Have you decided to at least try breastfeeding? Even if you only nurse your baby for a few days or weeks, that early milk, called colostrum, provides an important source of antibodies to protect against disease as the baby’s own immune system develops during the first year.
But did you know that breastfeeding benefits you, too?
• It helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces post-delivery bleeding.
• It makes it easier to lose those pregnancy pounds (you burn up to 500 extra calories a day nursing).
• It may reduce your risk of postpartum depression and breast and ovarian cancer.
• It can delay the return of your period (although you should still use some form of birth control when you resume intercourse).
• It saves money (no formula!).
• Breastfeeding is a learned process; none of us (not even the baby) are born knowing how to do it.
To improve your chance of success:
Try to breastfeed within the first hour of birth. This helps your uterus contract and provides that valuable colostrum. Also ask to have the baby room in with you at the hospital so you can feed on demand.
Prepare for your milk to come in. This occurs on about the third or fourth day after birth. You’ll know it’s happened because your breasts suddenly increase several cup sizes! Speaking of which, make sure you have several well-fitting nursing bras, and don’t forget to pack one in your hospital bag.
Plan to breastfeed the baby about eight to 12 times in every 24 hour period. Your baby is good at giving hunger signals: rooting around searching for your nipple; putting a hand in their mouth; and looking increasingly alert. Always feed on demand.
Try not to introduce a bottle or other nipples, including pacifiers, until breastfeeding is well established. The thrusting motion required to nurse is different from that required to suck a nipple, and the baby could get confused.
Stay hydrated to ensure your body can make enough milk. A good idea is to sip from a glass of water when nursing.
Nurse in a calm environment to help your milk let down. After a while, all it will take for your milk to let down is unhooking your bra for your baby, or even just hearing the infant cry.