Breastfeeding - what the experts say
- During the first few weeks, remain close to your baby and offer him your breast each time he wakes up and/or shows an interest. Don’t wait for him to cry but observe the signs indicating that he wants to nurse: if he turns or raises his head, opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue or sucks whatever he comes into contact with, that means he’s ready to nurse.
- Let your baby decide how often to nurse: don’t schedule a certain amount of time between feeds. If your baby is born at term and in good health, there’s no need to wake him up for a feeding even if he sleeps for six hours straight or more.
- If you plan to continue breastfeeding more than a few days, do not introduce a bottle during the first few weeks. It’s especially important to avoid giving the baby a bottle while waiting for your milk to come in. This could affect your baby’s sucking reflex (“nipple confusion”), leaving the infant unable to breastfeed.
- Wash your hands before each nursing session, but there’s no need to frequently wash your breasts: a daily shower is sufficient.
- For each feeding, sit in a quiet spot (if possible), either lying on your side with your baby facing you or seated leaning against pillows with your baby lying in your arms or, better, on a nursing pillow. Be very sure that you’re comfortable: feeds last several hours a day during the first few months and an uncomfortable position can lead to significant back pain.
- Your baby should be placed so that his face is facing yours, his mouth level with the nipple; he should not have to turn his head. Place the nipple in front of his mouth, making sure that the baby’s head is leaning backwards. Let the baby open his mouth and latch on to the nipple by himself. His chin should be right up against the breast so that his nose is free.
- To take the breast, the baby needs to open his mouth wide in order to latch on to all the areola, not only the nipple. This step is essential to avoid the formation of painful cracks and to ensure productive feeds. Remove your baby from the breast if he doesn’t latch on correctly, then stroke the groove between the nose and upper lip (the philtrum) with your nipple. The baby will reflexively open his mouth and you can re-offer the breast in a better position.
- During the first few weeks, regularly give the baby both breasts to establish your milk supply.
- Let the baby nurse as long as he wants without imposing a time limit or trying to figure out how much milk he has swallowed. Simply check to make sure your baby is positioned correctly and that you’re comfortable to prevent the feed from becoming painful if it lasts a long time.
- After the feeding, if your baby hasn’t fallen asleep, place him upright against your shoulder and gently tap his back in case he needs to burp. If the baby falls asleep, you can put him back to bed without waking him up.
- After each feeding, apply nourishing nipple cream to your nipples to protect their delicate skin.
A number of signs indicate that your baby is nursing successfully:
- During feeds, your baby nurses hungrily without stopping and swallows regularly. When the baby starts feeding, he swallows each time he sucks, then swallowing becomes less frequent as the amount of milk decreases.
- When the baby is finished, he lets go of the breast and dozes off, rosy and completely relaxed.
- Your baby’s diapers are very wet and the baby has four to eight golden yellow and grainy bowel movements each day during the first weeks of life. As time goes on fewer bowel movements occur, with only one or two a week, which is no cause for concern. As long as they remain soft and the diapers are wet with urine, there’s no need to be concerned about constipation.
- Your baby is regularly gaining weight. It’s not necessary, however, to weigh your baby daily or, worse yet, to weigh him before or after each feed. That would serve no purpose other than to cause you anxiety. If your baby is healthy, the monthly visit to the pediatrician’s is sufficient for checking his weight. If you feel reassured after the checkup, you can weigh the baby yourself once a week at the most. If you do so more often, the weight fluctuations will be insignificant.