Breastfeeding and Nursing for New Mothers

Tips on Breastfeeding for the First Time

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a woman can do, yet most women need help getting started. The first time breastfeeding is an undertaking that requires a certain level of commitment and determination, and it can be a difficult endeavor if you don’t have positive support from those around you, especially during the learning period. Don’t be afraid to ask for all the assistance you need during the early weeks of nursing—information, support, and practical help are the keys to success.

It is important to understand that breastfeeding is a lifestyle choice and it requires a major readjustment of expectations, especially for those women who thrive on structure and schedules. In the beginning, breastfeeding babies wake and feed more often than formula-fed infants, and their schedules can be very unpredictable. But in the long run, the benefits of breastfeeding are well worth the effort—the more you put in, the more you get out. Once breastfeeding is successfully established, you significantly decrease the chances of certain illnesses and medical conditions developing, and you are giving your newborn the healthiest possible beginning.

Although Mother Nature physically prepares all new mothers to breastfeed their babies, breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. Your baby was born with a natural sucking reflex, but the effort of satisfying his own hunger is something new. Breastfeeding will be a learning experience for both of you. Being aware of what is normal and what to expect, learning how to identify and avoid potential problems, and knowing where to turn for help will enhance your breastfeeding success.

First Time Nursing A Baby

Breastfeeding Baby - Covington, LA - Jill Gibson, MD

Proper positioning and latch-on are two of the most important aspects of a successful breastfeeding relationship. Once you have mastered positioning your baby correctly, and your baby has learned how to latch on properly, you’re on your way. Just remember that some babies take longer than others to learn the skill of latching-on. It’s a matter of trial and error and plenty of practice. It is important that you are relaxed and comfortable, and that your baby is in the mood for nursing. If your baby seems frantic or upset when he attempts to latch on your breast, calm and comfort him before trying again. If you are still having difficulty when leaving the hospital, contact a lactation specialist to arrange for a home visit.

How do you get a Baby to Latch Properly?

To achieve proper latch-on, get into a comfortable position so that you and your baby are tummy to tummy, and your baby’s mouth is level with your nipple. Tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple until his mouth opens wide, as in a yawn; then quickly pull him towards you while directing your nipple and areola into his mouth. Your baby is latched on well if his lips are flanged outward over your breast creating a good seal, and he has an inch to an inch-and-a-half of breast tissue in his mouth. The tip of his nose and chin should both be gently touching your breast. As he opens wide and draws your breast into his mouth he elongates the breast tissue while positioning the nipple far back into his mouth—away from the friction of the tongue and gums. The movement of his lower jaw compresses the milk sinuses under the areola sending milk out through the tiny holes in the nipple and depositing it in the back of your baby’s mouth. You know your baby is latched-on properly if it does not hurt as your baby takes long drawing sucks and he can be heard swallowing.

When your baby does not draw enough of the areola into his mouth and sucks only on the nipple, he is not latched on properly. Your baby’s tongue or gums will continually rub the sensitive skin of the nipple while sucking, and sore nipples will result. In addition, improper latch-on makes it extremely difficult for your baby to extract enough milk from your breast to get the nourishment he needs. Reposition your baby and latch him on again.

Following Up

Seek all the information you can about breastfeeding and parenting, but remember to trust your own instincts. Nobody knows better than you what feels right and what is best for you and your baby. Be easy on yourself, eat nutritiously, rest when the opportunity arises, and take one day at a time. Most importantly, remain flexible, as your newborn’s feeding, sleeping, waking, and elimination patterns may change from day to day as he develops and grows.