In the US, over 83% of newborn babies start out being breastfed. But many switch to formula much earlier than recommended.
Whether you’re a new mother who has no idea how to breastfeed or are an experienced one who has difficulties, you might be wondering how to breastfeed successfully. Either way, you might be feeling disheartened as a mother, but you shouldn’t, as this task can be monumentally tricky at times.
Breastfeeding 101: How to Breastfeed for the First Time
This breastfeeding 101 article is here to help so you can be well on your way to better bonding with your baby.
Some Basic Background About Breast Milk
Before we get into some breastfeeding tips, let’s first discuss the beauty of motherhood and how we provide for our little ones.
While you might think of breast milk as just breast milk, it’s much more complicated than that! In fact, there are three different stages of breast milk. We’ll discuss them in detail below.
Many women start producing colostrum while they’re pregnant. You’ll also produce it right after you give birth. You might be familiar with it; it’s that clear or yellow fluid that leaks through your nipples.
It might be alarming at first, especially if you think you have an infection. But in fact, it’s colostrum and nicknamed “liquid gold.”
It’s called “liquid gold” because colostrum is rich with benefits for your baby. It helps your baby develop powerful antibodies, protect against allergies, and reduces jaundice.
So allow your baby to suckle your colostrum. Not only will they become stronger from it, but it’ll also stimulate the next stage of breast milk.
Do note that most women won’t produce over a few teaspoons of colostrum daily.
Transitional milk is right between colostrum and mature milk. For most mothers, they’ll produce on the 3rd or 4th day after giving birth. Many people say they look of transitional milk is comparable to orange juice mixed with milk.
At this point, you won’t produce much breast milk either. So don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like a lot, as your baby won’t be able to drink a huge volume of milk anyway.
When you reach 10 to 14 days after you give birth, your mature milk will come in. Your breast milk will go from being thick to thin and will also turn white. With some mothers, the milk can have a bluish tinge.
Here, you’ll start producing breast milk in abundance. You’ll be providing your baby with all the calories and nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.
If you ever feel like you need to increase breast milk supply at any point, a general tip is to take better care of yourself. Then, a better milk supply will follow.
How to Help Your Baby Latch
In the beginning, many mothers struggle with getting their baby to latch. This is a crucial step needed for the infant to feed correctly, so if your baby isn’t able to latch, it can be frustrating. Not only can it be painful, but it can also cause your baby not to feed appropriately.
First, understand that your little one’s mouth needs to cover your entire nipple area, including your areola. Many women have the misconception that the nipple is all a baby needs, but in fact, the milk-secreting glands are in your areola area.
How can you help your infant latch onto both your nipple and areola, instead of just the nipple?
An easy thing to try is to tickle their lips. This can help your baby open up their mouth wider, which in turn can encourage them to latch onto the areola and nipple.
Also, don’t try to rush things. If your baby opens their mouth wide, don’t be in a hurry to shove your breast into their mouth, as this can discourage them from latching correctly.
Instead, be patient and hold your baby close in one arm and your breast in the other. Let your little one decide when they want to feed, and it’ll be easier in the future.
If your baby’s latched correctly, then their lips will be in a pouting position, and you’ll hear them gulping your breast milk. If you hear clicking sounds, then that’s a sign of an improper latch.
So now you’ve got your baby to latch. Exactly how long should you let them feed, though? Do you just let your infant take as much milk as they want, or should you stop them at some point?
First things first: breastfeeding sessions should last around 30 minutes on average. However, it can differ drastically between different mother and child pairs, as babies will go through small growth spurts where they’ll need to feed for longer.
A general rule of thumb is for you to drain one breast altogether, and one only. Don’t switch breasts in the middle of feeding, as they must get hindmilk. Hind milk is the last remnants of breast milk, which has a higher concentration of calories and fat.
When your baby drains one breast, try to offer the other to them afterward. If they refuse it, then don’t force it. Keep in mind which breast you’ve drained and started your next breastfeeding session with the other.
On average, expect to feed your baby anywhere between 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour timespan. However, patterns will vary between babies.
Breastfeeding 101: Get on the Road to Success
Now that you’ve been through breastfeeding 101, you’ll hopefully have a better time bonding with your infant.
While it might be challenging to breastfeed at first, don’t give up. Try getting some moral support from your loved ones, like your partner/spouse, mom, or other family members.
In the end, it’ll all be worth it when you can successfully breastfeed your little one. It’ll be an experience to treasure forever!