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MoonDragon's Breastfeeding Information
What You Need To Know Before Baby Arrives

"For Informational Use Only"
For more detailed information contact your health care provider
about options that may be available for your specific situation.

breastfeeding baby


My first pregnancy was the most challenging and rewarding time of my life. So many firsts were happening to me. All celebrated with such ignorant bliss - I literally went through labor and delivery with no clue that I actually had choices I could make - and then embarking on the most single rewarding task - that of becoming a mother. With what little I did know - I made the choice to breastfeed.

My son, my first child, was certainly a learning experience for me. I have twenty-twenty hindsight now and wish I knew then what I know now! I gave birth to my son before breastfeeding was "sanctioned" by the medical community. They still firmly believed that formula was the better choice for my baby. I asked the nurse after delivery about obtaining help with breastfeeding. All I got from her and the rest of the staff was "why would you want to do THAT?" My mother never breastfed any of us during our infancies and my mother-in-law did not either. I had no family support. No motherly knowledge and experience to draw upon. There was no thing as a lactation consultant at that time. The nurses were totally useless... leaving me totally frustrated and in tears, ready to give up. I was alone in trying to figure out this natural way of feeding my new baby. I was driven totally by determination and stubborness to achieve my goal.

receiving instruction from your midwife

Nobody told me that when my milk would come in that I would experience engorgement with incredible pain. I did not know how to relieve engorgment and had to figure these things out on my own. But I hung in there and managed to breastfeed my son for about 6 months before moving him to formula and a bottle. Since that time, I have met many women, some through La Leche League and other lactation consultants (not pediatric nurses) that were very helpful with subsequent births. By the time I got to my third baby, I was an old hat at breastfeeding and by the time of the fifth baby I was wet-nursing for other mothers who were in need of breast milk for their babies. Here are a few suggestions that may help first time breastfeeding mothers.

breastfeeding immediately after baby is born

The trauma of birthing a child is certainly something that takes a little while to recover from. This is especially true if you had a hospital birth with a possible cesarean or instrument assisted (forceps, vacuum extracted) delivery, usually involving surgical cutting, sutures and healing. At a homebirth, your midwife should be able to assist you in your breastfeeding instructions and support. There are usually fewer breastfeeding problems and issues when a mother has given birth at home and has that extra support over the first several weeks after the birth of her baby. Either way, there is still a certain amount of recovery needed after birth. Unfortunately, mothering and breastfeeding are not going to wait. They pretty much begin immediately at the time of the infant's first breath. The number one piece of advice I can give to all new mothers embarking on breastfeeding for the first time is to relax. It is when I finally relaxed with my son that I was able to properly breastfeed him. This occurred about 5 days after he was born - when I was on the verge of completely giving up breastfeeding. When I became stressed, my baby became stressed. So RELAX, RELAX, RELAX.

If you give birth in the hospital you may be taught various baby holding positions for breastfeeding when you take childbirth and parenting preparation classes. If not, contact your local Le Leche League or local support group, if one is available for assistance. For those without support, here are several holds you can consider, such as:

football hold

The Football Hold.
underarm football hold

The Underarm Football Hold
lying on side

Lying on the Side

There are holds with pillows and without pillows. It can be very confusing. What works for one mom, may not work for another. Breast size and the mother's physiology may play a part in using or not using certain holds or methods. Experiment and find those that work well with you and your needs. One mother after having a cesarean found that simply putting a pillow in her lab to support the baby and lay the baby crossways and use her free hand to help the baby to latch on helped her. She would put a pillow under her arm that held the baby. She found this comfortable and the baby was able to nurse easily.

breastfeeding support

If you birth in the hospital you may have a nurse to come in and inquire if you have "pulled" your nipples before placing the baby at my breasts. There is no need to pull on your nipples or prepare them in any way before beginning to breastfeed unless you have inverted nipples. Inverted nipples may take a little preparation for the baby to latch on. Nature has a way of working things out - if you follow your instincts. The baby will know what to do when the time comes.

At first you may need to "tease" the baby with the nipple - enticing him to latch on - sometimes you may need to gently pull his chin down and help to place the entire areola into his mouth - he will begin sucking. Babies have a natural instinctive "rooting reflex" that makes them turn their mouths toward anything that strokes their cheek.

One thing you may need to be concerned about in a hospital birth is a "sleepy baby." This occurs if the mother has had IV injection of a narcotic such as Stadol. Pain medications given during labor can interfere with your baby's ability to breastfeed. Medications do pass on to the baby and for the first couple of days the newborn is very groggy and may need a lot of coaxing to breastfeed. Many women have had this happen with their babies, which further frustrated the mother when she is trying to breastfeed her newborn. If you have a cesarean with a spinal and epidural, your baby may be more awake and able to latch on right away.

pumping milk

Many women give up because they think that if the milk does not come in within a few days of giving birth - then they are not producing enough. Some women take longer for their milk to come in. You may find your pediatrician voicing concern that you are starving your baby. Do NOT give up! If your baby is preterm, your milk may take a little longer to come in. A newborn baby can go really well for the first week or so on nothing but colostrum - the first milk produced. It is very concentrated and nutritious while providing needed antibodies to your baby. You will not be starving your baby as long as you put your baby to the breast on demand (every time he wants to feed, not on a schedule). The most important thing is to stay relaxed, take warm showers, and massage your breasts to help your milk come in. You milk will come in on an average about the third day postpartum. Sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later than 3 days. You will know when your milk arrives. You baby will thrive just fine. When your milk comes in, you will have enough milk to feed the entire nursery, much less one little 7 or 8 pounder. This is called engorgement, which is nature's way of making sure your baby has enough milk to feed on after the birth. It will adjust to your baby's feeding requirements as time goes on.

breast massage to help milk flow

The length of time you allow the baby at each breast can vary to the hunger of your baby. You may hear that 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes are the recommended times allowed for breastfeeding. The truth is that the baby can stay on a breast a lot longer and as long as you are comfortable and the baby is sucking. The breast has the ability to constantly reproduce milk - so keep this in mind. The baby will usually spit the nipple out and/or fall asleep when the he is finished. Sometimes, when they need a little extra comforting, such as when they are not feeling well, they may stay on longer for the nurturing effect that breastfeeding produces.

So be sure to relax and not give up. Listen to your midwife or the hospital nurses - but do not get frustrated by all their well meaning tips. Again, what works for one mother does not necessarily work for the next mother. You have to find what is comfortable for you and your baby. Babies are born with the ability to latch on and in most cases do not need to be taught to do so. When you are receiving advice from everyone around you, simply smile and nod and then do what you feel is right. If you are clueless, then try some of their suggestions and by all means - enjoy this wonderful time with your new baby.

MoonDragon's Breastfeeding Index

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