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Tips for Better Breastfeeding

Based on content from JOHNSON'S® Learning Place and FDA Consumer, a magazine of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Many mothers find breastfeeding to be one of the most amazing acts of motherhood as, for the first time, they provide nourishment for their baby. Having said that, it's important to be honest about breastfeeding: although it is a natural act, it does not always come naturally. In the past, new mothers had older generations of mentors to help teach breastfeeding, so it probably came "naturally" because it was being taught to them!

Nowadays, many new moms get a crash course in breastfeeding at the hospital right after their baby's birth. Unfortunately, this one-time instruction may not be enough. Breastfeeding takes patience and practice. If you are having trouble with, for example, getting your baby to latch on, or you find that the process is causing you pain, then seek out help from other mothers, from your nurse or midwife, from a course taught at the hospital or other support center. Breastfeeding is good for your baby, and for you. But it should be a pleasant act, not one filled will worry and tears.

The following tips can also help develop successful nursing:

  • Get an early start: Nursing should begin within an hour after delivery if possible, when your baby is awake and the sucking instinct is strong. Even though you won't be producing milk yet, your breasts contain colostrum, a thin fluid that contains antibodies.
  • Proper positioning: Your baby's mouth should be wide open, with your nipple as far back into his or her mouth as possible. This will minimize future soreness for you. A nurse, midwife or other knowledgeable person can help you find a comfortable nursing position. If you're very sore, chances are your baby may not have the nipple far enough back in his or her mouth.
  • Nurse on demand: Newborns need to nurse frequently, about every two hours, and not on any strict schedule. Feeding on demand will stimulate your breasts to produce plenty of milk. Later, your baby can settle into a more predictable routine. But because breast milk is more easily digested than formula, breast-fed babies often eat more frequently than bottle-fed babies.
  • Expect engorgement: As a new mother you will usually produce lots of milk, which can make your breasts big, hard and painful for a few days. To relieve this engorgement, you should feed your baby frequently and on demand until your body adjusts and produces only what your baby needs. In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers, apply warm, wet compresses to your breasts, and take warm baths to relieve the pain.
  • No supplements: Don't give your baby sugar water or other supplements if you feel that you're not producing enough milk. This may actually interfere with your baby's appetite for nursing, and that can lead to a diminished milk supply. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will produce. If you are concerned about your baby not getting enough to eat, talk to your doctor.
  • Delay artificial nipples: It's best to wait a week or two before introducing a pacifier, so that your baby doesn't get confused. Artificial nipples require a different sucking action than real ones. Sucking at a bottle can also confuse your baby, making it hard for him to be breastfed.
  • Use nursing pads: Use nursing pads, such as super-absorbent, cushioned JOHNSON'S® Nursing Pads, to help eliminate embarrassing leakage between feedings.
  • Spitting up: It's common for babies to spit up during or after a feeding. To learn more about spitting up, visit babycenter.com.
  • Air dry: In the early postpartum period or until your nipples toughen, you should air dry them after each nursing to prevent them from cracking and getting infected. If your nipples do crack, you can coat them with breast milk to help them heal.
  • Watch for infection: Symptoms of breast infection include fever, painful lumps and redness in the breast. These require immediate medical attention.
  • Eat right and get rest: To produce plenty of good milk, you'll need to eat a balanced diet which includes an extra 500 calories a day, and drink six to eight glasses of fluids. You should also rest as much as possible to prevent breast infections, which are aggravated by fatigue.