Breast milk is best for your baby and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. Breastfeeding is exclusively recommended for babies for the first six months of life because of its numerous benefits to mother and baby. These include protecting your baby from a long list of illnesses and infections including the common cold. It also boosts his intelligence, protects him from becoming obese and lowers the risk of sudden infant syndrome. And benefits of breastfeeding to the mother are many and include reduction of stress levels and risk of postpartum depression, as well as some types of cancers. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus return back to normal quickly. It is also a great way for mother and baby to bond.
Some mothers have difficulties in breastfeeding their babies for the first time, largely because the baby is unable to latch on the breast correctly. Some mothers also mistakenly think breastfeeding hurts or sore nipples are the norm, and this may prevent them from breastfeeding successfully. It is a mother’s responsibility to help her baby learn to breastfeed correctly. The following information will be useful to all nursing mothers, especially first time mothers.
The first step to making your child get a good latch on the breast is sitting in a comfortable position. Ensure you are seated in an upright position with your back well supported when breastfeeding. Also make sure that your baby’s head is level with your breasts for easy access and comfort. Turn your baby’s face towards you and ensure her head is comfortably propped on your arm and next to your nipples.
After getting comfortable, place four fingers underneath your breast and the thumb just above and close to the nipple. Do not stuff your breast into the baby’s mouth but instead bring the baby close to your breast with her mouth as close as possible to the nipple. If you have large breasts, consider rolling up a small towel and placing it underneath the breast that you want your baby to feed on. This will make you more comfortable and the baby’s latching easier.
The next step is to help your baby open her mouth, which will become automatic once she learns her food comes from the breast. Tickle her bottom lip with your nipple for some time until she has fully opened her mouth. It may not be possible for babies who are a few days old to open their mouths wide, so you might need to gently push your nipple into her mouth. It is also common with newborns to nibble at the nipple while attempting to latch on it. Don’t panic when this happens. Be patient, as your baby will eventually learn how to open her mouth wide and suckle properly.
Once the baby’s mouth is open wide, gently put your entire nipple in her mouth. To confirm that she has latched successfully, her lips will be flat against the breast and she will not lose the breast as she suckles. In the event that she does not get a good grip on the breast, push your nipple into her mouth with gentle up-and-down movements, but be careful not to block her nostrils. It might take one or two weeks before your baby develops a good latch on the breast, but once she does, you are on your way to successful breastfeeding.
You can press your breast slightly to express a little milk, as this will make baby’s suckling easier. Do not get discouraged if your latch hurts, just keep trying until you get the correct position. If you allow the baby to nurse in a way that hurts you, the baby will not get the message that he needs to nurse deeper. With time and practice, the baby should feed just fine.
During the first few days of breastfeeding, your nipples will experience some tenderness and possibly discomfort, but this will be temporary. Your breasts will slowly adjust to their new role of providing food for your baby. Feed your baby eight to10 times daily and also check out if you are regularly changing soiled diapers because this is an indication that your child is getting enough food.
No matter what problems you may experience with breastfeeding, stopping should not be an option, as this will hurt your baby’s health and development. Instead, see a doctor or nurse for help. Breastfeeding should be an enjoyable time for both mother and baby and its rewards are lifelong so don’t miss out on it, unless advised by a doctor.