Breast feeding is the most natural way of feeding a baby, and breast milk is the ideal food. Breast feeding provides all the nutrients the baby needs for growth over the first 4-6 months of life. Breast milk provides antibodies for the intestines and helps your baby’s immune system. By choosing to breastfeed, you are helping protect your baby from common early childhood illnesses such as colds, ear infections, and diarrhea, especially during the early weeks and months of their life. At the same time you feed your baby, you will be developing a warm, intimate relationship with your baby.
Breast feeding should be initiated as soon as possible after birth. At first, the baby will be getting colostrum, a perfect starter food. Colostrum is a yellow, creamy substance. It is very nutritious and is a natural laxative that helps clear meconium from the intestine, decreasing the possibility of jaundice. Colostrum also provides unmatched immunity against viruses and bacteria.
Breast milk “comes in” or “lets down” between the second and third day. Your milk may not come in until the third to fifth day if you’ve had a C-section. Just before your milk comes in, you may feel slightly uncomfortable or engorged. Breast milk is bluish to white in color, sweet tasting, and provides all your baby’s nutritional needs for the first several months of life.
Tips for Breast Feeding
When nursing your baby, there are several effective, relaxing positions you may want to assume; cradling, football holding or lying. Instinctively, your baby will suckle best when positioned on his or her side with their tummy touching your body.
As you nurse, cup your breast between your thumb and index finger, resting the weight of the breast on your hand. Keep your hand away from the nipple and areola as this is the part of the breast to which your baby will latch.
Gently stroke your baby’s bottom lip with your nipple in a downward motion several times. Pause to see if she will open her mouth. Repeat this until your baby opens her mouth very wide. Then quickly pull her onto your breast so that her nose, cheeks, and chin are all touching the breast. Most of your areola should be in the baby’s mouth.
The amount of time you nurse your baby will vary. Limiting the time is often a cause of engorgement. Usually, 15-20 minutes per side is enough sucking time. Alternate the breast offered first at each feeding.
The frequency of your feedings may vary as well. During the first month, most babies need to nurse 8-12 times in 24 hours. A normal schedule includes eating as often as 10-12 times a day, which is about every 2-3 hours.
Milk production is stimulated by the frequency of breast feeding and the amount of milk removed. The more your baby breast feeds, or the more you pump, the more milk you produce.
You can tell your baby is getting enough milk if he or she has 6-9 wet diapers. Stooling frequency may vary anywhere from multiple times each day to once every few days. The stools will have a “mustard” consistency and a yellow color. In addition, your breasts may feel full before feeding. You will feel your baby sucking vigorously and hear him or her swallow.
If your breasts should become engorged, breast feed more frequently and for a longer period of time. Apply a warm, moist compress for a few minutes before feeding. Hand express to soften the areola before breast feeding. Also, gently massage your breasts before and during breast feeding. If your baby cannot latch on, you will need to hand express your milk or pump. Wear a good fitting, supportive bra.
Pumping Breast Milk and Storing
Nursing the baby is usually enough to maintain your milk supply. Some women also choose to exclusively pump, as in cases where they have had problems with latch. Also, if you choose to go back to work, you may need to consider breast pumping. Pumping stimulates your breast to continue to produce milk and enables your baby to reap the benefits of breast milk while you are at work. For expressing milk, an electric breast pump is the best.
Breast milk can be safely stored. Before your pump and express milk into a clean collection container, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. Transfer the milk from the collection container to a clean storage bag.
Please refer to the CDC website for proper breast milk storage and preparation guidelines.