
milk, the nursing mother needs a balanced diet that includes 500 extra
calories a day and six to eight glasses of fluid. She should also
rest as much as possible to prevent breast infections, which are aggravated