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Health Information For Parents
Breastfeeding is natural, but it takes practice to get it right. Here’s what you need to know about getting started.
For the first few days after your baby’s birth, your body will make colostrum, a nutrient-rich “pre-milk.” Colostrum (kuh-LOSS-trum) has many benefits, including nutrients that boost a baby’s immune system and help fight infection.
For some women, colostrum is thick and yellowish. For others, it is thin and watery. The flow of colostrum is slow so that a baby can learn to nurse — a skill that requires a baby to suck, breathe, and swallow.
After 3–4 days of making colostrum, your breasts will start to feel firmer. This is a sign that your milk supply is increasing and changing from colostrum to mature milk. Your milk may become whiter and creamier, but this varies between women.
If your milk takes longer to come in, don’t worry. This is normal and usually isn’t a cause for concern, but let your doctor know. While babies don’t need more than colostrum for the first few days, the doctor may need to make sure your baby’s getting enough to eat. It can help to breastfeed often during this time to stimulate your milk production.
If possible, start nursing within an hour of your baby’s birth. Babies tend to be alert in the first few hours of life, so breastfeeding right away takes advantage of this natural wakefulness. After this, newborns will sleep for most of the next 24 hours. At that point, it might be harder to get your baby to latch on.
When placed on your chest, your baby will naturally “root” (squirm toward the breast, turn the head toward it, and make sucking motions with the mouth). To breastfeed, babies latch onto the breast by forming a tight seal with the mouth around the nipple and areola (the dark part of skin around the nipple). Even if your baby doesn’t latch on now and just “practices,” it’s still good for your baby (and you!) to get used to practicing breastfeeding.
In the first few days of life, your baby will want to feed on demand, usually about every 1–3 hours, day and night. As babies grow and their bellies can hold more milk, they may go longer between feedings.
On-demand feeding means breastfeeding whenever your baby seems hungry. How can you tell? Hungry babies:
Crying is a late sign of hunger. So try to nurse before your baby gets upset and harder to calm down.
To calm a crying or fussy baby before a feeding, try soothing “skin-to-skin” time. Dress your baby in only a diaper and place your little one onto your bare chest.
When you your baby shows hunger signs, follow these steps:
When your baby is properly latched on, you may have a few moments of discomfort in the beginning. After that, it should feel like a tug when your baby is sucking.
To make sure you’re doing it right, it’s best to be observed by a lactation consultant, or someone else who knows about breastfeeding.
Your baby’s diapers can help you tell if your little one is eating enough. The more your baby nurses, the more dirty diapers you’ll see.
Because colostrum is concentrated, your baby may have only one or two wet diapers in the first 24 hours. After 3–4 days, look for:
A newborn’s poop is thick and tarry at first, then more greenish-yellow as mom’s milk comes in. After 3–4 days, look for:
Your baby probably is getting enough milk if he or she:
If you’re worried that you baby isn’t getting enough to eat, call your doctor.
Nursing takes time and practice. In fact, it can be one of the most challenging — and rewarding — things you do as a new mom.
While you’re in the hospital, ask for help from a lactation consultant, the nursing staff, your baby’s pediatrician, or your OB-GYN. When you get home, see if there’s a lactation consultant in your area. You can search online at:
The pediatrician will want to see your baby 24–48 hours after you leave the hospital. During this visit, the doctor will check your baby’s weight and your feeding technique. If you have trouble or questions before then, call the doctor.
Whatever you do, don’t let it get you down. With a little patience and some practice, breastfeeding is likely to get easier.
For more help or if you have questions, talk to a lactation consultant, your doctor, or someone who knows about breastfeeding.
Here’s a quick guide to an important part of feeding a baby – burping.
If you’re a new mom, breastfeeding your baby can feel like a challenge. Check out this article for information on common nursing positions, proper latching-on techniques, and how to know if your baby is getting enough to eat.
Learn which nutrients you need while pregnant or breastfeeding, and easy ways to add them to your diet.
Here are answers to some common questions about what breastfeeding mothers should and shouldn’t eat and drink.
Here are answers to some common questions about going out in public as a breastfeeding mom – from how to do it discreetly to taming sneaky leaks.
Here are answers to some common questions about pumping your breast milk – from buying a pump to making the process a little easier.
Here are answers to some common supplemental feeding questions – from when to introduce solids to offering breastfed babies formula.
Here are answers to some questions about common breastfeeding concerns – from biting to spitting up.
Here are answers to some common questions about your milk supply – from having too much to having too little.
Here are answers to some common questions about how to keep breast milk and how to clean and sterilize supplies, from bottles to nipples to breast pump parts.
Here are answers to some common questions about breastfed babies and sleep – from where they should snooze to when they’ll finally start sleeping through the night.
Bonding, the intense attachment that develops between you and your baby, is completely natural. And it’s probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care.
Here are answers to some common questions about preventing and reducing breastfeeding discomfort, such as nipple and breast pain.
Here’s info about how often to breastfeed your baby, how long it takes to nurse, and much more.
Making a decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. There are some points to consider to help you decide which option is best for you and your baby.
Breast milk is the healthiest choice for your baby. Learn how to breastfeed your baby in this step-by-step video.
Knowing how to pump and store breast milk is an important part of feeding your baby. Learn how in this step-by-step video.
Here are answers to some common questions about getting a good latch, making sure your baby is drinking, taking your baby off the breast, and more.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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