There are also numerous health benefits associated with breastfeeding your baby. Colostrum, the thick yellow liquid produced for 3 to 5 days after birth, is full of nutrients that help your baby’s digestive system. Breast milk also contains antibodies that keep your baby healthy by boosting the immune system. Breast milk is easier for your baby to digest and has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding is also beneficial to moms. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that causes the uterus to contract, helping it return more quickly to normal size. Breastfeeding burns calories speeding postpartum weight loss and helps lower the long-term risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
Many OBGYNs and pediatricians recommend breastfeeding your baby for at least 6 months, but if that’s not possible, breastfeeding for even a short time is still beneficial.
Breastfeeding is the most natural function in the world, but for new moms, it doesn’t always feel that way. If you’re having problems getting your baby to nurse, bring your baby to your breast while cupping the breast in your hand. Rub the nipple against your baby’s lower lip to stimulate the rooting reflex. When baby’s mouth opens, bring it to the breast.
During breastfeeding, your baby will have the entire nipple and part of the areola in the mouth. You should hear the baby swallowing and feel a sucking/tugging motion. As soon as the first breast is empty, offer the second breast, but don’t worry if your baby doesn’t take both breasts in one feeding. Start with the opposite breast at the next feeding. Typically, newborns nurse 8-12 times a day for about 10-15 minutes per breast and often fall asleep after nursing.
Breastfeeding mothers should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and increase caloric intake by 400-500 calories a day. Avoid foods that cause gas and limit caffeine to 200 mg/day. Check with your gynecologist before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications while breastfeeding.
If you experience nipple pain, breast tenderness or blocked milk ducts, talk with your obstetrician or lactation specialist about what to do. These problems are most common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and are often remedied with time or simple measures. However, warm, swollen, painful breasts may be symptoms of mastitis, an infection of the breast that requires antibiotics.
Most of all relax and enjoy this special time with your baby.