How To Start Breast-Feeding Your Infant

How to breast-feed your infant. Learn to help your baby latch on and avoid common nursing problems.

Breast-feeding your child can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Unfortunately, in today's society, we do not always have the support of mothers and grandmothers teaching us the proper techniques of breast-feeding. Not having a good support system can make this wonderful experience traumatic when things do not go as expected, or when you or baby has difficulty learning this most natural act. It is not instinctual. It must be learned by both baby and mother.

When you first hold your newborn, you should begin nursing. Choose the breast most comfortable for you at the moment. In other words, pick the side to which you feel least awkward pulling your baby. It is usually the left. Hold this breast with the opposite hand. Your thumb should be on top. Squeeze a small amount of milk out first, then tickle baby's lips with your nipple. This will awaken the rooting reflex. Your baby will open his mouth wide. You will have to QUICKLY pull the baby close to your breast before the mouth closes! When your baby's mouth closes on the nipple his lips should be around the areola (the dark ring around the nipple). Make sure the lips do not roll back into the mouth. Your baby should then begin to suck. If he is latched on properly (has the nipple completely in the mouth and lips pulling on the areola), this should not be uncomfortable for you. When baby stops suckling or is asleep, you should take him off the breast by breaking the suction. Put your finger between baby's lower lip and your nipple to break the suction. Later, you will need to change breasts during feedings, and break the suction using the same method.

In the first weeks of breast feeding, you will more than likely encounter some breast-feeding difficulties. Tell your self "this too will pass," then try again. The first problems usually encountered are sore nipples, engorgement and urinary tract infections.



Sore nipples are caused when baby is not latching on properly. Baby is nursing from the nipple and not the areola. This is a very common problem, and should not discourage you terribly. However, it is a painful problem. Nipples can crack and bleed if not tended to properly. To combat sore nipples, a creme of 100% medical grade lanolin should be used. It does not need to be wiped off before baby nurses, and will not change the taste of the milk. Several companies market this type of creme, and it can be found under the names of "nipple creme for breast-feeding mothers" or "breast-feeding creme." Check with your pharmacy or local discount store's infant section BEFORE your baby is born. In addition to lanolin creme, wear a loose cotton T-shirt over bare breasts to allow air to reach the skin.

Engorgement is another problem of nursing. This occurs when baby is not taking as much milk as is produced. To cope with this problem, express (squeeze out) some of the milk before you try to nurse. If you try to nurse while engorged, baby will not be able to latch on properly, which can lead to sore nipples. You may want to express your milk into a bottle and refrigerate it. By the end of the day, you should have enough milk for an entire feeding. This can be used as father's (or grandmother's) special time and give you a break from nursing. A hot shower can also help with engorgement. The stimulation can help your milk "let down." This means your "hind-milk" will come from the back of your breast and be released through the nipple. Your breasts will probably leak until you nurse. The leaking will relieve the pressure and sore feeling caused by engorgement.

While nursing your child, always take in enough fluids. Urinary tract infections are another possible hazard of nursing. Much of your fluid is being used by your body to produce milk. The result can be dehydration and a UTI if fluid is not replaced in quantity. You need to keep yourself healthy to produce milk for your baby.

After the initial hurdles are passed, you should have a satisfaction from nursing your child that is beyond compare. You are not only giving your baby the only perfect food available, but you are bonding with your baby in a way that can not be duplicated. Enjoy your breast-feeding experience.

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