Your Questions About Breastfeeding Answered
How soon after birth should I start breastfeeding?Most moms start breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Most hospitals will encourage this, in fact, and have you hold your baby directly against your bare skin (called “skin-to-skin” contact) soon after birth to promote breastfeeding.
How do I get my baby to latch on?This is another reason that promoting skin-to-skin contact is so important; holding your baby directly to your bare skin will trigger his or her reflexes to latch on to your breast. Cup your breast in your hand and position your baby’s mouth at your nipple to encourage your baby to open his or her mouth wide. Pull your baby closer, aiming the nipple toward the roof of the baby’s mouth. For more tips on how to position your baby when breastfeeding, check out this article.
How long should I breastfeed my baby?Exclusively breastfeeding your baby is widely recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Breastfeeding may continue up to the baby’s first birthday as you start to introduce new foods. You can continue to breastfeed your baby after his or her first birthday if you think that is best for you and your baby.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?Breastfeeding is good for both mama and baby and here’s why:
- Breast milk contains antibodies that can help to protect your infant from certain diseases which can include diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, allergies, and ear infections. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the health benefits.
- Breastfeeding an infant lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Breast milk is easier for the baby to digest than formula.
- Breast milk has the perfect amount of fats, sugar, water, protein, and minerals that a baby needs to grow and develop. As your baby grows, your breast milk can adapt to fit the baby’s changing nutritional needs.
- Breast milk can help alleviate the short- and long-term problems that preterm babies can face.
- Breastfeeding may reduce the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding may make it easier for the mother to lose weight after pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin which causes the mother’s uterus to contract and return to its normal, pre-birth size and may reduce the amount of bleeding you experience.
How will I know when my baby is hungry?When most babies are hungry they will look alter, close their fists, bend their arms, and bring their fingers to their mouths. Crying is a late sign of hunger and by then, the baby may have a harder time latching on. When babies are full, they will typically relax their arms and legs and close their eyes.
How often should I breastfeed my baby?You can allow your baby to set his or own schedule. On average, most babies feed 8-12 times in a 24-hour span which means they’re eating at least every 2-3 hours (this time is measured from the start of one feeding to the start of the next). Many newborns will feed for 10-15 minutes on each breast but some will nurse for much longer periods, even up to 2 hours. When your baby releases one breast, offer the other and if or she shows no interest, plan to start on that side for the next feeding.
What if I am having trouble breastfeeding?While breastfeeding is a perfectly natural process, it can take time for new moms and their babies to learn. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, there are plenty of resources available starting with lactation consultants available at the hospital. They can give you advice if you run into challenges or show you alternative positions to try.
What should I avoid while breastfeeding?
- Caffeine: Drinking caffeine in moderation (200 mg a day) will likely not affect your baby. Generally, caffeine has a greater effect on newborn and preterm infants so you may want to reduce your caffeine intake in the first few days after birth or if you have a preterm infant.
- Alcohol: The alcohol will leave your milk as it leaves your bloodstream. Drinking more than 2 drinks a day regularly may be harmful to your baby and can cause unusual weight gain, drowsiness, and weakness.
- Seafood: We recommend limiting your fish or seafood intake to 2-3 times a week and altogether avoiding fish with high mercury levels.
- Smoking and drugs: Secondhand smoke from cigarettes is extremely harmful to infants and children and increases the risk of allergies, asthma, and SIDS. The use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs taken for nonmedical reasons is also extremely harmful to your baby while breastfeeding. If you need help quitting smoking or drugs, speak to a healthcare professional.
- Medications: While most prescription medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, some may not be and you should discuss the potential effects with your healthcare provider.